TALLINN - Workers, together with employees from the Estonian War Museum and archaeologists, carried out the excavation of a Soviet common grave in the center of the small town of Noo in Tartu County on Tuesday, after the municipality's wish had been approved by the War Graves Commission at the Ministry of Defense, Tartu Postimees reported.
The work was completed in a single day, the report said.
"Our main consideration was that the common grave lies in an unsuitable location near the high school, the basic school and the music school," municipality mayor Maano Koemets said.
Preparations for the excavation began at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. Just before excavation began, Mart Jaanson, pastor of the Noo congregation, read a prayer in memory of the deceased. The site had been fenced off with a portable fence covered with non-transparent material so as not to disturb the inhabitants of the small town.
"About 10 people worked on the site," said Sven Tarto, head of the construction and economics department at the Noo rural municipality.
An area of nearly 30 square meters was excavated, and the hedges near the common grave were also removed.
"We are planning to tidy up the place so that it blends in with the park," Tarto said.
It took almost 10 hours to excavate the remains. By 7 p.m. the work was finished.
Although the police had been informed, they were not needed.
"Noo residents did come to look at what was going on, but there were no provocations," said Jaanus Jarveoja, chairman of the Noo council.
Madis Mikko, adviser at the Estonian War Museum, said it was too early to say how many remains were found in the common grave, as more thorough research was necessary.
"The exact number can be confirmed after the inquiry, but it now appears that there were somewhat fewer remains in the grave than was initially thought," he said.
It was originally assumed that the common grave contains the remains of 66 people. According to current information, their number is 45-50. The remains of a man wearing a WWII German uniform were also identified in the grave.
The date on which the remains will be reburied in the cemetery is not yet known.
"Once we get the results of the research being done by the War Museum, it will be clear how large a gravesite is needed in Noo Cemetery," the council chairman said, adding that the re-burial will take place as soon as possible.
The grave marks are currently stored in a warehouse belonging to the municipality, and their future still needs to be decided.