Work to remove Soviet-era monuments listed Wednesday for that precise fate will start as soon as possible, Asko Kivinuk, head of the government office working party tasked with the job, told "Aktuaalne kaamera" in an interview which follows in its entirety.
Interviewer Astrid Kannel: What now happens, going forward? What is the deadline for the removal of those monuments which such a decision has been made on?
Kivinuk: They will be removed as soon as possible, meaning 133 out of the 188 monuments constitute war graves, and we can proceed with these immediately.
Kannel: How many sets of human remains need to be re-interred, and where will they be buried?
Kivinuk: This depends on the specific site. With some war graves, just a few fallen have been buried, while in others there are hundreds. Where will they be reburied? The present practice is that they will be buried in the nearest actual cemetery, in cooperation with local government.
Aren't you paying a bit too much attention to, let's say second-tier Soviet monuments, located out in the woods somewhere and which do not bother anyone, and whose most suitable fate might be for them just to be left to be covered over by the moss?
Our task was to map all monuments, and from the 322 listed today, then yes, I would agree, there are also some that could perhaps be left in the forest somewhere. However, since people reported them and they also arose from other databases, we still went through all of them.
How many will be destroyed and how many will be housed in museums?
I can't give an exact figure, but I would imagine most of them will be destroyed.
If a local municipality opts to move a monument which is on the list to a cemetery instead, in the same way that the bronze soldier was relocated (in 2007 – ed.), what would your response be, if this monument is scheduled to be destroyed?
We don't have much latitude for discussion on this thought as we submitted the proposals and expert assessments to the government, who were satisfied with the results, so we are basing things on this plan moving forward also.
Why was the question of the Maarjamäe memorial and the bronze soldier (both in Tallinn – ed.) left open? These are really the bottom-line symbols and objects. It is one thing to take on these monuments in the woos, but it is a whole different matter to make a decision now, for example, regarding the Maarjamäe memorial.
I think that State Secretary Taimar Peterkop also brought out very good reasons for the wider discussion here. However, in the case of Maarjamäe, we made certain decisions; we have already removed certain monuments commemorating Red Army units there, and we also formulated the starting point for this discussion in the future – namely that it is a looted cemetery (which was in place before the Soviet monument was installed – ed.). I think this discussion could develop from this point.
Why should this committee be confidential, in any case?
My hope or belief is that what we said at today's press conference when we named those institutions and agencies which we had connected to via this working party, and how many people were involved, that we could surely inspire some confidence.
There were many different parties involved. However, I think that, given that what has been said before, what Russia can do with these people in the future, this will continue to be relevant even today and in the next few years (Asko Kivinuk did not specify who these "people" were – ed.).
The list announced Wednesday excluded the Tehumardi Memorial and war graves on Saaremaa, which should be retained and renovated, the committee stated, while it did not form a concrete position regarding the fate of the Maarjamäe Memorial.
In some cases, replacing Soviet-era gravestones with a more neutral design is also acceptable, in the committee's view.
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine starting February, since the Russian Federation is seen as the successor state to the Soviet Union, a union which is indeed glorified by many inside Russia itself, Soviet memorials, monuments, war graves, frescoes, building decorations etc. in Estonia came back into the limelight.
Several high-profile removals have already taken place, including the Narva tank, now in a museum near Tallinn, and the Raadi cemetery and memorial stones – whose remains have been re-interred at another local cemetery.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera