Bronze Soldier of Tallinn

The Bronze Soldier monument, with the stone structure reconstructed, at its new permanent location, June 2007

The Bronze Soldier (Estonian: Pronkssõdur, Russian: Бронзовый Солдат, Bronzovyj Soldat) is the informal name of a controversial[1][2] Soviet World War II war memorial in Tallinn, Estonia, built at the site of several war graves, which were relocated to the nearby Tallinn Military Cemetery in 2007. Originally named "Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn"[3][4][5] (Estonian: Tallinna vabastajate monument,[6][7] Russian: Монумент освободителям Таллина, Monument osvoboditeljam Tallina[5]), later titled to its current official name "Monument to the Fallen in the Second World War",[8] and sometimes called Alyosha, or Tõnismäe monument after its old location. The memorial was unveiled on 22 September 1947, three years after the Red Army reached Tallinn on 22 September 1944 during World War II.

The monument consists of a stonewall structure made of dolomite and a two-meter (6.5 ft) bronze statue of a soldier in a World War II-era Red Army military uniform. It was originally located in a small park (during the Soviet years called the Liberators' Square) on Tõnismägi in central Tallinn, above a small burial site of Soviet soldiers' remains reburied in April 1945.

In April 2007, the Estonian government relocated the Bronze Soldier and, after exhumation and identification, the remains of the Soviet soldiers, to the Defence Forces Cemetery of Tallinn. Not all remains were reburied there, as relatives were given a chance for claims, and several bodies were reburied in various locations in the former Soviet Union according to the wishes of the relatives.

Political differences over interpretation of the events of the war symbolised by the monument had already led to a controversy between Estonia's community of multiethnic Russophone post-World War II immigrants and Estonians, as well as between Russia and Estonia. The disputes surrounding the relocation peaked with two nights of riots in Tallinn (known as the Bronze Night), besieging of the Estonian embassy in Moscow for a week, and cyberattacks on Estonian organizations.


The monument was originally erected by Soviet authorities in Estonia to the liberators of Tallinn on 22 September 1944.[9] The German Army did not engage in any battles with the Red Army entering the city on 22 September 1944.[1] Even though the Germans did not engage Soviets in Tallinn, they did retreat under pressure from the advancing Red Army. Instead the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia attempted to re-establish Estonian independence by taking power in Tallinn,[2] and by proclaiming Provisional Government of Estonia and declaring re-establishment of the country's independence on 18 September 1944.[10]

Preceding monument

The Bronze Soldier monument replaced a preceding wooden memorial — a one-metre-high, wooden pyramid, about 20 cm in diameter, of a plain blue color crowned by a red star — that had been blown up on the night of 8 May 1946[11] by two Estonian teenagers. The two girls, 14-year-old Aili Jürgenson and 15-year-old Ageeda Paavel destroyed it, in their own words, to avenge the Soviet destruction of war memorials to the Estonian War of Independence. Both were later arrested by the NKVD and sent to the Gulag.[12]

Building and design

Map of the site

The Bronze Soldier monument, with its figure of a soldier against a stone background, was created in 1947 by Enn Roos and supervising architect Arnold Alas.[11] It was unveiled on 22 September 1947, on the third anniversary of the Soviet Red Army re-entering Tallinn in 1944. Originally intended as an official war memorial to Soviet soldiers who died fighting in World War II, an eternal flame was added in front of the monument in 1964. The Soviet liberation theme was changed when Estonia re-established independence in 1991, now stating "For those fallen in World War II"; at the same time the eternal flame was put out.


The prototype for the face and figure of the statue is not known. It has been suggested to have been the Estonian 1936 Olympic gold medal wrestler Kristjan Palusalu, as there is a resemblance. The sculptor Enn Roos denied this and instead suggested that he used "a young worker who lived nearby", and there have been claims the worker he is referring to was a carpenter named Albert Johannes Adamson.[11][13] On the other hand, Palusalu's daughter, Helle Palusalu, has claimed that her father served as a model for the statue.[14] Roos's denial could have been motivated by Palusalu's having defected from Soviet military and thus having fallen into disfavour with the Communist Party.[15]

Burial site

On 25 September 1944, the remains of two Soviet soldiers were buried in the centre of the Tõnismägi hill, with additional remains of Soviet soldiers reburied there in April 1945.[11] After the burial of the Red Army soldiers on Tõnismägi, the square was named Liberators’ Square on 12 June 1945 with the Bronze Soldier Monument added two years later. The exact number and names of the persons buried in the burial grounds under the monument had not been established with certainty before the excavations of 2007, although the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had ordered a comprehensive historical investigation in 2006.[11] According to official records of the Military Commissariat of the Baltic Military District, however, the following 13 soldiers who fell during World War II were reburied in the grounds in April 1945:

According to the Estonian Ministry of Defence, remains of 12 persons had been exhumed by 2 May 2007 and would be reburied by the end of June 2007 at the same cemetery where to the statue had been relocated.[16] Furthermore, the archaeologists performing the digs have confirmed that no more burials have taken place on the grounds of the monument. The Russian embassy and other former USSR states were asked to provide DNA samples for the identification of the buried bodies. Those persons who can be identified will be turned over to their relatives for reburial. The initial DNA analysis revealed 11 male and 1 female among those 12 found at the site. DNA profiles of all 12 were turned over to the embassy of the Russian Federation in Tallinn.[17]


Main article: Bronze Night

According to historian Alexander Daniel, the Bronze Soldier has symbolic value to Estonia's Russians, symbolising not only Soviet victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War, but also their claim to rights in Estonia.[18] Most Estonians considered the Bronze Soldier a symbol of Soviet occupation and repression following World War II.[19]

In 2006, the conservative Pro Patria Union petitioned the Tallinn City Council to demolish the monument,[20] which saw the Estonian president in January 2007 vetoing a bill which would have allowed for its destruction and instead ordering its removal from the city centre.[21][22] In February 2007, Estonian nationalists unsuccessfully attempted to place on the statue a wreath made of barbed wire decorated with a plaque saying "Murderers of the Estonian People".[23] Russia Today, the official (Novosti) Russian Federation broadcast channel, reported on their web site that a swastika had been placed on it, despite the absence of such a swastika on the included photograph.[21]

Amid political controversy, in April 2007 the newly elected Ansip government started final preparations for the reburial of the remains and relocation of the statue, according to the political mandate received during the March 2007 elections.[24] The government claimed that the location of the memorial at a busy intersection in Tallinn was not a proper resting place, which led to critics to accuse the government of pandering to Estonian nationalist groups.[25] Disagreement over the appropriateness of the action led to mass protests and riots (accompanied by looting) lasting two nights, the worst Estonia has seen.[26][27]

In the early morning hours of 27 April 2007, after the first night's rioting, the government decided, at an emergency meeting, to dismantle the monument immediately, referring to security concerns. By the following afternoon the stone structure had been dismantled as well. As of the afternoon of 30 April, the statue without the stone structure had been placed at the Cemetery of the Estonian Defence Forces in Tallinn.[28][29] An opening ceremony for the relocated statue was held on 8 May, VE Day.[30][31] (Significantly, Red Army veterans celebrate Victory Day a day later, on 9 May.) During June 2007 the stone structure was rebuilt. Relatives have made claims to bodies of four of the war dead. Unclaimed remains were reburied at the military cemetery, next to the relocated monument, on 3 July 2007.[32][33][34][35]

See also


  1. 1 2 Sinisalu, Arnold. "Propaganda, Information War and the Estonian-Russian Treaty Relations: Some Aspects of International Law". Juridica International. Retrieved 2009-04-04. The Bronze Soldier memorial was erected to the soldiers of the Soviet Union who presumably died in conquering Tallinn in 1944. It is a historical fact that when withdrawing from Tallinn on 22 September 1944, the German Army did not engage in any battles with the Red Army heading for the city. Instead, the advancing Russian units encountered the Estonian flag flying in the tower of Tall Hermann, a symbol of State power in Tallinn, there were no casualties.
  2. 1 2 Bulletin of international news. Royal Institute of International Affairs, Information Department. 1944. p. 825. Estonia. Sept. 21. - Patriots in Tallinn reassumed Estonian control over Cathedral Hill, with the Government buildings, and proclaimed a national Government headed by Otto Tief, who ordered the German forces to leave and appealed to the Russians to recognize Estonian independence.
  3. Eiki, Berg; Piret Ehin (2009). Identity and foreign policy: Baltic-Russian relations and European integration. Ashgate Publishing. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-7546-7329-3.
  4. Wertsch, James V. (2008). "Collective Memory and Narrative Templates". Social Research: An International Quarterly. 75 (1): 133–156.
  5. 1 2 James V., Wertsch. "A Clash of Deep Memories". Profession. MLA Journals (8): 46–53. ISSN 0740-6959.
  8. "ПАМЯТНИК ПОГИБШИМ ВО ВТОРОЙ МИРОВОЙ ВОЙНЕ В ТАЛЛИННЕ", from the Estonian Embassy in Russia website (Russian)
  9. USSR information bulletin. The Embassy. 1949. p. 644.
  10. Frucht, Richard (2005). Eastern Europe. ABC-CLIO. p. 111. ISBN 1-57607-800-0.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Common grave for and a memorial to Red Army soldiers on Tõnismägi, Tallinn (PDF file) (Word file) Historical statement, compiled by Peeter Kaasik, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, 2006. (Estonian language version: Tallinnas Tõnismäel asuv punaarmeelaste ühishaud ja mälestusmärk Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.)
    p. 5: Burial in April 1945 Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
    p. 12: Ageeda Paavel and Aili Jürgenson Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
    p. 15: Arnold Alas and Enn Roos Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
    p. 17-18: Albert Adamson Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. Björklund, Marianne (12 May 2007). "Hon sprängde bronsstatyns föregångare" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
  13. Ammas, Anneli (16 September 2004). "Kes on see mees, kes seisab Tõnismäel?" (in Estonian). Eesti Päevaleht. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  14. "Estonian wrestler confirmed as model for controversial Soviet statue". Helsingin Sanomat. 14 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  15. Lundberg, Stefan (2 May 2007). "Brottaren bakom bronssoldaten" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  16. "MOD releases overview of archaeological excavations at Tõnismägi". Estonian Ministry of Defence. 2 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  17. "Tõnismäele oli maetud üks naine ja 11 meest" (in Estonian). 18 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  18. Russian Historian: The problem is how to live together if the two peoples have such a different memory, Alexander Daniel, REGNUM News Agency 4 May 2007 (Russian)
  19. Johnston, Anthony. "The Memory Remains". Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  20. "Estonian Nationalists Want Statue of WWII Soviet Liberator in Tallinn be Pulled Down". Kommersant. 8 May 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  21. 1 2 "Estonian nationalists attempt to vandalise monument". Russia Today. 27 February 2007. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  22. "Estonia to remove Soviet memorial". BBC News. 12 January 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  24. "The parliamentary elections in Estonia, March 2007". Electoral Studies Volume 27, Issue 3. ScienceDirect. September 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-10. The new government faced its first test a month after the elections when, on 26 April, Ansip carried out his promise to have the Bronze Soldier removed
  25. Tanner, Jari (28 April 2007). "Violence continues over Estonia's removal of Soviet war statue". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  26. "Tallinn tense after deadly riots". BBC News. 28 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  27. Tuuli Aug; Kadri Masing; Aivar Pau (27 April 2007). "Olukord tänavatel on rahulik" (in Estonian). Eesti Päevaleht. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  28. Picture of statue in new place
  29. "Pronkssõdur avati taas rahvale vaatamiseks" (in Estonian). Postimees. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  30. Björklund, Marianne (8 May 2007). "Oron lurar bakom lugn statyinvigning" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. Archived from the original on 19 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  31. Masing, Kadri (8 May 2007). "Valitsus asetas vaikuses pronksõdurile pärja" (in Estonian). Eesti Päevaleht. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  32. "Reburial service set for 3rd July". Estonian Ministry of Defence. 29 June 2007. Archived from the original on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  33. "Tõnismäelt välja kaevatud punaväelased maeti kaitseväe kalmistule" (in Estonian). Postimees. 3 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  34. TT-AFP (3 July 2007). "Estland begravde sovjetsoldater på nytt" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. Archived from the original on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  35. Koppel, Nataly (3 July 2007). "Sõjamehed maeti kaitseväe kalmistule" (in Estonian). SL Õhtuleht. Archived from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
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