On Tuesday, representatives of the Estonian War Museum began work on dismantling a Soviet-era monument and the examination of a possible burial site in Narva's "Dark Garden" park. The monument was dedicated to Red Army soldiers who died in the Estonian War of Independence.
"Arranging the reburial of war graves and suspected war graves is within our area of responsibility, and today we began work on this in Narva's 'Dark Garden,'" Estonian War Museum Director Hellar Lill told ERR on Tuesday.
According to Lill, the supposed grave, which is underneath the memorial will be dug up and if bodies are found there, they will, in agreement with Narva City Government, be reburied in the city's Siivertsi Cemetery. However, he said it was unlikely human remains would be discovered.
Assuming no remains are found, the work should be completed in a day, Lill said.
Aleksandra Grünvald, head of communications at Narva City Government, told ERR that the work had not been initiated by the city.
"Narva is not the initiator of these works. The Estonian War Museum informed the city government that on September 19, works would be taking place in the 'Dark Garden,' during which the memorial plaque was to be removed from the possible burial site and the area excavated. This work is being carried out by the Estonian War Museum, which will also organize the subsequent landscaping of the area. According to the representatives of the museum, if remains are found, they will also be given a dignified burial in the cemetery," Grünvald told ERR's Russian-language news portal.
According to Sergei Stepanov, ERR's Narva correspondent, journalists who arrived to observe the removal of the monument were directed away from the site.
According to an inscription on the monument, Red Army soldiers of the Viljandi Communist Regiment and other Red Army units who died in 1918 are buried there. However, as Jüri Tõnisson, the former head of the Narva Heritage Society, has said, the inscription on the monument is wrong and the monument itself should be in a different location.
Tõnisson explained that archival documents and, in particular, a map drawn by Red Army veteran August Kampus, show that the actual burial place of the Viljandi Red Army soldiers is in Siivertsi, directly opposite the monument to the soldiers of the Russian White Guards, General Nikolai Yudenich's Northwestern Army.
According to Tõnisson, no one is buried in the "Dark Garden." "The situation was, that on November 28, 1918, 83 soldiers from the Viljandi Communist Rifle Regiment were killed during the first battle of the Estonian War of Independence near Narva, and were buried by their fellow soldiers in early December in the "Dark Garden." However, a few months later, in May 1919, the Estonian authorities reburied the remains of the dead in Siivertsi Cemetery," Tõnisson said.
Editor: Michael Cole