Summary of article by Sofi Oksanen, published on 5.10.2018 in Suomen Kuvalehti

Image credit: © OUTI KAINIEMI

On 23 August 2018, a memorial to the victims of communism was opened at Maarjamäe in Tallinn together with a monument to officers who fell victim to communist terror. This is the first of its kind in Estonia. The date on which it was opened was not chosen at random. On that same date in 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed. The secret protocol of this agreement was fateful for the Baltic states.

The opening ceremony was a movingly sincere event that united generations. The monument itself leaves a powerful impression, being elegant as well as tragic simultaneously.

At the start of the year, when Estonia celebrated its hundredth birthday, the Russian media started reporting as if Estonia wanted to demolish another Soviet monument yet again, this time at Maarjamäe. Although this was untrue, the papers wrote that this was a new ‘Bronze Soldier’ crisis.

The Day of Remembrance on 23 August is a tradition not only for Estonians. This date is the Day of Remembrance in the European Union in memory of the victims of totalitarian systems. This day is also commemorated in the United States of America and in Canada, known as Black Ribbon Day in both countries.

Due to the above mentioned, many international human rights organisations were also present at the opening ceremony. Yet the fact that representatives of the Western countries were absent attracted their attention. The ministers who honoured the opening of the memorial with their presence represented Eastern European countries.

In the opinion of Johann Grünbauer, the head of the SGTRS Foundation (Foundation History of Totalitarian Regimes and their Victims) located in Holland, which supports victims of totalitarian regimes, the European Union should have sent at least a wreath if nothing else. In this he saw a situation where there is a rift between Eastern and Western Europe, as a consequence of which the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries are not taken seriously in the West. The concerns, mourning and tragedy of these peoples are not sufficiently important. Sometimes presence is more important than noble words.

The day of the opening of the memorial went smoothly and peacefully, regardless of the attempts of the Russian propaganda machine to generate alarm.

Personally, I would never favour the demolition of the Soviet era memorial at Maarjamäe since its dialogue with the memorial to the victims of communism is a powerful symbol; the flame that was meant to burn eternally has long since gone out.

This is the same thing that happens to dictatorships. And this is a message to the authoritarian rulers of today.