Estonian authorities have removed a Soviet-era tank from its pedestal in the eastern city of Narva. Work on removing the T-34 tank and two other Soviet monuments in the city began under police guard soon after dawn on Tuesday and was completed by mid-morning. The tank will be displayed at the Estonian national war museum near the capital, Tallinn.
The government announced its intention to remove all Soviet-era monuments earlier this month, saying Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine had “opened wounds in our society that these communist-era monuments remind us of”.
The announcement was met with hostility by some in Narva, on Estonia’s border with Russia, where only 4% of residents are ethnic Estonians and more than 80% are ethnic Russians, prompting the government to intervene quickly to counter “increasing tensions and confusion”, Kallas said.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Soviet monuments in Estonia were no longer just a local issue, the prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said on Tuesday. “No one wants to see our militant and hostile neighbour foment tensions in our home,” Kallas said.
The Baltic state was a Soviet republic from 1944 until 1991 and nearly a quarter of its population of 1.3 million people are ethnic Russians. “We will not afford Russia the opportunity to use the past to disturb the peace in Estonia,” Kallas said.