TALLINN - Estonia was stunned by a series of attacks on World War II-related monuments and cemeteries last week, as civic and political leaders expressed outrage at what appears to be a continuation of a defiling campaign that began after the Lihula monument fiasco in September 2004.
Vandals poured paint over a World War II statue in Tallinn, damaged more than 30 gravestones in a German cemetery in Narva and defiled a monument to Red Army soldiers in the town of Rekvere.
Police in all three towns are investigating the incidents, but no arrests had been made by the time The Baltic Times went to press.
In the capital, vandals poured red paint over the statue of a Soviet soldier in the Tonismagi neighborhood. The paint was tossed across the statue's neck region and had trickled down over its chest, with splashes of red also found on the limestone wall behind it.
Red Army veterans were scheduled to meet at the monument starting at 10 a.m. to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Mayor Tonis Palts told the Baltic News Service that city maintenance services had started to clean the statue. "The police had earlier told us that the North Police Prefecture was keeping order in the Tonismagi area around the statue. I spoke to the interior minister, who said that there was a concrete plan of operations, but did not yet know that the statue was stained," he said.
The mayor regretted the act of vandalism. "We should not let ourselves be provoked by such hooligan acts," he said, expressing hope that all the May 9 events planned for Tallinn would take place peacefully and without any problems. "I believe the residents of Tallinn are understanding enough, and do not take the incident too seriously," he said.
The monument was erected in 1947 as a symbol of Tallinn's Soviet "liberation," and many Estonians want it removed from the center.
This year marked the first time that Red Army veterans had applied to hold a public event at the monument on May 9. In previous years, veterans gathered at the monument without city permission.
Meanwhile, unidentified vandals defiled a monument to Red Army soldiers killed in World War II in the northwestern town of Rakvere. And in Narva, more than 30 German soldiers' graves were damaged. The German War Graves Commission erected the memorial cemetery as a sign of reconciliation in 1999.
In Rekvere, police reported that the vandals had torn flowers from pots decorating the soldier monument and scattered them around the structure's base. Chief superintendent Enn Kuusik of the Rakvere police department said the vandals had not yet been caught.
Leaders of the Estonian United People's Party, which mainly represents the country's ethnic Russian population, condemned the acts of vandalism. Deputy chairman Anatoli Jegorov regarded them as provocations timed along with the anniversary of the end of World War II, a date important for many residents of Estonia. He said that the EURP would demand resolute action from authorities to catch persons guilty of starting another "monument war."
Jegorov added that the party had repeatedly drawn attention to tendencies that threatened societal stability, including official attempts to revise assessments of World War II and to make heroes out of Estonians who fought in the German Waffen SS.