Now that Mr. Controversial is gone, and the opinion pieces in Estonian newspapers will move from "What should we do about the Bronze Soldier?" to "Did we do the right thing with the Bronze Soldier?" it's time to start asking ourselves a very serious question -- what should go there in its place, and how can the Estonian state foster a true understanding of that conflict among all its citizens.
I believe that the most accurate assessment of that conflict in Estonia is that World War II was one of the darker chapters in Estonian history. Estonia was swallowed up by two competing powers -- an expansionist Third Reich and an expansionist Soviet Union. Both powers had ideologies that supported their expansionist efforts -- the Reich's ideology was based on ideals of ethnic German superiority while the Soviets' was based on the export of Russian communism.
Both acted criminally in the 1940s. If they were alive today, actors from both regimes would warrant lengthy prison sentences in Estonia for crimes committed during that time. But they are not alive, and the purpose of this is not to lay blame at the feet of Germans and Russians today. Instead, it's to put into context that there is no way in which the Estonian state will ever support one of these two sides.
So if there's one aspect from that war that should be recalled in a central square, it's not necessarily military sacrifice. Since most of Estonia's casualties weren't military, but were civilian, then I believe that the best way to commemorate the dead of the Second World War is to erect a monument that is civilian in nature.
Ethnic Russians lived in Estonia before the war too, you know. They were more than 8 percent of the population at that time. And they suffered just as everyone else did during those awful years. So a monument to civilian losses would be just as appropriate for them as it would be for the ethnic Estonian majority.
I also think that in order to dispell the growing macho infatuation of some youth, both ethnic Estonian and ethnic Russian, with World War II (to the point of dressing up in WWII-era uniforms), the new monument should be feminine in nature. Indeed, it should be a monument of a woman mourning the dead. I think that this is the most accurate depiction of the Estonian experience in the Second World War and it serves as a representation of what the final result of violence is -- sadness and emotional torment.
That, in summary, is the Estonian experience of World War II.