Remains of 830 people reburied following Soviet-era monument removals

The Soviet-era World War Two grave site and monument in Viiratsi, Viljandi Municipality..
The Soviet-era World War Two grave site and monument in Viiratsi, Viljandi Municipality.. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

The Estonian government, in cooperation with local authorities, has reburied the earthly remains of 830 people originally laid to rest under Soviet-era monuments. According to Hellar Lill, director of the Estonian War Museum, 20 war graves, which were considered to be Red Army monuments, have also been removed.

"There are 20 of them that we have (removed) in cooperation with the local authorities. In total, we have reburied the earthly remains of 830 people." Lill told ERR.

"This is in addition to the work, which was done in Narva in August and a few individual removals from around Estonia," he added.

"Going forward, reburials and the removal and replacement of monuments with neutral grave markers do not have to go hand in hand," said Lill.

According to Lill, neutral markers would most likely be added to the Soviet-era monuments first, with excavations taking place at a later time. The operation will be carried out by the Estonian War Museum in cooperation with the Center for Defense Investments.

Asko Kivinuk, head of the Government Office's Soviet monuments workgroup, said that contracts have been signed with demolition and installation companies, plans for the work plan have been prepared and all operations are proceeding according to those plans.

"As of last year, we got as far as having prepared these neutral grave markers, which were a prerequisite for us to be able to replace (the current ones). More of them are now being produced. By the end of the year, we had 30 sets ready. In total, we need 100,000 of them, so that we can replace (the markers) all over Estonia," said Kivinuk.

Asko Kivinuk's contract as head of the Government Office's Soviet monuments workgroup expired on December 31. The workgroup itself ceased its activities at the end of November, by which time it had mapped out a total of 322 monuments in Estonia, 244 of which it recommended be removed or replaced. 74 monuments were categorized as "neutral," while the workgroup found that a further four located in the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) cemetery and Tallinn's Maarjamäe complex should be dealt with separately.

By the end of November, 56 of Estonia's Soviet-era monuments had been removed. Kivinuk has said he will continue working at the Ministry of Defence.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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