Estonian justice minister: Tartu's Pepleri tänav should be renamed

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Pepleri tänav, Tartu.
Pepleri tänav, Tartu. Source: Jane Saluorg/ERR

In a letter to the Mayor of Tartu, Estonian Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa) said, that the name of the city's Pepleri tänav is inappropriate in modern-day Estonia. Danilson-Järg believes, that Pepleri tänav should instead be renamed "Põdra tänav" after General Ernst Põdder.

On February 3, a meeting of the Repressed Persons' Social Guarantees Expert Committee, which is chaired by Estonian Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa), took place. One of the items on the agenda was a proposal to change the name of Pepleri tänav in Tartu.

Danilson-Järg wrote, that Wilhelm Pepler lived in Tartu during in 16th century. In 1570, during the Livonian War, Pepler was the interpreter for Russian Tsar Ivan IV's envoys. Ivan IV is better known as "Ivan the Terrible."

"Russia was trying to conquer Estonian and Livonian territories at that time, and historical records show brutal acts of violence committed in Estonian and Livonian territories," wrote Danilson-Järg.

"The street was called Peplei tänav until 1936, when it was renamed after General Põdra. General Ernst Põdder was one of the leaders of the Estonian War of Independence, a victor over the Landeswehr. In 1919, during the Tartu peace negotiations, he held the Narva front and was the main suppressor of the 1924 communist uprising. Following the June revolution of 1940, the street was named after Rudolf Pälson, one of the  [Communist] coup leaders, who fell in 1924. After Estonia regained its independence, the street was renamed Pepleri tänav," the minister said.

General Ernst Põdder (Center of picture). Source: Estonian War Museum /

Danilson-Järg added, that the commission considered a street named after Pepler to be inappropriate for modern-day Estonian society, particularly in light of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

"Therefore, it is appropriate and timely to restore the street's name to that of one of the most outstanding leaders of the Estonian War of Independence. In light of the above, the Repressed Persons' Social Guarantees Expert Committee, proposes to the City of Tartu, that the street be renamed after General Ernst Põdder as "Kindral Põdra" (or according to the recommendation of the Estonian Linguistic Institute's personal name translation database, "Põdderi)"," Danilson-Järg wrote.

According to Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas (Reform), the city is not currently considering changing the street's name.

"We have appealed to the Minister of Justice for clarification regarding what kind of commission this is. What is the remit of this commission and its competence to make these kinds of proposals? The City of Tartu can handle the naming of its streets by itself, just as it did when recently renaming two streets in Ihaste (district of Tartu – ed.)."

According to Klaas, General Ernst Põdder, does however, deserve to be remembered with a street named after him, and this is something the city government is currently working on.

"There has been talk of possibly naming a part of the street behind the Estonian National Defense College (Kaitseväe Akadeemia) and the Baltic Defense College "Kindral Põdra tänav" ("General Põdra Street"). There are also other options, and we are indeed working on them," said Klaas.

Pepleri tänav in Tartu is named after the 16th century Councilman Wilhelm Pepler. As with other historical figures of that time, archival records are incomplete and aspects of Pepler's complete biography remain known, said Ago Pajur, associate professor of Estonian history at the University of Tartu.

"All we know is that he was a Tartu councilman and that he was a wealthy enough man, otherwise he wouldn't have been elected, nor would have had such a large estate on the site, which has since become Pepleri tänav."

Pajur added, that he had also heard claims of Pepler being friendly towards Ivan the Terrible's troops. However, how this friendliness is to be interpreted is also unknown.

"Whether he acted in his own interests, in the interests of the state, or in the interests of the city of Tartu - there are no great reproaches to be made here," the historian said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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