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

Trinity Sergius Lavra

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.

In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.

In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by  Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.

After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.

In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.

Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.

In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.

In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.