The common war grave at Riivli in Põltsamaa, Jõgeva County has been earmarked for removal by the Estonian Ministry of Defense's War Graves Commission (Sõjahaudade komisjon). However, some locals are against plans to rebury those who were laid to rest there in a nearby cemetery, as the grave is believed to contain the remains of 170 victims of the Soviet occupation
Merli Sild, head of the Põltsamaa Museum and a representative of the local community, said that while the grave marker contains Soviet symbols, which should definitely be removed, the grave itself ought to be left intact.
"There is definitely a connection between the victims of terror and the war graves. Our people and community still see this as a grave for the victims of terror. The people who are buried there were from Põltsamaa, from the villages of Tapikult, Pajus, Lustivere and the whole region. Let these victims of terror stay where they are so that we can preserve the peacefulness of this grave," said Sild.
Hellar Lill, director of the Estonian War Museum, said, that decisions regarding reburials do not depend on who the people buried there were or what they had done during their lives.
"These are simply war graves, which are in an unsuitable location. In fact, in previous years we have reburied soldiers who fought in the (Estonian) War of Independence, as well as Forest Brothers (Metsavend). The (final resting) place for the deceased should be in the cemetery," Lill said.
Põltsamaa Municipality Mayor Karro Külanurm said, that he had already met with members of the local community and is also prepared to discuss the issue with the war graves commission (Sõjahaudade komisjon).
"(People's) concerns and wishes to honor the final burial places of their loved ones are natural and understandable. We have agreed that they, as a community, will gather their opinions and (personal) examples together and pass them on to us. We can then share that information with the war graves commission once again," said Külanurm.
According to Hellar Lill, whether the grave contains the remains of 170 people remains uncertain, and the actual number may turn out to be much lower. He also added, that he remains open to discuss the next steps in the process with the local community.
"We are prepared to provide an explanation of the process, how it will happen, why it is being done and for what reasons. The most likely outcome is, that the people (buried there) will get a new resting place in the cemetery," Lill said.
Editor: Michael Cole