Gallery: May 9 commemorated in Tallinn

Thousands of people visited the Bronze Soldier Monument in Tallinn to honor the 1945 victory of the Soviet Army.

Thousands of people began arriving at the Defense Forces Cemetery in the early hours of the day to pay their respects to the nearly 1,200 Red Army soldiers buried there, as well as the millions of soldiers who fought against Nazi rule across Europe and around the world.

Police expected several thousands people during the day. In 2022, an estimated 10,000 people celebrated the victory of the Red Army in Estonia, and according to a police spokesperson, they anticipated a similar number this year, "or perhaps a little less." 

"I am here to honor my grandfather," Roman explained, whose family comes from Ukraine and Kazakhstan. He said that his usual commemoration of the holiday is not affected by Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "My grandfather fought in World War II and I am here because of him. It is good that the Soviet army defeated Nazi Germany. This war in Ukraine is a completely different thing. History should not be mixed up with current conflicts."

Roman opposes the ban of Russian flags or the St. George Ribbon and disagrees that these symbols support Russia's ongoing aggression. "I understand that these items should not be brought along, because they could offend many people. However, prohibiting them entirely renders everyone with a Russian flag suspicious. And some people just want to show who they are."

"Of course, if there are provocateurs these individuals should be removed," he said, adding that it is different in the case of the letter "Z," which has become a symbol of support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"It stands for the Russian words 'za pobedu' (meaning 'for the victory') and is widely used as a propaganda tool in Russia. Neither the 'Z' nor the 'V' (with similar connotation) is ambiguous. These symbols should be prohibited, especially on occasions such as today," he said.

Until 12 a.m., there was only one incident in which security forces had to intervene, including official police forces, auxiliary police (abipolitsei) and a private security company: namely, a woman arrived with a bouquet of blue, white and red flowers.

An exception was made when the Russian and Belarusian ambassadors approached. Their floral arrangement with ribbons in the national colors of both countries were left intact. As more and more people continued to arrive, these were quickly covered in red carnations a few minutes later. 

One person brought British, American and French flags to salute the other allies as well. The Western allies typically commemorate the end of World War II on May 8, the day Nazi Germany signed its unconditional capitulation. 

May 9 is a controversial day for celebration

Since the Soviet Army moved to establish their own rule on the occupied territories instead of returning full sovereignty to the countries liberated from Nazism, May 9 is often viewed as the Victory party of just another occupying force and not as Liberation Day, as it is in the majority of Western European countries. This is particularly true in former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact nations.

In addition, the Russian Federation has not been cautious about sending signals; Russia has done everything possible to conflate the two events and use May 9 for propaganda purposes.

The Estonian authorities suspected that May 9 celebrations in Estonia could be exploited for Russia's war propaganda purposes, which is why "more police forces than in previous years" were deployed, according to the spokesperson. 

"It has some irony", one walking by women said. "Many people came by bus; it had a huge European flag on the side, and you know, today is Robert Schumann's birthday."

Between 1948 and 1952, Schuman served as the French minister of foreign affairs and was one of the founding architects of the European Union. After more than 60 million people perished in World War II, he advocated for centralized control of the primary resources required to establish an army and wage war. As a result, he established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), an organization that eventually evolved into the European Union.

This year, the memorial of millions of casualties appeared to be the primary reason for the majority of visitors to the Bronze Soldier. "We have to remember," one woman said while holding back her tears. "Because, as you can see, people have a tendency to forget."


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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