Work on Tori bridge reveals fragments of 1923 War of Independence memorial

Fragments of the original Tori monument from 1923.
Fragments of the original Tori monument from 1923.

Tori Monument to the War of Independence fragments were uncovered during the demolition of the old pillars of the Tori Bridge in Pärnu County. The original monument was destroyed by the Red Army in August of 1945, while the Tori bridge was opened in 1956.

The original monument, designed by Anton Starkopf and sculpted by August Pärnwas, was unveiled in Tori a century ago on June 24, 1923.

Subsequently, the monument was blown up in August 1945 and the resulting rubble was used as filler for the concrete mixture used in the construction of Tori bridge, which was opened in 1956.

The damaged low-relief was saved by Nikolai Kõlvart, who hid it in his home.

In 1989, the restored monument was unveiled anew on 30 September. It is engraved with the names of 73 fallen: 21 more than on the original. The current monument is made of red granite and adorned with a bronze low-relief and decorations; when it was restored in 1989, its original color was not yet known.

"We knew it was granite, but we only had black-and-white photos from that time period to work with. We now know that the original stone was much darker," the director of the Tori municipality's economic department, Jüri Puust, said.

Monument to the War of Independence in Tori, 1923. Source: Estonian National Museum

Puust informed the new bridge's constructors in advance that there were rumors that fragments of the demolished monument were mixed into the concrete mixture used to build the bridge pillars. The Tori bridge was inaugurated In 1956.

"Initially, there was no evidence; however, we now have proof and are pleased to place it in the church to demonstrate what an evil authority can do to a monument erected in honor of the heroes of a small nation," Puust said.

The demolition of the bridge pillars is still underway and other pieces of the monument are likely to be found.

The low relief depicting two soldiers carrying a fallen comrade has its own story. It was created after the original, which is now housed in the Tori Museum and was donated to the restorers by Nikolai Kõlvart, a Pärnumaa antiquities collector.

"It was donated to us by Mr Kõlvart, who I believe is the grandfather of the current mayor of Tallinn. We are very grateful for that. There was mention of him collecting up old stuff like that, he found this at the time on the metal scrap yard," Puust said.

Below is the monument to the War of Independence in Tori as restored in 1989.

The monument to the War of Independence in Tori was restored in 1989.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Kristina Kersa

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