At the beginning of last week, news reached the Estonian media announcing that a poster with the words “SOS! Needs repair” was placed on the Soviet era memorial at Maarjamäe. The case sparked a debate in the press about the future of the memorial: whether and by whom it should be repaired or whether the object should be demolished instead.
As the culprit behind the placing of the poster and the consequent media event have remained unclear, Propastop will investigate further to find out. We ask our readers to be involved in this as well. If you have information about the case, share it on Propastop’s Facebook webpage, write in Messenger or send an e-mail to [email protected]. If you do not want your name or shared information to be published on the blog, please indicate this next to your post.
Why are we paying so much attention to the case? In 2018, an attack against Estonia took place in the Kremlin’s propaganda media, which began with fake news concerning the demolition of the Maarjamäe complex. Add to this the numerous other propaganda accusations about monument related topics, and we want to make sure that there is no foreign information operation behind the poster.
The time line of the case is as follows:
Sunday, July 26
We found the earliest photo of the poster in the posting of Facebook user Jevgeni Jefimov. The picture was uploaded on Sunday at 11:25 and taken from the shore promenade of Pirita Road, judging by the direction of the shadows in the morning of the same day.
When was the poster placed? If you find any photos or video material (tourist photos, car camera recordings, etc.) that provides information about the time the poster was placed, please share it. Are there pictures of the memorial the day before it had the poster? Maybe there are pictures or videos showing people hanging the poster on the memorial?
Monday, July 27
Russian-language Delfi published the first news about the poster on Monday at 16:10. The author of the adjacent photo gallery is photographer Andres Putting.
A Mupo (Municipal Police) Patrol removes the poster between 16:58 and 17:05. Sections of the patrol’s body camera recording will later appear in the media, showing the exact time.
Who informed Mupo about the poster and when was this done? Propastop has sent a request to Mupo about this, but has not yet received a reply. Finding a poster printer (if it was not handmade) may also be a possible area of research.
Tuesday, July 28
TV3, Postimees, Delfi write about the poster. Õhtuleht speculates that a „local“ placed the poster. ERR makes a video clip of the incident on Actual Camera, announcing in a certain tone that the memorial has become dangerous, commentary was asked from the Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Andrei Novikov and Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu.
One report about the incident also appears in the Kremlin’s propaganda media; fortunately, it has remained the only one so far. The story has been published in the section “War against monuments” which spreads false information as if a monument to the so-called „liberators of Tallinn“ were located on Maarjamäe.
Thursday, July 30
Tallinn Television (TTV) makes a video clip of Maarjamäe and raises the question of whether the memorial should be repaired or demolished. The introduction of the topic of demolition is a new turn in the treatment of the topic. The video includes interviews with Prime Minister Jüri Rattas and again with Reinsalu. The placers of the Poster are referred to as “someone placed”.
Friday, July 31
Based on the story of TTV, an article is also published by the Tallinn newspaper Pealinn, announcing in the title that the Maarjamäe complex needs to be renovated or demolished.
Who could be behind the placing of the poster?
In the absence of information, all the theories below are only speculations.
It would be logical to assume that the people behind the placing of the poster are people or non-governmental organizations are heartfelt in the maintenance of the Maarjamäe memorial. Unfortunately, Propastop has not found these people. No one has spoken in the media in favor of renovating the complex. The Front Line club, which brings attention to Soviet monuments in Estonia, has not written about Maarjamäe this year.
If there were people wishing for the repair of the Maarjamäe monument, it is not clear why they are hiding. After all, the current media attention surrounding the topic would publicize their message to the people.
Is this a Kremlin information operation, trying to stimulate discussion and then attack Estonia again, as in 2018? There are no signs of this; the case is practically not covered in the Kremlin’s propaganda channels, although there is potential for that.
It is possible to assume that the discussion is being directed towards the demolition of the complex, and behind the poster there may be, for example, a real estate developer. The fact that Maarjamäe is already involved in a real estate dispute over the construction of the FCI Levadia football hall speaks in favor of speculation.
One can speculate whether the city authorities themselves are not behind the poster, who want to draw attention to Maarjamäe and achieve its repair with state money. The fact that the case is actively covered in the Tallinn city media speaks in favor of the theory. The comments in Delfi of Aigar Palsner, the head of the Urban Environment Department of the City Center, showed that the city is very interested in the topic. Regardless whether the city authorities are involved in the poster or not, they will use the case to spread their views.
Read more about astroturfing, ie masking your activities into grassroots activity for ordinary people.
Images: screenshots from the links referenced in the post.