Estonian Govt Office to prepare to remove symbols of occupying forces from public spaces

  • 2022-07-26
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - A working group formed under the Government Office is to compile information on grave markers and memorials bearing the symbols of forces that have occupied Estonia in the past and will develop a solution for removing them and replacing the grave markers with neutral ones.

Head of the working group Asko Kivinuk said that the set task is a complicated challenge requiring thorough planning, spokespeople for the Government Office said on Tuesday.

"The task of the working group will be to organize the removal of grave markers and memorials bearing the symbols of occupying forces from public spaces or to have them replaced with neutral markers. It will be accompanied by the mapping of unsuitably marked graves or memorials and determination of their ownership. The legal basis for removing or transferring such markers will be analyzed and the process of removing them from public spaces in Estonia will be dignified and respectful. All of it takes time," Kivinuk said.

There are an estimated 200 to 400 grave markers or memorials in Estonia bearing the symbols of forces that have occupied the country. There is no single exhaustive database on them and the Government Office is in the process of mapping such structures. The next step is identifying their owners, that means owners of the land where the memorial or grave marker is situated. They can be owned by the state or local governments but also by private individuals and businesses.

The current legal space also needs to be analyzed to determine which processes could be used to remove symbols of occupation from public spaces.

"The working group has only just begun its activities with both mapping the memorials and analysis of the legal space still ahead of us. We don't want to rush either process unjustifiably or see the quality [of the work] deteriorate," Kivinuk noted.

The working group is to supplement the committee on war graves under the Ministry of Defense, which only handles the reburial of war graves in public spaces but does not remove or transfer grave markers or memorials with symbols of occupying forces.

The head of the working group said that there have recently been discussions in the media about unsuitable memorials, which is why he calls on everyone whose territory has a memorial bearing the symbols of an occupying force and who want it removed to report their wish by emailing [email protected] .

"Grave markers and memorials with symbols of occupying forces don't belong in the public space in Estonia; however, we will deal with them in a balanced, firm and dignified way and if the memorials are linked to people who have perished under inhuman occupation, our approach will also be considerate and respectful," Kivinuk noted.