Su, 1.10.2023

Govt may start changing street names in Sillamae, Narva itself

Sillamäe. Photo: Meelis Meilbaum

As the northeastern cities of Sillamae and Narva have shown unwillingness to follow the government's proposal to change the remaining street names associated with the Soviet regime, the state may start changing them itself, regional newspaper Pohjarannik reported.

The council of Sillamae on Tuesday unanimously rejected a proposal of the Ministry of Finance to change the street name put in honor of Mihhail Rumjantsev, a Sillamae native who fell in 1983 in the War in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the Soviet occupation forces. The council, justifying this decision, said that the preservation of the name given to the street was requested by Rumjantsev's classmates.

After a years-long dispute, the city of Narva changed the names of the streets named after Communist revolutionaries Albert-August Tiimann and Ancis Dauman, who fought against Estonia, but has refused to change the names of seven more streets whose current names are associated with the Soviet regime.

The Narva council has shelved a draft whereby Aleksei Juhhanov Street in Narva should be renamed Vaike-Rakvere Street, Arsenti Bastrakov Street as Masina Street, Igor Grafov Street as Madise Street, Mihhail Gorbats Street as Seedri Street, the street named after July 26 as Juuli Street, Partisan Street as Loome Street, and the street named after May 1 as Jaama Street.

The persons after whom these streets were named are Soviet soldiers and officers who fought in the Narva region during World War II. The chairman of the council's historical heritage committee, Center Party MP Aleksei Jevgrafov, has told Pohjarannik that these Red Army soldiers had nothing to do with the occupation of Estonia and were fighting against Nazism.

Under the Place Names Act, the name of a person must not be used as a commemorative name if that person has acted against the foundation of the Republic of Estonia, the permanence of its constitutional order or the restoration of the independence of Estonia. Where such a personal name has been established as a commemorative name, including where the place name is associated with persons, symbols or events opposed to the establishment of the Republic of Estonia, the preservation of the constitutional order or the restoration of Estonian independence, or where it is a place name clearly incompatible with the history and culture of Estonia, the minister in charge of the policy sector must propose to the local authority that the place name be changed. If, within two months of receiving the proposal, the local authority has not changed a place name that in contradiction with the requirements of the law, the minister, instead of the local authority, may establish a new place name in lieu of the existing place name.

Margit Mitt, adviser to the Ministry of Finance's local government policy department, said the minister in charge of the policy sector can assess the resolution of the Sillamae council and the justification of the objections to the place name change presented in it after it has been passed and forwarded to the Ministry of Finance.

Pursuant to the Place Names Act, the minister has the right of discretion, meaning they can decide whether or not to apply the procedure provided for by the law.

«However, the assignment of a new place name requires the minister to have a discussion with the Place Names Board. The law does not provide for a specific deadline within which the minister must decide on the assignment of a new place name instead of the local government,» the adviser added.