The Kalamaja cemetery (Estonian: Kalamaja kalmistu, German: Fischermay Kirchhof or Fischermay Friedhof), in Tallinn in Estonia was once the city's oldest existing cemetery, located in the suburb of Kalamaja in the north of the city. It contained thousands of graves of ethnic Estonian and Swedish residents of Tallinn and stood for at least 400 years, from the 15th or 16th century to 1964 when it was completely flattened and destroyed by the Soviet occupation authorities governing the country at that time. The former cemetery is now a public park: "Kalamaja kalmistupark".
Origins and use
The exact origins of the cemetery are not completely clear, but historians place its foundation to sometime between the 15th and 16th centuries. It was the principal burial ground of the ethnic Swedish and Estonians living in or around Tallinn.
Until the mid to late 19th century the majority of residents of Tallinn were Baltic Germans who had their own separate graveyards within the city walls until 1774, and their own separate cemeteries outside the city after that.
Until its destruction the cemetery had thousands of graves standing of various historical figures from Estonia's history.
Shortly after the Second World War and during the second occupation of Baltic states, the suburb of Kalamaja (due to its strategic position as a base for the Red Army on the Gulf of Finland) was turned into a restricted zone for the Soviet military and closed to the public.
In 1964 the cemetery was entirely flattened under the order of Soviet authorities. Gravestones were used to build walls along the ports and sidewalks in other parts of the city and no trace of the cemetery was left standing.
Soviet forces in a coordinated effort to remove all traces of the past, non ethnic Russian, inhabitants of Tallinn also destroyed two further 18th century cemeteries in the city, in the suburbs of Kopli and Mõigu which belonged to the ethnic Estonian and Baltic German communities.
In contrast the Russian Orthodox Cemetery, also established in the 18th century, south of the old town of Tallinn, was left standing.
Presently the former area of the cemetery is a public park, with no immediate visible indication of its previous status. However a small plaque with a very short description has been put on the site on the side of a restored chapel.
The only surviving evidence of those who were interred there consists of the parish registers of burials and some old detailed maps of the area in the Tallinn city archives.
- Adolf Richters Baltische Verkehrs- und Adreßbücher, Band 3-Estland, Riga 1913
- (German) Schmidt, Christoph. Bergengruens Tod von Reval aus historischer Sicht. Journal of Baltic Studies, 29:4 (1998), 315-325
- Tallinna Kalmistud, Karl Laane, Tallinn, 2002, ISBN 9985-64-168-X
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kalamaja cemetery.|
- Image of a late 19th or early 20th century map showing the district of Kalamaja and the area of the cemetery
- Photo of a memorial plaque on the side of a restored chapel on the area of the former cemetery
- A restored memorial chapel on the site of the former cemetery
- Another photo of the restored chapel from a distance
- Present day area of the former cemetery