TALLIN, Estonia — Yesterday evening I was wandering around Tallin, Estonia when I came upon a very heavily armed policeman who was standing among low-hanging branches of a tree that obscured his face.

A little creeped out by this, I walked on and noticed a formally dressed crowd standing quietly around a statue. On the statue’s long, rectangular base appeared to be inscriptions, but they were covered by bouquets of flowers. Lighted candles burned on the ground.

The statue itself was an odd thing: a narrow, rectangular shaft about three feet by one foot, springing from the base and curving for a few yards over a field until it suddenly ended in mid-air.

I walked further and ran into another heavily armed policeman, and this time I decided to ask him what was going on. He took a second to answer, I think both surprised that I was talking to him and needing a moment to arrange his words in English.