Riigikogu extends law to remove Soviet era symbols from buildings

Soviet era symbol on a building in Tallinn.
Soviet era symbol on a building in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

On Wednesday, the Riigikogu adopted amendments to the Estonian Building Code and Planning Act, which were initiated by the government. The amendments extend the scope of objects glorifying the Soviet occupation, which can be removed from Estonia's public space, to also include architectural and artistic works.

The law establishes the rules for the removal from public space of structures, which are considered inappropriate, and relates in particular to Soviet era monuments. Until now, the removal of monuments bearing forbidden symbols of the Soviet occupation has been subject to general legal regulations and penalties, with these rules now also set to be laid down in regulations specific to construction.

The law supplements the Building Code and specifies that the publicly visible part of a building may not be seen to incite hatred, or support or justify an occupying regime, act of aggression genocide, crime against humanity or war crime. The same rule applies to monuments, memorials, sculptures or other structures and objects displayed publicly, regardless of the originally intended meaning or the length of time they have been in place.

The amendments also provide the state with the power to remove structures, which do not comply with the law.

During the procedure, the Riigikogu's Economic Affairs Committee made an amendment to the effect, that buildings must be brought into line with the new requirements within six months of the law's entry into force, rather than the original three months.

Local authorities are generally responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Building Code. The Ministry of Justice will be empowered to carry out the administrative supervision of municipalities in relation to the new amendments. A government commission will be established to resolve any potential disputes, which may arise in relation to the new regulations.

The law stipulates that the commission must include at least one representative of the Heritage Protection Board (Muinsuskaitseamet). In the case of monuments, or buildings located in heritage protection areas, the law on the protection of cultural heritage will also be taken into account. The Heritage Protection Board's involvement in the process is therefore also required, as is its view on whether any proposed work to remove structures requires official permits.

In the final vote, 48 Riigikogu members voted in favor of adopting the law, while ten members of the Center Party opposed it.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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