Commemorating Liberation and Occupation: War Memorials along the Road to Narva
When the time is right, an era of the past may serve as a screen on which new generations can project their contradictions, controversies, and conflicts in an objectified form. (Krzysztof Pomian, quoted in Rousso 1991, p. 5)
The side-road from the resort town of Narva-Jo˜esuu to the city of Narva offersa compressed glimpse into the different interpretations of recent Estonian history. The war memorials dotted along the Narva River between Estonia and Russia are testament to the different layers of Estonian history: Swedish, Tsarist Russian, Estonian Republic, Nazi and Soviet occupations. The Soviet war memorials and German military cemetery remind one of how Estonia was caught within the ideological struggle between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Given the context of the conflict over the Lihula monument in 2004 commemorating Estonian soldiers who fought on the Nazi German side against the Soviet Regime, the debate over the 60th commemoration of Soviet Victory Day in 2005 (Onken 2007) and the relocation of the Soviet ‘Bronze Soldier’ from the center of Tallinn to a military cemetery (2007), different narratives have emerged: return to history, occupation versus liberation, victim versus perpetrator, and the unsettled end of World War II as 8 or 9 May.