The 20th century wasn’t particularly kind to Estonia. Having been shunted between the Nazis and the Soviets for decades, it wasn’t until 1991 that the country finally declared independence. I’ve always found communism fascinating, and one of my biggest reasons for visiting the Baltic States was to discover more about one of the more interesting human experiments in recent memory. I was moved by the stories in the excellent Museum of Occupation, but apart from the imposing housing blocks on the outskirts of town, there was little remaining of Tallinn’s turbulent past. That is, until my couchsurfing host told me about a secret ‘graveyard’ full of old Communist statues, only minutes away from the Old Town.
Hardly the modest types, the Soviets were well known for erecting giant monuments to themselves all over the place. Naturally wanting to rid itself of all the harsh reminders of the past few decades, the newly democratic government was presented with an interesting conundrum: what to do with all the statues? They could have taken a leaf from Berlin’s book and buried them under a mountain of rubble, but instead they chose to dump them unceremoniously behind the old Maarjamäe Palace. It sounded too good to be true, so I hired a bike and cycled along the Baltic coast to check it out.
The graveyard is full of immortalised former Soviet generals and leaders, some more famous than others. Most have been sitting there since the early 90s, slowly decaying in the harsh Baltic winters.
Even though these men were undoubtedly tyrants, responsible for the death and misery of thousands of innocent citizens, when half of their limbs are chopped they look decidedly less threatening. You can even stand on Stalin’s chest. After the heaviness of the Occupation Museum, it was a perfect way to experience some of Estonia’s fascinating communist past first-hand.