A tank monument in the Estonian city of Narva, which was erected by Soviet authorities during the occupation, was removed on 16 August so that it could be relocated to a museum where it could be preserved and understood by future generations within its historical context without celebrating the occupation in a public space.
The relocation was conducted peacefully, despite a small attempt at a provocation circulating on social media.
On the evening of Tuesday, August 2, Narva-based NGO PAMYAT, which deals with the protection of monuments, called on its followers to be vigilant: “In connection with the events taking place around our monument, we invite all caring people to show vigilance and attention. If you notice something unclear and strange happening near it, please inform the members of the PAMYAT organization, at any time.”
The comments of the post compared what was happening around the tank to the events of the Bronze Night in 2007 and called for people to organise to protect the tank.
On the same evening, a few minutes after that call by PAMYAT, Mikhail Panshin made a post stating that there was reason to fear that the tank would be taken away without the decision of the authorities in Narva or Estonia. Mikhail Panshin is a member of Estonia’s Center party who in July of this year initiated the collection of signatures among residents of Narva in an attempt to convince Narva Mayor Katri Raik to hold a referendum in order to “find out among the residents of Narva whether they are in favor of moving the Soviet monuments to other places or think that the monuments should remain in their historically established place”.
However, on the morning of August 3, an invitation was posted on Viber incorrectly announcing that the tank would be dismantled at five o’clock in the evening and invited people to gather near the tank.
Later on the same day at lunchtime, Panshin warned against provocations and called for compliance with the law. His post was also shared by PAMYAT. Panshin connected the provocation with a howitzer taken down by the Estonian Energy Corporation in the Auvere settlement and thought that the same people who were behind that could also come to Narva to remove the tank. Panshin wrote: “Yesterday, the cannon monument was removed from the territory of the Estonian Energy Corporation. This is pure provocation. In my opinion, it was done by those who want to take away our tank. There are no legal ways to remove the tank. Both the Minister and the Mayor have said that the law should be changed, adopted by the Parliament, etc. In the meantime, Narva authorities are taking steps to protect Narva’s monuments. But the existing law allows monuments to be removed under certain conditions. If the monument is dangerous to internal and external security, it can be removed without the opinion or decision of the local city government. …Therefore, I ask you not to conduct any provocations. Don’t rally in support of the monuments unless you are 100% sure it is coordinated with the police.”
What can we conclude from these posts?
The Estonian Energy Corporation made its own decision to remove a Red Army howitzer from a pedestal near its power plants and oil plants in the Auvere settlement, but this likely prompted social media rumours that appeared to be an attempt to provoke gatherings around the tank in Narva.
But neither the defenders of the Narva tank, the city government, nor the state wanted a conflict – despite their differences of opinion – so all parties acted together to prevent provocations and a conflict situation.
Cover photo: Soviet tank monument in Narva by Leon Petrosyan used under Creative Commons License.