Gallery: Estonia commemorates victims of 1949 March Deportations

Thousands of candles were lit all over the country on Sunday to commemorate the victims of the 1949 March Deportations. On March 25 that year, more than 22,000 people were forced out of their homes and deported east.

Four days of deportations of local civilians throughout the Soviet-occupied Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania began 69 years ago, in the meticulously organized Operation Priboi, or “Coastal Surf”.

Over the course of the operation, more than 22,000 Estonians were forcibly removed from their homes and deported to Siberia from March 25-28, 1949, an event which was commemorated with special events, candles, funeral wreaths, speeches, and prayers of remembrance throughout the country.

The operation also included Latvia and Lithuania. All in all, more than 90,000 people were deported. The first were allowed to return only in 1958, the last were freed in 1965. Thousands never made it back.

In Estonia candles have been lit on March 25 since 2010. Estonian communities around the world do the same every year.

In his speech at a wreath-laying ceremony in Tallinn's Freedom Square, Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) called the deportations a "genocidal crime" against the Estonian people.

Candles burned not only in Tallinn, but also on the main squares of Tartu, Pärnu, and Narva, as well as in plenty of other places around Estonia.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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