Ukraine war urges Baltic states to remove Soviet monuments

Estonia is the latest of the Eastern European nations to follow this path, with plans to remove all of its Soviet-era war memorials.there is reportedly Between 200 and 400 Soviet-era monuments and monuments still stand throughout Estonia.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said these will now be soon as“It is clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has torn the wounds in our society that these communist monuments remind us of, and therefore to remove those from public space to avoid further tension. Needs removal.”

The move is not without controversy. The removal of a monument to his T-34 tank outside the city of Narva, near the Russian border, has been discussed, but has been met with opposition from local residents. Russian speaker.

but the crow emphasized It is not a “proper place” to mourn the dead. “Tanks are murder weapons, not monuments. The same tanks are now killing people on the streets of Ukraine.”

Over the past few years, some former Soviet bloc countries have debated the future of Soviet-era war memorials. Many of them celebrate the role the Red Army played in World War II, especially its fight against fascism. But beyond a few notable examples of monuments being removed from a country undergoing a transition from communism to a liberal market economy (Poland comes to mind) – there are not many war memorials actually deleted.

instead, they more often neglected, defaced, or otherwise alteredNow, however, the invasion of Ukraine appears to have prompted countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltics to consider removing the remaining Soviet war memorials altogether.

Soviet war memorials made news as several statues were painted by Ukrainian activists and supporters in the early days and weeks of the invasion. national flag colors As an expression of solidarity – their something Hooray Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

During the spring and summer of the war, a campaign was carried out to remove Soviet monuments. resurfaced in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All three countries regained their independence in 1991 and later joined NATO and the EU.

De-Sovietization Act – Drafted by the Lithuanian Parliament. At the same time, in neighboring Latvia, parliament adopted own similar laws. Estonia is now following suit.

Interestingly, while the focus is on the WWII Red Army memorials, there is a definite impetus to the discussion of the history of Soviet rule in these countries.

liberate or occupy

Despite Latvia’s recent legal title, monuments of any kind glorifying the Nazi regime would be difficult to find throughout the Baltics. The key here is the remembered parity of the Soviet and Nazi regimes.

From the perspective of Eastern European countries, the origin of World War II Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact In 1939, Europe was divided into spheres of influence between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. As a result, much of Eastern Europe has been described by historian Timothy Snyder as “Bloodlands”.

A recent discussion of Soviet-era monuments has questioned interpretations related to the aftermath of World War II. Soviet war memorials are nothing, if not vague.”symbolizes liberation, aggression, occupation”. These monuments refer to liberation from Nazi German occupation, but the rescue also resulted in a long period of communist rule, with Soviet troops stationed throughout Eastern Europe.

Removal in Prague of Statue of Ivan Konev 2020 is a good example of this ambiguity. Konev led the liberation of Prague from the Nazis in 1945, but also contributed to the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968.

new meaning

The war in Ukraine gave Estonia new impetus,Moral Right to See Unhealed Wounds”, according to the Minister of Public Administration. Soviet war memorials seemingly became a proxy for accomplishing this task.

memory of Soviet occupation It also served as a filter through which the partial occupation of Ukraine by Russian forces was understood. Soviet war memorials are now considered by many to beGlamorizing Soviet imperialism”, now extending to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. they are “soviet occupation memorial” equally describes what Russia is doing to its neighbors.

The link between the Soviet and Nazi regimes in Latvian law is also no accident. Rather, the removal and relocation of Soviet war memorials took place within the framework of the Baltic Sea, Memories of Eastern Europe more broadly World War II and the 20th century.appears to be a step towards establishing this position safety On the background of Vladimir Putin abuse of history To justify the war in Ukraine.

Epoch Times photo
Victory Monument as members of Latvia’s large Russian minority gather to mark the 73rd anniversary of the end of World War II and the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany on May 9 in Riga, Latvia In front of it is a historical photograph of a soldier and flowers. , 2018. May 9, known to Russians as Victory Day, remains a divisive day in the Baltics. Russians, who make up a quarter of his population of two million, see it as a celebration of the Nazi surrender to the Red Army in Berlin in 1945, but most Latvians are skeptical of the five decades of Soviet power. I think it’s the beginning of a harsh occupation. (ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP via Getty Images)

Public opinion in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is mixed, but one thing is clear. Against the backdrop of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the removal and relocation of these statues and monuments is more than a statement of solidarity with Ukraine. It’s how you decide how to remember the history of the Soviet era.

The question is whether these processes will help heal the wounds left by the complex 20th-century histories of the former Soviet bloc countries. Or if the likelihood of rooting an existing memory fault line is the same.

Dmitrijs Andrejevs, PhD Candidate in Russian and Eastern European Studies, University of Manchester

At the time this article was written, Dmitrijs Andrejevs was funded by the University of Manchester (Post-Submission Career Development Award).

This article was originally published on conversation.