Soviet Occupation

History of Estonia between 1945 - 1991

Terror and Resistance

After World War II Estonia was once again occupied by Soviet Union and stuck behind the iron curtain. An anti-Soviet guerrilla movement known as the "Metsavennad" ("Forest Brothers") developed in the countryside, reaching its zenith in 1946–48. It is hard to tell how many people were in the ranks of the Metsavennad; however, it is estimated that at different times there could have been about 30,000–35,000 people. Probably the last Forest Brother was caught in September 1978, and killed himself during his apprehension. In March 1949, 20,722 people (2.5% of the population) were deported to Siberia. By the beginning of the 1950s, the occupying regime had suppressed the resistance movement.

After the war the Communist Party of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (ECP) became the pre-eminent organization in the republic. The ethnic Estonian share in the total ECP membership decreased from 90% in 1941 to 48% in 1952.

After Stalin's death

One positive aspect of the post-Stalin era in Estonia was the regranting of permission in the late 1950s for citizens to make contact with foreign countries. Ties were reactivated with Finland, and in the 1960s, a ferry connection was opened from Tallinn to Helsinki and Estonians began watching Finnish television. This electronic "window on the West" afforded Estonians more information on current affairs and more access to Western culture and thought than any other group in the Soviet Union.

In 1955 the TV Centre was built in Tallinn, that began TV broadcasts on June 29 of that year. The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, the venue for the song festivals, were built in 1960. Only after the Khrushchev Thaw period of 1956 did healthcare networks start to stabilise. Due to natural development, science and technology advanced and popular welfare increased. All demographic indicators improved; birth rate increased, mortality decreased. Healthcare became freely available to everybody during the Soviet era.

In the late 1970s, Estonian society grew increasingly concerned about the threat of cultural Russification to the Estonian language and national identity. By 1981, Russian was taught in the first grade of Estonian-language schools and was also introduced into Estonian pre-school teaching.

By the beginning of the Gorbachev era (1985), concern over the cultural survival of the Estonian people had reached a critical point. The ECP remained stable in the early perestroika years but waned in the late 1980s. Other political movements, groupings and parties moved to fill the power vacuum. The first and most important was the Estonian Popular Front, established in April 1988 with its own platform, leadership and broad constituency. The Greens and the dissident-led Estonian National Independence Party soon followed.

Reference: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1945 and 1991 in Estonia

Tallinn Song Festival Grounds

The Tallinn Song Stage (Lauluväljak) was built in 1959 for the Estonian Song Festival. The stage was meant to hold over 15,000 singers but it’s also possible to use it the other way – the performance will take place in front of the stage and audience is sitting on the stage. The stage was the main places of the Estonian revolution and new independence in 1988-1991. Estonians gathered there to sing patrio ...
Founded: 1959 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Mihkli Farm Museum

Mihkli Farm Museum, found in 1959, is a previous farm typical to West-Saaremaa, with many architectural sights as well. Most buildings lie in a circle around the yard, part of which is separated by a stick fence as flower garden. Farm is surrounded by old ash trees, leafy branches used to be cut from them for sheep's winter feed. In addition to a complete set of buildings there was a rich collection of everyday items ...
Founded: 1959 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Tartumaa Museum

Tartumaa Museum was founded in 1959 to exhibit the history and culture of Tartumaa county. There is for example a rich collection of coins and archaelogical findings in the permanent exhibition. Reference: Tapio Mäkeläinen 2005. Viro - kartanoiden, kirkkojen ja kukkaketojen maa. Tammi, Helsinki, Finland.
Founded: 1959 | Location: Elva, Estonia

Dejevo Military Base

Dejevo village was established during the Soviet era. There were several missile bases and garrisons around the village. After soldiers left and missiles were hauled away, the village was totally abandoned. In 2011 most of the brick and concrete buildings on the surface were demolished.
Founded: 1940-1991 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Kihnu Museum

The museum of Kihnu was established in 1974 into the old schoolhouse. Expositions are divided between four rooms. Two of them are dedicated to the everyday life of the island through centuries: tools, clothes, handicrafts, furniture. The other two are dedicated to the local representatives of naïve art and to other famous men from Kihnu: Theodor Saar, a researcher in the studies of local lore; Enn Uuetoa, a captain a ...
Founded: 1974 | Location: Kihnu, Estonia

Soviet Submarine Training Centre

The secret submarine base and training centre was built to Paldiski under the order of Soviet Union between 1965-1968. The huge building complex had two nuclear submarines built on dry land. Soviet soldiers left from Paldiski in 1994 year later the decommissioned reactors were removed. The reactors functioned continuously from the early 1970s until 1989. Today most of training centre buildings are abandoned and ruined.
Founded: 1965-1968 | Location: Paldiski, Estonia

Estonian Distillery Industry Museum

Estonian Distillery Industry Museum belongs to private company Onistar. The museum is located in the old distillery building of Moe manor that was built in the 18th century. The Moe manor itself is demolished as well as most annexes. The first official notes on the distillery date back to 1794, when Reval District Registry of Distilleries was drawn, including also the distillery of Muddise (present-day Moe) Manor. The in ...
Founded: 1794 (museum 1971) | Location: Tapa vald 5, Estonia

Pilistvere Stones

Pilistvere memorial looks like a burial ground covered with piled stones, with a wooden cross at the head. Since 1988 Estonian people have brought there stones to remind of their relatives who were deported to Siberia and prison camps during the Soviet occupation.
Founded: 1988 | Location: Kõo, Estonia

Mõniste Museum

The Mõniste Museum is the oldest open-air museum in Estonia. The museum complex consists two buildings with annexes. The threshing barn dating back to Czarist times features the interior of the 19th century building, tools, household utensils and clothing. The farmhouse from the times of the first Republic of Estonia exhibits the tools that blacksmiths used, horse necessaries, handicraft tools, national costumes, f ...
Founded: 1948 | Location: Mõniste, Estonia

Saatse Seto Museum

Saatse Seto Museum was opened in the former schoolhouse on 1 July 1974. The renovated museum is small and cosy and it displays the most extensive collection of historical objects in Setomaa. It also includes a large wooden figure of Peko, the god of fertility, created by local artist Renaldo Veeber. The museum possesses a beautiful park spreading over several hectares with a study trail, only a few hundred metres from Rus ...
Founded: 1974 | Location: Värska, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.