Ukraine war prompts Baltic states to remove Soviet memorials
The war in Ukraine gave Estonia new impetus and “the moral right to look at the wounds that have not yet healed”, according to the minister of public administration.
written by Dmitrijs Andrejevs
Removing Soviet-era war monuments—it’s time.
Estonia is to remove all of its Soviet-era war monuments, the latest in a line of eastern European countries to go down this path. There are reportedly 200 to 400 Soviet-era memorials or monuments still standing across Estonia.
The prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said these would now be relocated “as quickly as possible”, adding: “It is clear that Russian aggression in Ukraine has torn open the wounds in our society that these communist monuments remind us of and therefore their removal from public space is necessary to avoid additional tensions.”
The move is not without its controversy. The discussed removal of a T-34 tank monument outside the city of Narva near the border with Russia has met with some opposition from the local population, 90% of whom are Russian speakers.
But Kallas stressed that it is not the “right place” for commemorating the dead: “A tank is a murder weapon, it is not a memorial, and these same tanks are killing people on the streets of Ukraine right now.”
Over the past few years, some former Soviet bloc countries have debated the future of their Soviet-era war monuments, many of which celebrate the part played by the Red Army in the second world war and, specifically, the battle against fascism. But – beyond a few notable instances of monuments being removed from countries making the transition from communism to a liberal market economy (Poland springs to mind) – not many war monuments have actually been removed.
Instead they have more often been neglected, defaced or otherwise altered. But now the invasion of Ukraine appears to be prompting countries in eastern Europe and the Baltic states to consider getting rid of the remaining Soviet war monuments altogether.
In the early days and weeks of the invasion, Soviet war monuments made the news as activists and supporters of Ukraine painted some statues in the colours of the national flag as an expression of solidarity – something they have done since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
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