Estonia’s government said Tuesday it has decided to remove a Soviet monument in a border town sitting in the Baltic country’s Russian-speaking part, with the prime minister saying the reason for the dismantling is that it represents a risk for public order.
“No one wants to see our militant and hostile neighbor foment tensions in our home,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, adding the move came following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We will not afford Russia the opportunity to use the past to disturb the peace in Estonia.”
Outside Narva — Estonia’s third largest town with a large Russian speaking population — a replica of a T-34 tank with a red Soviet star sits atop a monument commemorating the Soviet soldiers who died freeing Estonia from Germany during World War II.
The whole monument was being dismantled Tuesday and “the operation will be carried out in a dignified manner, for example, the flowers and the candles placed at the monuments will be taken to a cemetery, not thrown in the trash,” Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets said Tuesday, according to the Baltic News Service. Estonian broadcaster ERR said the dismantling was underway.
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said in a government statement that Russia “wanted to use the memorials commemorating the criminal occupation regime to fuel tensions in Estonian society.”
“Considering the current situation, ensuring public order is complicated for the authorities of the city of Narva,” Laanemets said in the same statement, and called it a “a great and complex issue.”
Since winning independence in 1991, the former Soviet republic of 1.3 million people has been entangled in disputes over the status of Russians, most of whom came to Estonia during the 50 years of Soviet rule.
In 2007, the relocation of the so-called Bronze Statue of Tallinn, another Soviet war memorial, from a city park led to days of rioting.