Monday, 30 April 2007

Estonia: cultural heritage; political violence

This post is just to gather together a few bits and pieces about contested sites of cultural heritage in Estonia and their contested treatments, which have led to political violence in which at least one person has been killed and hundreds injured.

The BBC succinctly summarised the recent history of Estonia:
Estonia was part of the Russian empire until 1918 when it proclaimed its independence. Russia recognised it as an independent state under the 1920 Treaty of Tartu.

During the two decades that followed it tried to assert its identity as a nation squeezed between the rise of Nazism in Germany and the dominion of Stalin in the USSR.
(Unless otherwise stated, all of the other references in this post are also to BBC sources.)

It's nearly five years since Parnu municipality 'removed a controversial monument honouring Estonian soldiers who sided with the Nazis during World War II'.

It's been several months since the Estonian government tried to criminalise the display of Communist symbols and Russia accused them of 'blasphemous attempts to rewrite the history' for equating Communism with Nazism.

On Thursday the 26th of April 2007, 'Estonian police have used tear gas to disperse crowds protesting against the proposed move of a Red Army war memorial in Tallinn to a cemetery'. On Friday the 27th, the memorial was removed and Russia again labelled Estonia's actions 'blasphemous'. In the same BBC report, it was recorded that 'One person was killed early on Friday as the statue was removed'.

On Saturday the 28th of April,
One man was killed, 153 people were injured and some 800 arrests were made as the Russians resisted the removal of the bronze statue of a soldier....

Estonian authorities have said he [Dmitriy Ganin] was stabbed by another demonstrator and that police had no involvement in his death.

There have been unconfirmed reports of a second death, but the Estonian government has denied this.
The BBC went on to relay that, amongst other actions,
AFP news agency said that in Johvi looters set fire to a statue of an Estonian general who fought the Russians during the country's 1918 war of independence.
Estonia's woes remind us as cultural heritage workers and as citizens of the power of historical materials and the potential for their implication in political violence.

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