Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. It is its most populous city. Since the days of the Hanseatic League it's been an important commercial center. And today it is in the headlines because of the governments plans to relocate a war memorial to a cemetery.
The weather today in Tartu was sunny and mild. Students floated by in ambitious haircuts and apparel, making the most of a day after a cold winter. Beer flowed freely in outdoor cafes. Young people relaxed by the fountain in front of Town Hall.
The same is probably happening in cities all over Estonia today. In Pärnu, the very city where Estonian independence was proclaimed in 1918, all was peaceful. The same in Kärdla, Võru, Põlva, Haapsalu, and even in the real heart of Estonia, Paide.
But three years ago, in a small Estonian town called Lihula, the Estonian government removed another monument, this time one to Estonians who had fought in the 20th Waffen SS to -- as they say -- keep the Red Army out of Estonia long enough to restore Estonian independence.
That removal turned violent. Estonian protestors threw rocks and bottles at Estonian riot police. Because, you see, they were insulting their dead. And insulting the dead calls for a hysterical response. As a sidenote, it was also the end of the honeymoon for the government of Juhan Parts.
As I look at what is happening in Tallinn, I think back to a quote I read in a story about Lihula three years ago in The Baltic Times:
“It would be good if the government erected a central monument for all the victims of the war, regardless of which side they fought,” said one student. “Why not show a mourning mother that is crying about her son’s death!” It would illustrate the cruelty of World War II - and that everyone was suffering from it."