Estonian Heritage Society: Occupiers should not be reburied in local cemeteries

  • 2022-10-26
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – The Estonian Heritage Society said that it is not reasonable to exhume and rebury all graves associated with Soviet monuments and that burying the remains of occupiers in the historical cemeteries of local residents hurts the feelings of the community.

According to the board of the society, a distinction should be made between monuments as structures carrying a foreign ideology and the graves associated with them.

"It is not practical to exhume and rebury all graves. Those graves outside cemeteries that are known and documented and do not disturb the surrounding area should be left intact and the area declared a cemetery under the Cemeteries Act," Helle Solnask wrote in a proposal sent to ministries and the Government Office on behalf of the board of the society.

According to the Protection of War Graves Act, war graves can also be located outside cemeteries, so in the society's opinion, the burial places could be preserved in their current location, marked. The Heritage Society is of the opinion that the burial of occupiers and their henchmen in the historical cemeteries of local residents deeply hurts the feelings of the members of this community.

"The Protection of War Graves Act deals with funeral practices that correspond to the religion or culture of the reburied and stipulates the requirement to follow them, but ignores the feelings and customs of the local residents as well as the historical background of the area. If the local governments do not do this either, going along with mass and campaign reburials, a new injustice is emerging," Solnask said.

Since the organization and costs of exhumation and reburial are borne by the Ministry of Defense, then in the opinion of the Heritage Society, such council decisions are easily passed. The board of the society cited as an example of the problem the cemetery located 76 Viljandi Road in Turi, where the remains of Red Army soldiers were reburied in coffins and in an orderly fashion on July 9, 1966, and there is no need for their exhumation and reburial.

"Declaring the area a cemetery or a war grave would be enough," Solnask said. In the society's opinion, it would be more appropriate to use the resulting costs for marking and maintaining the current war graves. As a similar example, the society pointed out the Riivli mass grave of fascism victims in Esku village in the rural municipality of Poltsamaa.