Never-Ending Second World War: Public Performances of National Dignity and the Drama of the Bronze Soldier
On the night of 26-27 April 2007, the removal of the so-called Bronze Soldier,previously known as the Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn, from its original location in the city center triggered violent riots in the streets of Tallinn, diplomatic conflict between Estonia and Russia and an aggressive but theatrical performance organized by the Russian youth organization ‘Nashi’. On 30 April the statue was re-erected at the Estonian Defence Forces cemetery and renamed the Unknown Soldier. The original location at To˜nisma¨gi was restricted for a long time as even the last remnants of the monument were cleared out. In past years the site had witnessed ritualized performances of collective memory, with one group trying to guard their
symbols and others aiming to defile them and eventually erase them completely from memory. The above quote reveals the symbolic importance of the site for the local Russian-speaking community. Similarly, the fact that the Estonian media has equated the April 2007 events with the failed 1924 communist coup in Tallinn (Astrov 2008) expresses how high the symbolic value of the so-called ‘Bronze War’ is for the titular nation and how it is seen as a matter of national survival. The incident that shattered the prevalent image of the peaceful integration of Estonia unveiled the sore spots in Estonian-Russian relations, within Estonian society and in Estonian national discourse.