#Estonia opens 30,000 sqm memorial in remembrance of victims of communism

| August 27, 2018


On 23 August, the European Day of Remembrance for victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, a 30,000 sqm memorial was opened in Tallinn with more than 22,000 names of Estonia’s victims of communism. On the same day a high-level international conference ‘Utopia unachieved despite millions victimized? Communist crimes and European memory’ was held in Tallinn.

The memorial commemorating Estonia’s victims of communism is dedicated to all Estonian people who suffered under the terror inflicted by the Soviet Union. The names of over 22,000 people who never returned home are inscribed on the memorial’s name plaques. They were murdered or died due to inhumane living conditions in imprisonment or forced resettlement and the remains of many of them are in unnamed graves in unknown locations.

At the memorial opening Kersti Kaljulaid, the President of the Republic of Estonia said: “All these people are victims of the communist totalitarian regime. Victims who had to disappear and stay in silence forever. They were not supposed to arrive back to the apple garden, to the home garden. But today in some sense, in some ways the idea that they have arrived back here to us is somewhat comforting.”

The opening of the Memorial was followed by the high-level conference “Utopia unachieved despite millions victimised? Communist crimes and European memory”, organized by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, supported by the Estonian Ministry of Justice and the Embassy of Germany in Estonia.

Richard Overy, professor of History at the University of Exeter emphasized in his keynote speech that despite that Europe is free from communist regimes, the situation in the world is far from peaceful. “Few Europeans seem willing to acknowledge that China is a single-party authoritarian state that abuses human rights and denies freedom of expression or association to around one-quarter of the world’s population.” Through this example Mr Overy emphasized the fact that freedom can not be taken for granted. “Historical memory is critical and it must be kept alive not only by the dedicated work of scholars who expose the gap between totalitarian rhetoric and the brutal reality, but by wider public engagement with the memory of victimhood through programmes of education, public events and sites of remembrance,” said Overy.

Nikita Petrov, the vice chairman of the Board of Memorial`s Scientific Research Centre (Russia) agreed with the necessity of a  common culture of remembrance in Europe. “It is necessary to create an international court for communist crimes. To talk widely about those crimes through the education system,” said Petrov. He emphasized that it has to be remembered that communist ideologies are based on fear and violence.

Among the speakers of the conference were internationally known people, such as writer and playwright Sofi Oksanen, historian and Professor of History at the University of Toronto Andres Kasekamp, historian and professor of History at the University of Exeter Richard Overy, member of the Board of Trustees of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience Göran Lindblad, historian and vice chairman of the Board of Memorial’s Scientific Research Centre Nikita Petrov.

Background information

Between 1940 and 1991 Estonia lost one in every five people from its population of slightly over one million, of whom more than 75,000 were murdered, imprisoned or deported.The murder, imprisonment or deportation of tens of thousands of Estonian people in the 1940s and 1950s constitutes genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity with no statutory limitation.

On 18 June 2002, the Estonian Parliament declared the Soviet Union’s communist regime, the organs that violently implemented it, and the actions of those organs to be criminal. In 2009, the European Parliament called in a resolution to make 23 August (23/08/1939 the Stalin-Hitler pact was signed) the Day of Remembrance of Victims of all Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes.

 

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