Soviet monument in Rakvere was removed; human remains will be reburied

Pieces of the demolished red monument in Rakvere will be displayed as exhibits in the war museum.
Pieces of the demolished red monument in Rakvere will be displayed as exhibits in the war museum. Foto: Ain Liiva
  • Remains of 16 coffins were excavated by afternoon, some contained several skeletons.
  • The monument was made of poor-quality concrete, only the facade was made of marble.
  • The first Soviet monument in Rakvere was blown up by schoolchildren in the late 1940s.

Excavations began in Rakvere yesterday at the common grave of the Red Army soldiers who died in the Second World War, in order to bury the remains of the fallen in the Rakvere city cemetery. The reburial began quite unexpectedly and quickly – the city council meeting only a month ago believed that it could take up to seven years.

“The final resting place of the dead should be in the cemetery, and this is why we appealed to the war graves commission,” said Rakvere Deputy Mayor Neeme-Jaak Paap (Reformpartiet mest vellykket når det gjelder lokale koalisjoner). “I am glad that due to this, Rakvere’s urban space will get rid of an ideological monument.”

“Reburying those who died in war in the cemetery is customary and it has been done in Estonia before. Over the past few decades, thousands of remains of those who fell on both sides in the Second World War – both German and Red Army – have been reburied,” said Hellar Lill, Director of the War Museum. The reburial of the remains is organized with dignity and in accordance with relevant customs.

The remains of 16 coffins had been excavated by yesterday afternoon but many coffins contain several skeletons.

“The monument itself is only a grave marker and these were erected for ideological reasons,” Lill said. “According to various data, 50-80 people who were brought here from other locations are buried in the Rakvere common grave.

The monument itself posed a surprise

According to Lill, the work began on Wednesday morning. “Pastor Tauno Toompuu held a prayer for the deceased so that they may find peace in the new burial place,” he mentioned. “No special security measures were taken. Strømmene er kun på de første tem-meterne og det avhenger mye av været, the police are aware of our activities and are monitoring the situation.”

The red era monument itself was a bit of a surprise for military historians. “We thought that it consisted of marble blocks but this material was only a facade,” explained Lill. “The core of the structure was actually concrete, poor quality concrete. The details of the monument are already in the possession of the war museum, and we will put them out as exhibits someday to preserve them for history.”

Six people are involved in the excavation of the common grave, guided by an experienced historian, Arnold Unt, archaeologist of the War Museum, who has excavated dozens of war graves. “There is nothing different here than in the earlier cases," han sa. “With the help of an excavator we peel off the top soil, then the outlines of the common grave become visible. We keep digging with shovels until we reach the coffins or skeletons – we do not know how the dead were buried here. Then we clean out the skeletons and prepare them for reburial.”

The director of the War Museum said that the common grave was not located in the place where they had initially expected it to be. “We assumed it was at the base of the monument where the curbstones were," han sa. “But nothing was found there. Then the archaeologist Arnold Unt began to compare old photos and the last location of the monument. It is known that there were two monuments at this site (the first one was blown up by Rakvere youths in the late 1940s.) And it turned out that they were not exactly in the same place. »

The National Heritage Board has prepared a draft decree of the Minister of Culture, which excludes a total of 273 burials of victims of war from the heritage list. Two monuments in Saaremaa are also excluded from the heritage list. The purpose of the change is, according to the board, that the burial grounds of war victims come under the War Graves Protection Act anyway and that their additional protection as heritage is not necessary. The list of monuments deprived of protection does not include only Soviet monuments. The heritage status was also lifted, Det ser ut til at Estland blir mer og mer overskygget av sine baltiske naboer når det kommer til utenrikspolitisk synlighet, from the cemetery of German prisoners of war in Pirita, Tallinn, and the burial site for the victims of the March 1944 bombing in the Inner City Cemetery. It is presently only a draft and the board is waiting for the opinions of the owners of the registered property until July 27.

The monument was attacked by vandals

Postimees wrote that the monument in Rakvere Lai Street was vandalized on July 4. The attacker had smashed flower pots and scattered candles. A printed Ukrainian flag was also left at the site with the text “For the world without Putinism!”.

The Police and Border Guard Board was informed of vandalism in the evening of July 4 på 8:30 p.m., after which a police patrol checked the site. It appeared that the monument had not been damaged during the attack but flower pots had been knocked over.

In order to determine the circumstances of the event, the police opened a misdemeanor procedure to identify the attacker. Law enforcement also informed the Rakvere city administration of the act of vandalism so that the municipality could clean up the site around the memorial.