When the Soviet Union was in state of dissolution in early 1991, the three Baltic republics had a hard struggle for their independence. After the riots in Riga and Vilnius, both of which were crushed by Soviet forces, the Estonian leadership decided to give Toompea Hill its old function as a fortress back again. All the roads leading up there were blocked by boulders. Thankfully, Estonia escaped the same fate as their Baltic neighbours thanks also to the troops under Dzhokhar Dudayev who refused to fire on the Estonians and criticised the Kremlin instead. Estonia used the days of a failed coup d'état in Moscow and declared independence on August 20th 1991.
One of the boulders used in 1991 was turned into the independence movement in 1993. In the same way the road to independence was blocked for Estonia for many years, this boulder blocked off the possible Soviet threat. I visited this monument each time I've been to Estonia, including also on August 20th 2011 on te 20th anniversary. Three flower bouquets were placed there on that day, one in the colours of the Estonian flags and two more with the National colours of Latvia and Lithuania respectively. Although the three baltic republics are different, they share a lot of history, including their common road to independence. Unforgettable moments include the human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius in 1989 and the so-called „singing revolution“.
The Estonia Memorial is a monument in rememberance of those who perished with ferry m/s Estonia. It is the deadliest shipwreck disaster to have occurred in the Baltic Sea in peacetime, costing 852 lives. The Estonia disaster occurred on Wednesday, 28 September 1994, between about 00:55 to 01:50.
Independence has been a rare luxury for the Estonians, who have spent most of the last millenium being repeatedly overrun by Vikings, Germans, Swedes and Russians and have had to battle to retain their national identity. In order to quell nationalism and force Estonia to accept its status as part of the Soviet Union, even the Estonian national flag was banned under Soviet occupation.
The War of Independence Victory Column in Freedom Square was commissioned to commemorate more than 4,000 Estonians who died during the War of Independence immediately after the First World War, and was established in 1999 (although it has also come to symbolise Estonia's hard fought independence from the Soviet Union).
The pillar is a 23.5m high glass structure and incorporates the Cross of Liberty, Estonia’s most distinguished award established in 1919. Unfortunately this medal bears more than a passing similarity to the German Iron Cross, which Russian authorities have used as a convenient pretext for maintaining that this memorial commemorates Estonian collaboration with the Nazis during World War II - yet one more salvo in the ongoing post-independence spats between Estonia and Russia.
It is not the most impressive of monuments in overcast weather, but when illuminated by full sunlight (early mornings and late afternoons are best), it comes into its own, and it is particularly striking at night when the Cross of Liberty is illuminated from within.
One of the more striking monuments in the Kadriorg area is the memorial to the 177 Russian sailors who perished when the Russalka naval ship sunk off Tallinn in 1893. The monument is situated on the coastal pathway that links the Old Town to Kadriorg and is an attractive piece of sculpture which is much favoured as a photo venue for ethnic Russian newlyweds (who then rather touchingly leave their wedding bouquets at the foot of the monument).
I'm all for having your wedding photies taken in a distinctive location (my own were taken with elephants, but that's another story), but the symbolism of linking marriage to a sinking ship does seem unfortunate! One can't help wondering if the more priapic obelisk of the Maarjamäe War Memorial at Pirata beach (Tallinn's other monument of significance to the ethnic Russian population) which is locally dubbed 'The Impotent's Dream' mightn't be a more relevant - and optimistic - frame of reference!
The truth behind the sinking of the ill-fated Estonia ferry is a conspiracy theorist's dream - in the midst of allegation and counterallegation, all that is undisputed is that 852 people (mostly Swedes) lost their lives when this ferry sank on 28 September 1994 off the island of Hiiumaa.
A black granite memorial in the form of a broken arch (maybe symbolising the bow doors that were breached?) is located in parkland just outside the city walls and opposite the railway station. Even with the colour contrast between the black stone and white snow, it was difficult to photograph, and I am not sure that it is the most effective choice of design.
What is most moving is the simple stone plaque bearing the names of the people of perished - less than 15% of people on board survived. The listing of names in alphabetical order emphasises that that many entire families perished in the disaster, which seems particularly poignant.
When we visited, the steep slope by one side of the 'broken arch' was being used by kids for toboganning. It was a touching reminder that life goes on despite such tragedies.
This large arc is a memorial to the 852 lives lost in the sinking of the ferry 'Estonia' en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in rough weather in 1994, remembered as one of the worst shipwrecks of the 20th century.
Next to the Great Coast Gate and Fat Margaret (Paks Margareeta) there is a monument for the ferry Estonia. The Estonia was on the way from Tallinn to Stockholm. Unfortunately, the ferry sank on 28 September 1994 and took 852 people (out of 1000) lives. It was one of the worst maritime tragedy in Europe.
On September 28, 1994 the passenger ferry "Estonia" sank in the Baltic Sea. 852 people lost their lives. To recall the catastrophe, a memorial has been erected on the edge of the ramparts of the old town two years later.
The monument is entitled "Broken Line". It consists of two plain steel beams that form something like a gate, a ship's bow or a wave, but the line is interrupted. A large gap is cut out. It is very moving in its simplicity.
The artists are Villu Jaanisoo and and Jorma Mukala.
The Freedom Column (or War of Independence Victory Column) was formally unveiled on 23rd June 2009, on Victory Day. I was visiting at this time, and the national TV station was filled with live images of the inauguration. Lots of patriotic songs, hymns and a general solemn air was the mood of the occasion, which commerorated the the 6,275 people who died in the struggle for independence in 1918-1920.
The tower is over twenty meters high and is made of 143 glass plates. While the design itself could be seen as a little plain, it really catches the light in many fascinating ways.
The monument was originally planned in 1936, but war and Soviet occupation interrupted its construction. Now it finally has pride of place in the newly constructed Freedom Square.
The huge concrete war memorial at Maarjamäe can be seen miles out to sea. It was built by the Soviets to commemorate their ending of the Nazi occupation of Estonia, only to replace it with their own brand of totalitarianism. As this moment also marked the end of Estonian nationhood, the memorial was quickly rebranded as a memorial to all who died in World War 2 after Estonia gained independence.
The War Memorial forms part of the land of Maarjamäe Loss next door, which contains the Estonian National History museum.
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