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Brief history of NightWatch in Estonia

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  • As the interview just published are of some NightWatch activists, seemed to be fair to explain what NightWatch is - The Night Watch movement, dominated by young ethnic Russians in Estonia, was established on 21 May 2006 as a reaction against the calls to remove the statue and the painting-vandalism that occurred there at the night of 21 May.

The movement stated its aims as follows:

On our own initiative we stood up for the protection of the monument and we will not allow any acts of vandalism be committed to the monument and the tomb of the killed soldiers. For this purpose, we have organized ‘night patrol’, which lasts from 22.00 pm till 6.00 am, to protect the monument from being profaned by provocateurs and vandals. We do not belong to any political party, we have neither organized nor constant structure. We do not receive any financial support from political parties or public organizations. We protect the monument voluntarily and gratuitously. Everyone can come and help us! We believe that the situation around the monument has become aggravated because of the inactivity and connivance of authorities, who allowed the unauthorized meeting to be held in the centre of Tallinn on May 20, 2006, and also because of the acts of vandalism to the monument on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of May, 2006… (

According to the Estonian weekly newspaper , the movement grew out from the Russian language version of the Estonian news portal that allows unedited and unlimited comments by readers. The comments of Night Watch differed from the rest as these were accompanied by the name and the phone number of the commentator, reveals . It was this virtual commenting environment where the first real meeting of the movement was agreed, information shared and invitations and announcements passed around. According to the weekly paper, simple announcements in Delfi comments, such as ‘I, Aleskandr will go to Tõnismäe on 27 May 2006…’ were able to summon hundreds of people to the hill of the Bronze Soldier on 27 May 2006. People came from all over .

Eesti Ekspresswww.delfi.eeEesti EkspressEstonia

Nine days after its birth, the movement even considered an appeal to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council, Ren van der Linden, and the President of European Parliament, Josep Borrelli, with the aim to counter the Estonian far-right nationalist calls to remove the Bronze Soldier. The movement found that the Estonian authorities responded inadequately to the far-right claims to remove that statue. On 22 May Prime Minister Andrus Ansip argued in the Estonian Radio that he favours the removal of the statue from Tõnismäe. His coalition partner and the head of the Centre Party argued that the statue should stay in Tõnismäe.

In July 2006 Night Watch asked the Latvian MEP Tatiana Zhdanok to raise the issue of the Bronze Soldier at the EU level.

In November 2006 the movement sent a letter to the President of the US, George Bush, asking Bush to convince Estonian politicians to keep the monument as it is in Tõnismäe.

On 28 November 2006 Night Watch organised a demonstration in front of the President’s Residence in Kadriorg, while Estonian president Toomas-Hendrik Ilves was meeting his US counterpart George Bush inside the building.

In December 2006 Night Watch, alongside other ethnic Russian movements in Estonia, organised a protest action against the Estonian Language Inspectorate.

In February 2007 Night Watch sent a letter to the president of Estonia Toomas-Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and the Chairman of the Riigikogu Toomas Varek in order to warn for mass unrest if the Bronze Soldier will be removed. Meanwhile, some members of the movement run for the Parliament in the list of the Estonian Constitution Party.

In the end of February 2007 another Night Watch meeting in front of the President’s Residence.

In the end of March 2007 Night Watch said it will make a complaint against the police who has tried to dissolve the meeting of the movement in Tõnismägi.

On 4 April 2007 Night Watch sent a letter to the President, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Defence by demanding a moratorium and asking the authorities to postpone the removal of the statue and the excavation works in Tõnismäe.

On 23 April 2007 Night Watch and other ethnic Russian movements formed a human chain in Tõnismäe to protect the Bronze Soldier. The meeting had around 150 people. Police had banned all meetings that may threaten public order on April 21.

On 28 April 2007 Night Watch demands resignation of the Andrus Ansip government, accusing government in unprofessional policy-making and police in the usage of unproportional violence.

30 April 2007 the Minister of Interior, Jüri Pihl sais it is no secret that Night Watch is supported by pro-Kremlin forces. Any links between the movement and Kremlin will be published, as they emerge sais Pihl.

On 2 May 2007 Latvian MEP Tatiana Zhdanok again in Tallinn in order to meet with the ethnic Russian activists. MEP said the purpose of her visit was to gather information about the Tallinn riots and raise the issue in front of the European Parliament. She also said she will do everything for the release of the detained Night Watch activists Maksim Reva and Dmitri Linter.

Kadri Kukk - Tallinn