Arnold Meri

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Arnold Meri
Arnold meri 05.jpg
Arnold Meri in the Red Army
Born(1919-07-01)1 July 1919
Tallinn, Estonia
Died27 March 2009(2009-03-27) (aged 89)
Tallinn, Estonia
AllegianceFlag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union
Service/branch Red Army
Years of service1940–1945
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars World War II

Arnold Meri (1 July 1919 – 27 March 2009) was a Soviet Red Army veteran of World War II and Hero of the Soviet Union [1] who was charged with genocide for his role in the deportation of Estonians to the inhospitable regions of the USSR. [2] He was the cousin of former President of Estonia, Lennart Meri. At the time of his death, Meri was an honorary chairman of the Estonian Anti-Fascist Committee. [3] [4]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.


Early life

In 1926 Meri's family emigrated to Yugoslavia where the young Arnold was baptised into the Russian Orthodox church. He completed Russian primary school in Skopje and the Russian-Serbian Gymnasium in Belgrade in 1938. After returning to Estonia Meri was soon drafted into the Estonian Army. After the Soviet occupation in 1940, he was elected to the City Komsomol Committee in Tallinn and was instructed to create a Komsomol organization in his Estonian army unit. After the absorption of his unit into the Red Army 22nd Estonian Territorial Rifle Corps, he was appointed a deputy political officer in 415th Radio Battalion.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia kingdom in southeast Europe between 1918–1943

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a state in Southeast Europe and Central Europe that existed from 1929 until 1941, during the interwar period and beginning of World War II.

Skopje City in North Macedonia

Skopje is the capital and largest city of North Macedonia. It is the country's political, cultural, economic, and academic center.

Belgrade City in Serbia

Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. The urban area of the City of Belgrade has a population of 1.23 million, while nearly 1.7 million people live within its administrative limits.

Military career

Meri voluntarily joined the Red Army in 1940 while the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was still in force. After Nazi Germany attacked in June 1941, he was wounded in battle while serving as a platoon commander in north-west Russia in 1941. In August 1941 he was awarded a Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union for organizing the defense of the headquarters of the 22nd Estonian Territorial Rifle Corps when the German army broke through the lines near Dno in July 1941. In reality the defense was commanded by captain Georg Loog, [5] but he was not deemed to be suitable for the decoration, as he was not a member of the Communist Party and had been an officer of the Estonian Army. [6] Meri was specifically commended for remaining on the battlefield despite being wounded four times. [7] Meri retired from the Red Army as a colonel. The building that housed the headquarters of the 22nd Estonian Rifle Corps in July 1941 is currently occupied by a secondary school. In 2008 the school was renamed in honour of Arnold Meri. [7]

The Gold Star medal is a special insignia that identifies recipients of the title "Hero" in the Soviet Union and some of its allies, and several post-Soviet states.

Hero of the Soviet Union Highest award of the USSR awarded to Soviet citizens and foreigners for heroic acts

The title Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.

Dno Town in Pskov Oblast, Russia

Dno is a town and the administrative center of Dnovsky District in Pskov Oblast, Russia, located at the intersection of the Pskov–Bologoye and St. Petersburg–Kiev railways, 113 kilometers (70 mi) east of Pskov, the administrative center of the oblast. Population: 9,061 (2010 Census); 10,049 (2002 Census); 12,406 (1989 Census).

From 1945 to 1949 he served as the secretary of the central committee of Komsomol in Estonia. In 1948 he was awarded the highest Soviet order, the Order of Lenin. Meri's opinion on the Estonian part in World War II:

Komsomol youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

The All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, usually known as Komsomol, was a political youth organization in the Soviet Union. It is sometimes described as the youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), although it was officially independent and referred to as "the helper and the reserve of the CPSU".

Order of Lenin Soviet Union award

The Order of Lenin, named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was established by the Central Executive Committee on April 6, 1930. The order was the highest civilian decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union. The order was awarded to:

He was stripped of his honours in 1951, but was rehabilitated in 1956. [9]

Rehabilitation was a term used in the context of the former Soviet Union, and the Post-Soviet states. Beginning after the death of Stalin in 1953, the government undertook the political and social restoration, or political rehabilitation, of persons who had been repressed and criminally prosecuted without due basis. It restored the person to the state of acquittal. In many cases, rehabilitation was posthumous, as thousands of victims had been executed or died in labor camps.

Involvement in deportation and the charge of genocide

Meri in 2008. Arnold Meri 22 September 2008.jpg
Meri in 2008.

In 2003, the Estonia Security Police investigated Meri for participating in the deportations of Estonians in Hiiumaa in 1949. [6] [10] In August 2007, the Estonian Western Circuit Prosecutor’s Office formally charged Arnold Meri with genocide, for his admitted role in organising the deportation of 251 Estonian civilians from the island of Hiiumaa to the Novosibirsk region of Siberia [ citation needed ]. [11] According to the Prosecutor’s Office, most of the deportees were women and children, and 43 subsequently died[ citation needed ]. [11] Meri had acknowledged taking part in the deportations, but denied responsibility. [2] According to the BBC, Estonia's claims that genocide took place is not widely accepted. [12]

Soviet deportations from Estonia were a series of mass deportations by the Soviet Union from Estonia in 1941 and 1945–1951.

Hiiumaa second largest island in Estonia

Hiiumaa Finnish: Hiidenmaa) is the second largest island in Estonia, with an area of 989 km2. It is in the Baltic Sea, north of the island of Saaremaa, part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla. Along with several smaller neighboring islands, the island makes up Hiiu County; one of the 15 counties of Estonia.

Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people in whole or in part. The hybrid word "genocide" is a combination of the Greek word γένος and the Latin suffix -caedo. The United Nations Genocide Convention, which was established in 1948, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".

On 20 May 2008 the trial against Meri began. Meri pleaded not guilty. [13] In his defense, Meri maintained that he was appointed to monitor the compliance of the process with then-current laws and to ensure that the punitive actions were limited to the individuals specifically listed by security services. Meri claimed that he was unable to control the abuses of the local authorities and withdrew from the process. For this decision he himself was prosecuted, stripped of his military honors and expelled from the Communist Party in 1949. Meri maintained that he was targeted by the current Estonian authorities in retaliation for his anti-fascist activities and harsh critique of the Estonian government. [12] [14] [15]

In May 2008, the Russian Duma wrote to the European parliament with a call to stop what they called a "shameful trial". The adopted statement in part read "The trial is a purely political order to revise the results of WWII and to discredit the efforts of the anti-Hitler coalition to save mankind from the fascist plague". [16] On 2 April 2009, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning deportation as a crime against humanity. [17]


Official representatives of the Pskov region honoring the wreath laying ceremony Arnold Meri funeral 301.jpg
Official representatives of the Pskov region honoring the wreath laying ceremony
Arnold Meri's tombstone at Liiva cemetery in Tallinn, Estonia. Arnold Meri tombstone Liiva cemetery Tallinn Estonia.jpg
Arnold Meri's tombstone at Liiva cemetery in Tallinn, Estonia.

Arnold Meri died in his sleep on 27 March 2009 at the age of 89. [18] This automatically halted Meri's trial.

The President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev posthumously awarded Meri with the Order of Honour within hours after Meri's death. [16] [19] In a telegram to Meri's widow, Yekaterina, Medvedev wrote "Arnold Meri was an exceptional and courageous figure, who devoted his entire life to the ideals of justice, freedom and humanism. Decorated with the Hero of the Soviet Union for his feats on the battlefields of the Great Patriotic War, he fought Nazism to the end of his days, and actively resisted attempts to rewrite history and whitewash those responsible for the twentieth century’s greatest tragedy, and their accomplices." [4]

Meri was interred on 1 April 2009 in the Liiva cemetery [20] on the outskirts of Tallinn in a funeral which was attended by several hundred people. [12]

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  1. Связисты Герои Советского Союза Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine .(in Russian)
  2. 1 2 Estonian accused of genocide
  3. "Estonian Red Army veteran dies amidst genocide trial". Russia Today. 28 March 2009. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  4. 1 2 "Dmitry Medvedev sent a telegram of condolences at the passing of veteran of the Estonian Red Army Rifle Corps Arnold Meri to Mr Meri's widow, Yekaterina". President of Russia. 29 March 2009. Archived from the original on 17 April 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  5. Leonid Lentsman, Endel Sõgel, ed. (1971). Eesti rahvas Nõukogude Liidu Suures Isamaasõjas, 1941-1945. 1 (in Estonian). Tallinn: Eesti Raamat.
  6. 1 2 Võõrad Suled - Eesti Ekspress , 18 November 2003 (in Estonian)
  7. 1 2 Именем Арнольда Мери назовут школу на месте совершенного им подвига - , 28 May 2008 (in Russian)
  8. When giants fought in Estonia - BBC, 9 May 2007
  9. "Estonian Red Army veteran dies amidst genocide trial". Russia Today. 28 March 2009. Archived from the original on 1 April 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
  10. Entisen presidentin serkkua syytetään neuvostoajan kyydityksistä - Baltic Guide
  11. 1 2 Cousin of former Estonian president charged with genocide
  12. 1 2 3 "Estonian war figure laid to rest". BBC. 2 April 2009. Archived from the original on 4 April 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  13. Arnold Meri ei tunnistanud end genotsiidis süüdi Archived 2 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine .
  14. В Таллине скончался Герой Советского Союза Арнольд Мери // RIA Novosti, 28 March 2009 (in Russian)
  15. Суд над историей //, 20 May 2008 (in Russian)
  16. 1 2 "Medvedev decorates Soviet hero Meri with Medal of Honor posthumously". Moscow: RIA Novosti. 28 March 2009. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
  17. European Parliament resolution of 2 April 2009 on European conscience and totalitarianism
  18. Eesti Postimees 28 March 2009 - Suri Arnold Meri
  19. (in Russian) Президент Российской Федерации.  УКАЗ  №332 от 28.03.2009 «О награждении Орденом Почета Мери А.К.». ( President of Russia .  Ukaz  #332 of 28.03.2009 On the awarding of the Order of Honour to A.K. Meri . ).
  20. Rudi, Hanneli (1 April 2009). "Arnold Meri maeti täna Liiva kalmistule" (in Estonian). Postimees . Retrieved 20 June 2010.