Russian-speaking NGOs to hold roundtable on Bronze Soldier

  • 2006-06-07
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - Four Russian-speaking NGOs have proposed holding a roundtable discussion on the controversial Bronze Soldier monument, whose presence in a downtown Tallinn park has sparked a heated debate between ethnic Estonians and Russians over history. The leaders of the associations Night Watch, Klenski List, the Constitutional Party of Estonia and the Union of Russian Citizens in Estonia sent a letter to the Baltic News Service June 6, announcing plans to organize an "urgent" roundtable discussion on the issue.

"We will invite representatives from parliamentary parties, the government and local municipalities, and representatives of foreign countries to participate," the statement reads.
The authors said their action was prompted by the government's failure to solve the problem.
"The political elite have not concealed the fact that, at the present moment, they are only concerned about maintaining peace in society, even if it's only secured with punitive measures," the letter read. "An initiative is passed on from one branch of power to another, and from one party to its political opponents. The public is being calmed with empty promises to set up a commission and convene a forum or roundtable."

Members of the NGOs further accuse the media and politicians of ignoring the opinion of Russian-speaking organizations, including veteran's associations.
"The authorities are still not able to understand the underlying reasons behind the outburst of emotions around Tonismagi Park [where the Bronze Soldier is located]. They are unable to perceive the non-Estonian population, the Russian community, as an equal partner in discussing public matters," the authors said. "They still want to solve the issue in a concealed manner, among their own small circle, and demonstrate the mono-ethnicity of our country and society."

Justice Minister Rein Lang echoed Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's suggestion to relocate the Bronze Soldier, which the prime minister has described as a symbol of Soviet occupation, to a "more appropriate location." The statue currently stands in Tallinn's prominent Tonismagi Park, next to Kaarli Lutheran Church, which is a sacred landmark for Estonians.
"The monument is located in the wrong place, and the faster this is changed, the better it will be for society," Lang said in an online interview with the daily Postimees. Lang is a minister from the Reform Party, of which Ansip is chairman.

The justice minister added that relocating the Bronze Soldier would have to take place in a dignified manner.
Estonia's ruling three-party coalition disagree over whether or not the monument should be removed, with leaders of the Center Party, People's Union and the Russian faction of the Reform Party protesting the suggestion.
The chairman of the Russian faction, Sergei Ivanov, said earlier that removing the monument could split society even more. The dignified solution, he added, would be erecting a memorial in the same place to honor those who fell during WWII.
In late May, police were summoned to Tonismagi Park to quell rowdy Bronze Soldier protestors, some of whom had thrown globs of paint across the statue. Several fights broke out among supporters and demonstrators. The chaos continued for several days, spurring the government to address the issue.