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EU state removing Soviet soldiers’ war graves – media 

The exhumed remains could reportedly be reburied without identification

Estonia has started removing gravestones at the tombs of Soviet soldiers at the Tehumardi cemetery on the island of Saarema, the state-run broadcaster ERR has reported.  

Excavation work at the gravesite, where about 300 soldiers killed in World War II are buried, began on Monday, the outlet said.   

The request for the removal of the burial place was made by the Saaremaa Municipality, Deputy Mayor Liis Lepik told the broadcaster, adding that the remains will be reburied at a cemetery in Vananomme.  

The existing tombstones with the names of the soldiers will not be put back in place. Only a sword-shaped obelisk will remain at the spot, but some of the text will be covered up, according to the report.  

“This place here will be cleaned up at a later point, and what may become of it the future, we don’t know. Once the remains here are identified and reburied, after that we will not have to mark any graves here,” Lepik said.  

It is not entirely clear how many sets of human remains were buried at Tehumardi, according to Arnold Unt, an archaeologist at the Estonian War Museum. The exhumed remains, however, will not undergo DNA analysis, and will simply be reburied, he told EER.   

The Estonian government announced plans to relocate the Soviet-era graves in February. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow warned that reburying the remains without the consent of the soldiers’ relatives would not go unanswered. The Russian Embassy in Tallinn branded the decision “another blasphemous act of state vandalism.”   

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Dismantling of the monument of Soviet Red Army soldiers at the Antakalnis cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania, December 8, 2022.
EU state to relocate Soviet soldiers’ grave sites 

Along with its neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia has been rolling out a national campaign aimed at so-called de-Sovietization since the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022. Over the past two years, numerous memorials of Soviet soldiers killed in WWII have been dismantled.

The Baltic States were part of the Russian Empire in the 19th century, but declared independence in 1918 in the wake of the October Revolution. After the beginning of World War II, the three nations became part of the Soviet Union. However, shortly thereafter, they were seized by Nazi Germany. The Red Army liberated them from German troops, and they remained Soviet republics until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The current governments in the nations, which have all joined the EU and NATO, claim this was a period of “Russian occupation” and view the Soviet-era monuments as symbols of oppression.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly condemned attempts to “cancel” Russian culture, urging Western authorities to “stop rewriting history.”

July 02, 2024 at 02:44PM

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