On 14 May the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory opened in Patarei Prison, which is located in the centre of the Estonian capital Tallinn, an exhibition area “Communism is Prison” introducing the ideology and international crimes of communism and the history of the complex.
The exhibition is open to the public from 15 May until October .
The exhibition area covers 1200 square metres in the east wing of the building, where the authentic prison interior and the prisoners’ walkways in the courtyard have preserved.
“The exhibition is based on Patarei’s multilayered and tragic history. It was used by the Soviet Union’s communist regime and, for a shorter period of time, Germany’s national socialist regime to imprison thousands of innocent people. Patarei has become an internationally important symbol of communist terror. The aim of the exhibition is to raise awareness of the inhuman nature of communist regimes,” said Sandra Vokk, Member of Board of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory.
The exhibition area in Patarei introduces the ideology and crimes of communism in Estonia and in the world. Among other displays, the exhibition includes pictures of Gulag by the imprisoned Jewish artist Solomon Gerschow, destinies of the repressed, the arduous everyday life of an occupation-era prisoner in Patarei, and the history of the complex since its construction in the 19th century.
“The exhibition area, which is focused on the past, actually serves the future and reaches far out of Estonia, as we can truly appreciate the value of freedom and human dignity only when the ideologies and regimes that disregarded them are thoroughly known in the world,” said Vokk.
The exhibition is the first manifestation of the International Museum for the Victims of Communism that will be established in Patarei. Until the museum project is finished, the exhibition area is open to visitors during the warmer months (May-October). Admission prices: adult 5 €, concession 3 €.
At the opening ceremony, the first speech was delivered by the Chancellor of Justice of the Republic of Estonia Ülle Madise and the exhibition area and the future international museum were introduced by members of board of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory Meelis Maripuu and Sandra Vokk. Speeches were also delivered by the Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu, Kristian Kirsfeldt from design agency Velvet and Katharina Hochmuth from the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany.
Actor Jaak Prints read memories of Estonian people who were imprisoned in Patarei for political reasons during the Soviet occupation. Creative group „Eeter“ performed the musical composition „Children of Siberia“ (initially created for an exhibition of the same name). Tallinn Chamber Choir also gave a performance.
More information about the exhibition in Patarei: patareiprison.org.
Contributions to the creation of the exhibition have been made by the Government of the Republic of Estonia, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Estonia, State Real Estate Ltd, Velvet OÜ, the British Embassy, British troops in Estonia as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (works of improvement) and many private benefactors and supporters. Help was also provided by VABAMU Museum of Occupations and Freedom.