War in Ukraine and the Estonian War on monuments

Contexts of a discussion that was not expected to happen

  • Linda Kaljundi (Autor/in)
  • Riin Alatalu (Autor/in)


The article aims to both synthesise and contextualise the Estonian debates around Soviet monuments and other Soviet and Russia-related heritage since the full-scale invasion of Russia in Ukraine. The many regime changes in Estonia during the long 19th and 20th centuries have had an impact on the local monumental landscape and historical memory in this multinational border area. Emphasising the role of earlier post-Soviet monument crises, the article gives an overview of the dynamics of the most recent debates. It follows the emergence of both bottom-up and top-down campaigns to locate and remove Soviet monuments, as well as the governmental strategies: the founding of a secret monuments’ committee by the Government Office, and new legislative initiatives for the removal of Soviet symbolism. Despite the state authorities argument that there is nothing to discuss, the non-involvement of art and heritage professionals and undemocratic decision making gradually led to intense debates. Mapping the evolvement of a public debate between the professionals and the representatives of the state politics, the article also looks into the agendas of other stakeholders in this process, raising the question what was left out of the debates (e.g. the relative invisibility of Russian imperial and colonial heritage).