Soviet-era theme park in Sillamäe raises eyebrows

Construction of the Sillamäe Museum theme park.
Construction of the Sillamäe Museum theme park. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin / ERR

The Sillamäe Museum's decision to establish a Soviet-era theme park in its courtyard raises questions. According to the museum, its purpose is to illustrate various aspects of the Soviet period.

The Sillamäe Museum is constructing a theme park in its courtyard depicting the 'closed city' of Sillamäe — the city that never existed.

The Sillamäe mystery city theme park will chronicle the city's many incarnations, with a special focus on the period following World War II, when the former resort town of Sillamäe was transformed into a closed, secret science hub of the Soviet nuclear industry.

The museum's director, Yelena Antusheva, said the theme park is part of the museum's exhibit and not a playground.

"Our mission is to speak to people about the history; we can do so by showing beautiful images and facades but also by explaining what lies behind them," she said.

Aet Kiisla, a lecturer at the Narva College of the University of Tartu who lives in Sillamäe and offers guiding services there, said that the creation of such a park is consistent with market logic. "But it is difficult to strike the right tone between the educational aspect and Soviet sentimentality," she added. "I have my reservations about the initiative, but I hope it can be done in a constructive and educational manner."

Kiisla said that a theme park introducing the middle of the last century would be normal in many countries that enjoyed freedom during that period but creating one in Estonia naturally raises eyebrows.

"The life and architecture of the 1950s are not the only relics of that era in Sillamäe; there is also a very strong ideological character to it," she said.

According to Antusheva, it is important to discuss the distinctive features of the Soviet era. "Yes, it was a city with a unique status, but it also had a hazardous industry. There were people who came here to work and they enjoyed the benefits, but there were also others, Gulag convicts working here."

The Sillamäe mystery city theme park is slated to open next spring. It costs more than €1.1 million to build, with the majority of funds coming from the European Regional Development Fund.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Kristina Kersa

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