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Political repressions in the 1940ies and 1950ies in Estonia

A number of events that took place in Estonia during 1939 - 1945, although recorded by historians, are still not familiar to the general public and there is a lot of confusion as to the development and reasons for such a turn in history. 

The immediate negative impact of the Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact, signed on 23 August 1939, for the Republic of Estonia was the treaty of military bases imposed by the Soviet Russia, which resulted in bringing over 10 000 soviet soldiers to Estonia from 18 October 1939 onwards.  The soldiers were positioned to coastal areas and various ports.  As a result, thousands of local inhabitants were relocated. 

Starting from 15 October 1939 up to 15 May 1940 the majority of Baltic Germans living in Estonia (the total of 12 660 people) were forced to abandon their homes, being relocated to the territory of Poland.

On 17 June 1940 the Soviet Army occupied the whole territory of Estonia.  This was followed by large-scale arrests and deportations of the population.

On 19 July 1940 Commander-in-Chief of the Estonian military Johannes Laidoner was deported to Russia, on 30 July Konstantin Päts, President of Estonia faced the same fate.  By 4 July 1940 1200 former state officials and military personnel had been deported to Ussolag in the region of Perm.

Following the decision of the Communist Party from 14 May 1941 about "getting rid of the socially alien element" in the occupied Baltic states 10 157 people were deported from Estonia on 13-14 June 1941, half of them women or children.

After the war broke out between Germany and Russia on 21 June 1941 ca 50 000 Estonians were forced to join the Red army, from who 32 187 were taken to Russia.  Over 10 000 of these men died in the forced labour camps in Russia.

When the German occupation started in August 1941 new exterminations followed.  With the frontier coming closer towards the end of the war mass deportations began.  On 26 September 1943 the population behind Lake Peipsi and the town Narva was evacuated.  On 25 -31 January 1944 the Germans cleared the whole town of Narva from its population, i.e. over 20 000 civilians.  The last deportation took place in October the same year, when 2500 local people from the island Saaremaa were taken to Germany.  Parallel to the military activities on the German-Russian frontier the Soviet military systematically kept destroying the historic cities of Estonia that had already been abandoned by the German troops.  The cities of Narva, Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu were severely bombed, these medieval Hansa towns were turned into ruins and hundreds were killed.

These processes have left a deep impression on the population of Estonia, and their reflections continue to haunt the civil society with the unspeakable terror that they left on the minds and memories of the survived.

A number of countries faced similar destinies in the 1940s and the 1950s.

On the occasion of a 15 year anniversary of locating the burial place of Konstantin Päts, first President of Estonia and in memory of the victims of mass repression and deportations during 1939 – 1945, the Estonian Heritage Society organised an international conference “Archaeology of Terror” in Tallinn on  20 – 21 October.

The conference was preceded by a memorial service at Metsakalmistu, where President Päts is resting now, and by the opening of a photo exhibition “The Return of the President. Burashevo 1988 – 1990”.

Speakers included experts from several European countries: Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Finland, Hungary, Russia, the Ukraine and Estonia.  The conference was opened by Arnold Rüütel, President of the Republic.  Trivimi Velliste, Member of Estonian Parliament, made an introduction to the conference with his presentation “Estonian Heritage Society as Bearer of National Memory”.  Matti Päts, grand-son of the first presindent Konstantin Päts attended the conference and gave a speech “The return of my grandfather”.  Conference delegates included Dr Jaan Tamm “Archaeology of Terror in Estonia”, MA Peep Pillak “Expeditions to Burashevo in 1989 – 1990”, Ülo Puustak “Preseident of Estonia rests at home”, Peeter Olesk “Economic anatomy of terror”, Dr Urbanavicius, Dr Garmus and Dr Jankauskas “Clandestine burials of the KGB visctims in Vilnius, Tuskulenai site”, Dr Slawomir Kalbarczyk “Exhymation as a source of knowledge about crimes committed by Soviet occupants on Polish citizens”, Dr Guntis Zemitis “Latvian Experience in terror archaeology”, Dr Helena Ranta “Identification of the vistims of mass repression”, Prof Halmy Keve Kund “Exhumation of the corpse of Imre Nagy”, Prof Razumov “The Estonian victims of Stalinist repression during the 1930ies in Russia”, Vello Salo “Mass respression in Estonia in 1944 – 1949”.

The conference was supported by the European Commission and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Estonia.

 A mutual feeling of the conference was that the topic of political repressions should not be forgotten, but rather on the contrary – the topic is vital and actual also today.  The Estonian Heritage Society will continue with the discussion of the recent history of the eastern part of Europe, a follow-up conference “Political repressions in the 1940ies and 1950ies” will take place on 21 – 22 August this year, bringing together speakers from Estonia (including Estonians in exile and now living abroad), Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, the Ukraine. It will help create a better understanding of the fairly recent history of several countries who suffered from political repressions during and after the II World War.  The conference will take place at the National Library in Tallinn.

 

The conference speakers include:

-                     Dr Jaan Tamm, Estonian Heritage Society “Prison camps in Estonia 1940 - 1955”

-                     MA Peep Pillak, Estonian National Archives “Estonian volunteers in the Finnish army, who Finland extradited to the Soviet Union”

-                     Dr Mati Mandel, Estonian History Museum “The fate of Admiral Pitka and his resistance group”

-                     Olev Ott, Sweden “ Deportations in 1940 and Estonians in exile – overviews presented in Swedish school textbooks”

-                     Mrs Sandra Kalniete, MP Latvia “Divided History of Europe”

-                     Prof Aigi Rahi-Tamm, University of Tartu “Deportations in Estonia in 1941 – 1951”

-                     Prof Meelis Maripuu, Estonia “Prison camps in Estonia during the German occupation”

Presentations are expected also from Poland, Byelorussia and Lithuania.

 

The conference proceedings are published in a book "Political Repressions in the 1940s and 1950s". 

 

The conference is supported by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency of the EC and the Estonian Ministry of Culture. 

The aim of the conference is to contribute to the preservation and commemoration of the victims of deportation and mass repression, to disseminate the understanding of the complex history of Estonia and to improve the knowledge of the present and future generations on the period 1939 to 1955. In the light of the recent rapid developments, when Estonia has joined the European Union and Nato, the younger generation especially is not keen to know or remember the more "distant" history, which however has significant impact on the whole development process and present day not only in Estonia, but similarly on many other East European countries.  Crimes committed by all totalitarian regimes need to be recognised as crimes against civil societies..

            

Lisatud dokumendid:
Invitation to conference
Konverentsi kava

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