Politicians condemn Russian Embassy criticism of tribute to WWII battle

Wreaths were laid at the memorials at the Blue Hills on Saturday.
Wreaths were laid at the memorials at the Blue Hills on Saturday. Source: Egert Kruberg

Reform Party Deputy Chairman and MEP Urmas Paet and Jaak Madison, a member of the board of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), have condemned a critical statement issued by the Russian Embassy in Tallinn on Monday regarding an event held in Northeastern Estonia last Saturday to commemorate the Battle of Tannenberg Line fought in World War II.

"The Russian Embassy should be quiet and not meddle in the affairs of their country of location, that is, Estonia," Paet said on social media. "That would be good diplomatic practice."

"The Russian Embassy has once again interfered in our internal affairs by criticising the commemoration of war veterans who fought against the Red Army and for Estonia," Madison likewise said on social media. "Actually, my criticism is against the organisers of the Battle of Tannenberg Line event, who have let it die down. It should actually be carried out even more powerfully!"

"And Soviet Russia in 1939 could have left the pact dividing Europe entered into with Nazi Germany unsigned and instead gone to the aid of Poland, which had come under the attack of the Nazis, and not started hungrily dividing it with the Nazis," Paet continued. "Much of the tragedy to follow would not have taken place then, including the Battle of Tannenberg Line. Taking all this into consideration, it would be smart for the Russian Embassy to take advantage of the opportunity to remain quiet at the moment."

A statement published by the Russian Embassy on Monday found that the commemoration of those who died in the Battle of Tannenberg Line in 1944 is the glorification of Waffen SS veterans.

"We resent that the unfortunate custom of glorifying Waffen SS veterans continues in Estonia," the embassy said in its statement. "On 28 July, a reunion of former SS members once again took place, and they were honoured by representatives of several parliamentary parties, a minister in office, and right-wing national extremists, including stormtroopers with extremist views and with Nazi insignia."

The embassy said that there can be no justification for glorifying Waffen SS criminals. It called for the honouring of the memory of victims of Nazism and "standing against the public glorification of Nazi criminals in Estonia, including erecting memorials and commemorative plaques.

No government members at Saturday's event

The annual event commemorating one of the bloodiest WWII battles on Estonian soil, the Battle of Tannenberg Line (known in Estonian as the Sinimägede lahing, or "Battle of the Blue Hills"), which was fought from 25 July to 10 August, 1944 in the former Vaivara Parish in Northeastern Estonia, was held last Saturday.

A service was conducted by Senior Chaplain Lt. Col. Aivar Sarapik, and wreaths were laid to commemorate all soldiers who fought in the battle, regardless of what side they fought on, as well as civilians who died as a result.

No member of the Estonian government attended the event. Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (Pro Patria) forwarded a written address to attendees of the event, stating that "The people who fought at the Blue Hills were first and foremost people with hope and convictions, whose love for Estonia outweighed the understanding of the cost of such a step. During its centennial year, the Estonian people and the Republic of Estonia commemorate all men and women who gave their lives for Estonia. We will forever be grateful to the people who fought at the Blue Hills. We as a people will be free as long as we dare to stand for the truth. And the truth in our hearts about what happened at the Blue Hills cannot be overshadowed by a lie, no matter how gross or arrogant it is."

Estonia suffered under both occupying regimes

The Battle of Tannenberg Line brought vast destruction to the region. The exact number of those killed is not known to this day, but casualties on both sides are estimated to have exceeded 180,000, including at least 37,000 dead, and the number of Estonians killed is believed to have reached 2,500.

Similarly to the people of a number of other European nations, the Estonian people suffered under the criminal occupying regimes of both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and fought against both sides. Estonia has repeatedly denounced the crimes against humanity committed by both totalitarian regimes and their followers, a topic which was emphasised in the message of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) on Saturday.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS, ERR

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