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Report from Estonia: Riot over removal of Soviet War memorial in Tallinn

 article about Report from Estonia: Riot over removal of Soviet War memorial in Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia, 17th April 2007. A plan to remove the Red Army memorial from its current location in Tonismagi caused riots in the Estonian capital Tallinn.


Everything started yesterday when Estonian government made the decision to displace the Soviet memorial to a military's Defense Forces cemetery due to continuous problems between Estonians and Russian radicals near the memorial.


Thousands of policemen were put out to guard the displacement already yesterday morning. While during the day everything seemed quiet, it turned into a riot soon after.


By today there's one killed, 12 police officers injured and 44 protesters injured. This is by far the worst riot in Estonia since the declaration of independence from Soviet Union in 1991.


The reasons for moving the Memorial could be looked at differently. What the world media is saying is that it's a painful reminder of hardships of Soviet rule and Estonians wanted it removed from the city center while for Russian people it was a tribute to Red Army soldiers who died fighting Nazi Germans.


While it all is definitely true, most likely the main reasons for the displacement of the memorial are somewhat different. During the past months there have been vandalism and too many conflicts near the statue and considering it was all near the city center, this was no good place for the memorial.


While theoretically the riots were started by Russians who feel the history should be rewritten and memorial should stay were it was, the outcome of it all was something completely disparate. By midnight nobody was talking about the memorial anymore, but about drunken Russian vandals and the damage being done to the city.


Cars that got on the way of the protesters were turned upside down, nobody can even count the number of broken windows; newsstands were looted and eventually set on fire; one burned down house; demolished shops; removed and knocked down bus stations; crushed road signs and so on. At some point the memorial really didn't matter anymore. One female policewoman who tried to stop the looting of a newsstand is in the hospital with a broken arm.


The one person who got killed during the riots was a Russian radical and he got killed fighting to another Russian radical. The 44 protesters, who got injured, were injured mainly due to the fact they were breaking windows with their fists.


Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonian president, suggested everyone to keep their sane mind and said that what we saw last night is nothing but looting and rioting and it was criminal and people involved in it are criminals. He added that it had nothing in common with keeping the memory of the dead. All the criminals will be captured, and they will get a strict but fair punishment. 


The memorial was eventually removed from its current location at around 4am this morning. But events around the issue have most likely not ended.


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