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Kharkiv Estonians restore Dekabrist monument

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PHOTO: Erakogu

The Kharkiv Estonians’ society has made it its mission and is looking for donations to restore a monument to Dekabrist Andreas Rosen (1799-1884), born in the Mäetaguse manor in East Viru county, Estonia.

The society has all the documents necessary for the restoration of the 40-year-old monument and gentrification of the area around the grave but is missing the funds necessary to carry out the work. Up to 200,000 hryvnias (€6,100) are needed, said active historian of the society Leena Slivchenko.

Exile in Siberia

Baltic German Baron Andreas Hermann Heinrich von Rosen (Andrei Yevgenyevich Rosen in Russian) was one of the best-known Estonian nobles to partake in one of Russia’s most famous coup attempts before the 1917 February revolution. The conspiracy against the ascension of Emperor Nicholas I in St. Petersburg in December of 1825 was primarily made up of young nobles-soldiers who wanted to introduce a constitutional monarchy and more European governance in Russia. The revolution failed, and five of its more active leaders were hung on the emperor’s orders.

The remaining 120 young nobles were sentenced to hard labor in Siberia, including younger son of former manorial court judge, the baron of Mäetaguse Andreas Rosen, who was serving as a junior officer in the Finnish regiment of the royal guard in St. Petersburg during the Dekabrists’ revolution. He was stripped of his title and sent to Siberia in irons.

After forced labor and exile in the city of Kurgan in Western Siberia and being demoted to the rank of private in the Caucasus, Rosen was allowed to return to Estonia in 1839, where he lived in Mäetaguse, Edise, and Suur-Soldino near Narva. In 1856, Rosen moved to Viknine (today Oknino) in Kharkiv province to live in a manor owned by her Russian noble wife. There he started a Sunday school for local children and worked as a teacher.

Rosen was elected as the local rural municipality judge and arbitrator as a sign of respect in 1861. “By the end of the 1860s, Rosen has become one of the most respected people in Kharkiv,” Slivchenko said.

Andreas Rosen lived in the village of Viknine, some 120 kilometers from Kharkiv, for the rest of his life, even though he missed Estonia greatly, as Slivchenko has concluded based on his correspondence. Rosen wrote his memoirs, family history, and other historical short journalism when living in Viknine, including “Notes of a Dekabrist” and “An Overview of the History of the Line of von Rosen Barons”. (In 1976, Eesti Raamat published a book by Valter Sein titled “Different Baron” that provides an overview of Andreas Rosen’s role in the Dekabrist movement – ed.)

The Estonian Dekabrist died in Viknine on April 19, 1884 (May 1 according to the new calendar – ed.) at the age of 84 – the same day he had been married 59 years prior. Andreas Rosen was buried next to Anna Rosen, who had died four months prior, and who was among the first wives of Dekabrists to follow their husbands when they were sent to Siberia.

Corrosion at work

The Rosens’ small manor was destroyed during the 1917 revolution and its exact location is no longer known. What has survived is his burial place. Soviet authorities, that saw the Dekabrists favorably because of their anti-imperial ambitions, decided to erect a monument to Andreas Rosen in 1976 – the one Kharkiv’s Estonians are now trying to restore. The monument still stands, while it has suffered considerable damage over the past 40 years.

“The monument is in disrepair, and the situation is getting worse every year. By this year, it is tilted slightly to one side and Rosen’s profile has suffered corrosion damage,” Slivchenko said.

The Kharkiv Estonians’ society, that has looked for sponsors in both Ukraine and Estonia, finally found local businessman and former city council member Yevgeni Gudkov who paid for an estimate of how much it would cost to renovate the monument.

“Gudkov has been a great help – for which we are very grateful – however, we would be very glad to also find support from Estonia, the historical homeland of Rosen and ourselves, to keep alive the memory of Estonians in Kharkiv,” Leena Slivchenko said. She has dedicated the past five years to studying the lives of Estonians and people with Estonian roots in the northeastern oblast.

Andreas Rosen. | PHOTO: Erakogu

Come spring, the society wants to open a commemorative plaque on a building that housed the Estonian mission to Ukraine (its optimization committee – ed.) in 1922-1924 as Kharkiv was the capital of the Ukrainian SSR at the time.

A plaque to educational, social, and cultural activist Jaan Räppo (1880-1958) was opened in downtown Kharkiv in 2009. Räppo oversaw the opening of elementary schools where children could learn in their native language during the Soviet era. Räppo is also known as the author of the lyrics for the famous Estonian song “Haanja miis”.

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