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An Urgent Plea to Save a Small Estonian Musuem From Neo-Nazis

I am writing to ask if you will try to help me to save a small museum in Estonia which is threatened with closure for what seem to be purely political reasons. The Museum of New Art is situated in the sea-side resort of Parnu, which has about 45,000 inhabitants, but also a huge number of summer visitors, chiefly from the Estonian capital Tallinn The director of the Museum, Mark Soosaar, is well known internationally as a maker of documentary films. He is also an opposition deputy in the Estonian National Assembly. He has run the museum on a shoe-string for nearly fifteen years–it began life as the Chaplin Art Centre in 1992 and became the Museum of New Art, with a permanent collection built up from donations, in 1998.

The Museum is the focus for what is perhaps the biggest annual cultural event in Estonia –the documentary film festival, which is one of the most important events of its kind in Eastern Europe, where the documentary tradition is strong. The web-site for the Museum is www.chaplin.ee, as this will give you more information.

As you will see from the open letter to the Estonian Minister of Culture which I attach to this, the motivation for trying to shut the Museum down is almost certainly political –the work of a recently elected mayor of Parnu with Neo-Nazi connections. I attach a photograph as proof that this assertion is not made lightly. Herewith is an article from an Estonian paper of August 24, 2004 with the headline: “One of the Leaders of Centrist Party Wears a Uniform of the Nazi Army for His Birthday Party.” This features Mart Visitamm, the Mayor of Parnu, who attained that office when he was 25.

 

What I am requesting is this:

1. That you remove my address and signature from the letter to the Minister that I attach, and substitute your own address and name.

2. That you then forward the text by email, not only to the Minister, but to the other email addresses given in my list below. This needs to be done as soon as possible, as a final decision is imminent.

With apologies for troubling you with this and thanks for your support,

EDWARD LUCIE-SMITH
www.arttomorrow.co.uk

Addresses for letter

Minister of Culture, Republic of Estonia: Mr. Raivo Palmaru:

min@kul.ee

Copy your letter to:

Estonian daily papers:

POSTIMEES kultuur@postimees.ee

EESTI PĂ„EVALEHT epl@epl.ee

Ă•HTULEHT uudised@sloleht.ee

Estonian weekly papers [published on Thursdays]:

EESTI EKSPRESS areen@ekspress.ee
ekspress@ekspress.ee

MAALEHT maaleht@maaleht.ee

Also to the Director of the Museum of New Art, Parnu, at:
docfest@chaplin.ee

[This is so that he can see what support he is receiving from the international community]

Sample Letter

104 West Kensington Court
Edith Villas
London W14 9AB
44 20 7603 2506
email: edward@avonmore.demon.co.uk

February 5, 2006

To the Minister of Culture, Republic of Estonia

Dear Sir,

I am writing to protest at the planned sale of the building that houses the Museum of New Art in Parnu. This will inevitably force the closure of the museum, which has, with very little financial support, made itself into one of the most important centers for international contemporary art in the Baltic region, and which has at the same time performed valuable service in projecting Estonian visual culture to the outside world.

The decision seems particularly strange and ill-timed because a project was recently agreed with the state government for a reconstruction of the building so as to provide a new exhibition hall and lobby on the ground floor, and a new space for children’s art activities on the second floor.

I believe that when news of this inexplicable decision becomes known internationally it will do great damage to the reputation of Estonian culture –the more so because it appears to come from an individual –the new mayor of Parnu –who has been known to parade himself in Nazi military dress.

In these circumstances very negative conclusions will inevitably be drawn about current Estonian cultural values. I am sure that you, as an Estonian patriot, would wish to avoid this

Yours sincerely,

EDWARD LUCIE-SMITH