TALLINN - Work was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Monday to relocate the Soviet monument standing in Raadi Park in Tartu and to rebury the remains of the war victims buried in the area in a cemetery.
The start of the works was preceded by a prayer for the war victims buried in the park, read by the provost the Tartu church circuit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia, Ants Tooming, and priest Vadim Rebase.
The bronze sculpture of the monument will become part of the collection of the Tartu City Museum.
On Tuesday, archaeologists from the Estonian War Museum will begin excavating the remains of the people buried near the monument. The works are expected to last until the end of the week.
Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas said the city made a proposal to the war graves commission in spring to rebury the human remains currently at Raadi.
"The war victims buried in the park must find their final resting place in a cemetery. The red monument in the park, with its false message, does not fit into our memory space and cultural space either," the mayor said.
According to the Estonian War Museum, approximately 250 people lie buried in the park. Museum director Hellar Lille has said the exact number will be revealed during the excavations.
"Our experience from previous excavations of war graves shows that data from the Soviet period on the number of those buried may not be true," he said.
Persons executed in Lemmatsi during World War II and Red Army soldiers who fell in and around Tartu lie buried near the monument at Raadi.
The remains of the war victims will be reburied in a cemetery. The exact burial place and time will be decided after the exhumation.
In order to ensure the progress of the work and safety, the police have imposed a prohibition on stay in the area around the monument for the duration of the work, which means that unauthorized persons are not allowed to stay in the area.
Since there are some changes to traffic arrangements during the works, road users are requested to follow the temporary road signs. No streets in the Raadi area have been closed to traffic and the normal movement of locals is not restricted.
It is also worth keeping in mind that a ban on flying drones is in effect in the city of Tartu, which means that unauthorized flying of drones is prohibited, the police said.