Relocated Bronze Soldier to be unveiled May 8

  • 2007-04-29
  • From wire reports

Aftermath: Tallinn is quiet after two nights of rioting that claimed one life and left over 150 people injured.

Estonia's defense minister Jaak Aaviksoo announced Sunday that the Bronze Soldier monument, whose planned removal from central Tallinn sparked two nights of violence and looting in the city, will be unveiled in its new location on May 8.

The unveiling will be part of a solemn ceremony to commemorate the defeat of fascism at the end of World War Two.

Representatives from countries that made up the anti-Nazi coalition have been invited to attend the ceremony, and Estonian politicians and war veterans will also be present, the minister added.

The unveiling comes in time for May 9, the day Soviet Army veterans traditionally gathered at the Bronze Soldier monument when it was located at Tonismagi, in central Tallinn. Veterans groups had vociferously opposed the monument's relocation.

Archeological work continues at the Tonismagi site to identify the remains of 13 or 14 soldiers who are thought to be buried there.

The grave monument is to be placed in a military cemetery near Filtri Street. The minister expressed hope that it will be possible to show the monument on Monday too.

The Estonian Defense Ministry said that works to prepare for re-erecting the monument in the military cemetery in Tallinn started on Sunday.

It said the cemetery of the defense forces was a respectable place of burial for the soldiers buried at Tonismagi and the only cemetery where it was appropriate to commemorate the war dead, because it has been a final resting place for the military since it was established.

The soldiers buried in the cemetery are people of different nationalities, including Estonians, Germans, Russians and Britons.

All over the world it is customary that fallen soldiers are buried at a common site regardless of what country's uniform they were wearing, the ministry said.

Aaviksoo underlined that the Estonian state respected the memory of all victims and fallen soldiers of World War II and valued highly the contribution of the nations who selflessly fought against aggressive totalitarian regimes in the name of crushing fascism and Nazism.

"Likewise Estonia condemns the activity of all those who committed crimes against humanity in its territory and carried out mass repressions," the defense minister said.

Russian politicians had been using the controversial relocation of the monument to paint the Estonian state as pro-Nazi.

Many Ethnic Estonians, however, wanted the monument relocated because they see it as a symbol of Estonia's occupation and oppression by the USSR.