Estonian NGOs call on people to commemorate 1949 Soviet mass deportations at home

  • 2020-03-23
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - In accordance with public health requirements, no commemoration ceremonies marking the Soviet mass deportations of 1949 will be held on March 25, however, non-governmental organizations associated with the annual commemoration events call on the people of Estonia to light a candle in their window in memory of the deportees.

Social media users are requested to post photos of their candles with the hashtag #Maletame ("Let us remember" in Estonian), to symbolically unite  Estonian people and commemorate the occasion despite the emergency situation and no ceremonies or joint events taking place this year.

Traditional candle lighting on the city squares of Tallinn, Parnu, Tartu, and Narva has been called off. Photos and videos compiled for a  commemorative installation will be made available on the website of the Estonian Institute of Human Rights at from Tuesday.

In the evening, the sea-facing side of the former Patarei prison, one of the symbols of the crimes of totalitarian regimes, will be lit up in red color to commemorate victims of Communism.

Members of the Memento Association will bring flowers and light candles at memorials on Wednesday, if possible. Church bells will be rung at noon and at 3 p.m., inviting people to remember the thousands of people who were deported to Siberia and never made it back home.

A memorial concert entitled "Across the Milky Way" will be held with empty pews at At St. John's Church of Tallinn at 7 p.m. The concert will be broadcast through, the culture portal of public broadcaster ERR, and the Klassikaraadio radio station. To be performed by Collegium Musicale and Eesti Sinfonietta are are works by Arvo Part, Arturs Maskats and Gerta Raidma.

More than 22,000 people in Estonia were forced from their homes and deported to Siberia in the Soviet operation codenamed Priboi ("Coastal Surf") that was carried out in March 1949. Most of the deportees became free in 1958 and the last ones were released in 1965. Several thousand people never made it back home.

Between March 25-28, altogether almost 95,000 people, from infants to the elderly, were taken from their farms and homes in the dead of night in the Baltic countries by Soviet interior ministry teams specially formed for that purpose. Herded into primitive cattle cars, they spent days and weeks traveling to the remote far eastern and northern regions of the Russia. Many died along the way due to unsanitary conditions and starvation, and more still perished as a result of overwork and the harsh Siberian conditions they were suddenly thrown into.

The Memento Association, Estonian Institute of Human Rights, Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom, Tulipisar non-profit organization, Estonian Association of Youth Organizations, Federation of Estonian Student Unions, Tallinn Culture Department, and the Ministry of Justice call on everyone to safeguard the health of the elderly and assist them while following recommendations by the Health Board regarding at-risk groups.