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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.