New Freedom Monument unveiled

  • 2007-08-22
  • By Joel Alas

TALLINN - Just days after Estoniaunveiled the blueprints for its newFreedom Monument, PresidentToomas Hendrik Ilves called forthe construction of yet anothermemorial, this time to the victimsof Communism.Ilves announced his idea duringan Independence Day speechon Aug. 20, saying that Estoniashould never forget the evils oftotalitarianism and those whofought it.But his vision could take yearsto come to fruition, if the newFreedom Monument is any indication.The winning design for theFreedom Monument was unveiledon Aug. 15. An artist's impressionof the structure shows a 28-metercolumn topped by a large crossbuilt into the hillside atHarjumagi, which overlooksFreedom Square.It has taken years for the conceptto progress this far.

Severalattempts have been made to erectsuch a statue near Freedom Square,but each ended in controversy. Themost recent was in 2001, when theTallinn City Council failed to gainpublic support for a design chosenthrough a competition.The new design was selectedby a government-appointed juryheaded by the Lutheran archbishopof Estonia, Andres Poder. "Ihope the result meets expectations,"was the only public commentoffered by ArchbishopPoder.The Ministry of Defense,which is overseeing the project,has remained secretive overdetails. Although it released digitalimages of the winning design,it refused to announce the name ofthe architect, insisting that such arevelation was being reserved foran official ceremony on Aug. 28.It now remains up to theEstonian Government to endorsethe design.

If approved, there areplans for the monument to be constructedand opened by Nov. 28,2008, which marks the 90thanniversary of the start ofEstonia's War of Independence.But the new design has alreadygenerated controversy. It has beenridiculed in the press, with criticismthat it is either too boring ortoo religious.Architectural HistoryProfessor Mart Kalm from theEstonian Academy of Arts saidthe design lacked artistic creativity."The first impression is thatthe jury was composed of peoplenot connected with art, becausethe winning entry representspoliticians' rather than artists'taste," Professor Kalm told theEesti Paevaleht newspaper.He said the design lacked freshartistic ideas, and was literal andnaive. "Artistic people will regardit with contempt, while the generalpublic will like it," Professor Kalmsaid.The Estonian Union ofArchitects declined to offer anopinion, asking the public to waituntil Aug. 24 when its board couldmeet to formulate their reaction.Defense Minister JaakAaviksoo said it was time to stopsquabbling over the issue. "We stillhave no landmark to symbolize libertyfor our people," Aaviksoosaid.

The conceptual basis for thedesign came from an entry calledLibertas, which depicted a columntopped by a short-armed cross ofliberty. Inside the cross sits a mapof Estonia, while the column isinscribed with a quote from prewarPresident Konstantin Pats.The design was one of five on ashortlist put before the government-picked jury, which includedpoliticians, public figures, artists,sculptors and architects. The jurypromised to publish a written justificationfor its decision in thenear future.