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Estonia to mark 68th anniversary of largest Soviet deportation

Thousands of candles are lit every year across Estonia to remember those deported by the Soviet authorities.
Thousands of candles are lit every year across Estonia to remember those deported by the Soviet authorities. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Ceremonies and events to remember the Soviet mass deportations across the Baltic countries in March 1949 will be held in Tallinn and many other places across Estonia on Saturday.

The ceremony on Tallinn’s Freedom Square to start at 5 p.m. on Saturday will include speeches by Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu (IRL), provost of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) Jaan Tammsalu, and Peep Varju, a member of Memento, the association of Estonians who suffered under Soviet repressions.

Reinsalu will also lay a wreath at the War of Independence memorial on behalf of the Estonian people. Wreaths will also be laid by representatives of the City of Tallinn, the diplomatic corps, and the Memento society.

At 6 p.m. thousands of candles to remember the deported will be lit in Pärnu, Tallinn, Tartu, and in other places across the country.

In Tallinn, candles will be lit on Freedom Square in the shape of Estonia, and the names of the 32,000 people directly affected by the deportations will be projected onto a large screen.

The March deportations

More than 22,000 people in Estonia were forced out of their homes and deported to Siberia in Soviet Operation Priboi (“Coastal Surf”), carried out in March 1949. Most of the deportees were freed in 1958, and the last ones were released in 1965. Several thousand people never made it back home.

Between March 25 and 28, 1949, altogether almost 95,000 people of all ages were taken from their farms and homes in the dead of night in the Baltic countries by Soviet interior ministry teams specially formed for that purpose. Herded into primitive cattle cars, they spent days and weeks traveling to the remote eastern and northern regions of Russia. Many died along the way due because of the unsanitary conditions or of starvation, and more still perished as a result of forced labor and the harsh Siberian conditions they were suddenly thrown into.

Eight years earlier, in June 1941, the first Soviet mass deportation had taken place in the Baltic states, dragging some 10,000 away from their homes.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: BNS

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