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Arrests During 1940–1941
During the summer of 1940, political surveillance and repressions were carried out by an Operative Group of the People's Commissariat for Interior Affairs (the NKVD), although nominally speaking, the actions were initiated by the structures of the Republic of Estonia that had been taken over by the USSR – that is to say the Political Police and the office of the Chief of Internal Security. The first to be arrested were ranking politicians (above all both the serving and earlier Ministers of the Interior, who were accused of having fought the communists), national and local leaders of the Home Guard, and some state officials. Members of Russian White Guard organizations and persons accused of spying on the USSR in the interests of third countries came under special scrutiny. The Chief of Internal Security Harald Haberman issued orders to have the previous heads of the Political Police arrested, as well as some lower-ranking officials. On June 23, 1940, the Assistant to the Minister of the Interior August Tuulse and his wife committed suicide. On July 21, 1940, the Attorney-at-Law Theodor Rõuk, who had been the Ministry of the Interior in 1924, killed himself before being arrested.
The offices of the Chief of Internal Security were employed in the case of lesser “crimes” directed against the occupation forces. Most of the individuals thus targeted were accused of using offensive language in reference to the Soviet Union, Soviet power or Soviet troops. For example: on July 2, criminal charges were brought against Andres Raska “for having distributed blue, black and white ribbons to pin on lapels (NB! even though at that point, on July 2, the tricolor was still formally in the status of the Estonian flag of state).
Once the Constitution of the ESSR was adopted on August 25, 1940, the puppet government of Johannes Vares was dissolved, and the administrative hierarchy in Estonia was reorganized to bring it into alignment with the state structure of the USSR. In a move paralleling the way that functions were distributed in the USSR, the Security Administration of the People's Commissariat for Interior Affairs assumed the role of a political police structure, and as such, it was the primary agency that carried out political repressions. During March and April of 1941, the state security apparat was made an independent People’s Commissariat headed by Boris Kumm. Arrests were authorized by Kumm and sanctioned by the Prosecutor of the ESSR. The Prosecutor also chose the agency that would hear the charges against the accused. The target group of arrestees began to grow. Attention was focused on a large cross-section of persons who – by virtue of their social background, job descriptions, membership in social organizations or their previous activities – could be assumed to have a hostile attitude towards bolshevism and the Soviet Union. Once war broke out between Germany and the USSR, the represssion of military personnel, draft evaders and parties suspected of espionage increased.
Until the end of June 1940, the Tribunal of the Leningrad Military District decided the cases of arrestees. Subsequently, other tribunals passed verdicts, including those of the forces of the Baltic District of the NKVD. Most of the time, the proceedings took place behind closed doors, with neither the prosecutor nor a defender present.
After the beginning of the war between Germany and the USSR, the nature of political repressions began to change. Initially, the People’s Commissariat for State Security of the ESSR continued to arrest people and carry out investigations, but it was the tribunals of Red Army and Red Banner Baltic Fleet units stationed in Estonia that now began to be tasked with rendering verdicts.
In addition to the tribunals, the Prosecutor would also pass some cases (along with recommendations concerning sentencing) on to Special Councils of the NKVD of the USSR in Moscow.
Of the civil courts, only the court at the highest level – the Supreme Court of the ESSR – was permitted to reach verdicts regarding political crimes, but this was the exception rather than the rule. In the case of prisoners evacuated from Estonia to the USSR, Criminal Colleagueships of Oblast Courts were responsible for reaching verdicts.
At least 300 persons were sentenced to death during 1940–1941 by special tribunals operating in Estonia – approximately half of them before the beginning of the war. Most of the shootings took place in Tallinn or nearby. For example, on June 23, 1941, people were executed in Tallinn. Groups of three or more prisoners sentenced to death were taken from General Prison Nr. 1 (the “Patarei” prison) to the internal compound of the Pagari Street prison as ordered in writing by Boris Kumm, the People’s Commissar for Security or one of his two deputies. The prisoners were handed over to the Chief Warden and Commandant of the Internal Prison and a detail of guards. The heads of the 1st 2nd and 3rd Sections of the People’s Commissariat for State Security of the ESSR were present at the executions. The firing squad was commanded by the Commandant of the Internal Prison A. Brenner and Sergei Kingisepp, the Director of the 3rd Section of the People’s Commissariat for State Security.
In addition to those executed by the order of tribunals and Special Councils, a number of people were simply executed without court decisions. The names of 2,199 persons who were executed during the period of June to October 1941 (after the beginning of the war between Germany and the USSR) have been ascertained to date. Those executed without the decision of a military tribunal or a Special Assembly can be divided into two large groups:
1) arrestees who were killed in places of detention by Soviet State Security agents or prison personnel. In cases where the Soviet forces were preparing to withdraw from Estonia and they were not prepared to evacuate prisoners, it is possible that a writ of execution might have been issued or that a simple order was given to kill prisoners. On the night of June 8–9, 192 persons were shot in Tartu Prison – 172 men and 20 women. The victims were shot in the head with pistols, mostly in the face. 90 persons – 87 men and 3 women – were shot in September 1941, in a medieval castle that was being used as a prison in Kuressaare on the island of Saaremaa. 10 men and a 14-year old boy were shot in a pit that had been dug in the courtyard of the Viljandi Prison. One of them was not mortally wounded, and succeeded in climbing out of the pit and escaping.
2) Civilians who were murdered by Red Army and NKVD/NKGB Destroyer Battalion troops. A score of resistance fighters who engaged in combat against the Red Army and the Destroyer Battalions have apparently been included in this category. Since details remain sketchy, they have been statistically grouped together with the civilians who were killed.
1,000 persons were imprisoned in Estonia in 1940 and a further 6,000 persons were incarcerated in 1941. The majority of them were pronounced guilty and sent to the prison camps of the USSR, where most of them perished or were executed.
According to available records, at least 250 of the persons arrested in 1940 were executed and nearly 500 died during their imprisonment. More than 1,600 of those arrested in 1941 were executed, and almost 4,000 died while in confinement.
Administering Political Justice in the
In the Soviet Union in 1940 the “Law on the Judicial System in the Republics and Autonomous Regions of the USSR” was enacted, which established a uniform and equal case management basis for all citizens, and based on the Constitution, declared the independence of the courts and their subordination exclusively to the law. Regarding the organization of the courts, the collectivity (participation of public assessors), openness (public nature of the court proceedings), and principle of court appeal was specified. But the clause “ except in cases specified by the law”was added to every paragraph.
In the case of state political repressions, this additional clause provided a legal basis for waiving compliance with democratic judicial principles, but at that same time, to giving a judicial form to political repressions with lower level legislation. In the Soviet judicial system, special courts also operated: military tribunals, railroad circuit courts, and waterway circuit courts, which were not subordinated to the supreme court of the republic, but reported directly to the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union. According to the court code, the war tribunals deliberated “[...] military crimes as well as other crimes coming under their jurisdiction [...]”.
At first, military courts did not have a signifycant role to play in deliberating political crimes. But in the middle of the 1930’s, the war council of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, the military tribunals and the tribunals of the NKVD forces, formed in 1934, became the main means of administrating justice.
Different types of military tribunals also passed judgment on a large portion of the people sent to prison camp or condemned to execution for political reasons in Estonia in 1940–41: until the start of the war between the Soviet Union and Germany, primarily by the Baltic district tribunal of the NKVD forces; after the declaration of martial law on Estonian territory, by the military tribunals of the different local Red Army units, the Baltic Sea fleet, the border guards and the railroad. As a rule, the sessions of the special courts were closed.
Extra-Judicial Institutions: Special Councils
The code of the judicial system emphasizes that the courts determine justice. Even so, Special Councils that were outside of the court system also decided cases of a criminal nature. In their work, the Special Councils implemented punishment specified by the criminal code, but operated on an administrative basis (court proceedings as such did not take place, the members of the Special Councils made their decisions based on written material without having seen or heard the accusers or the defenders). The activities of the Special Councils were formally based on laws and governmental decrees, but their activities were in conflict with the elementary principles of justice: the right of everyone to be heard by the court, the right to defend oneself against accusations, the right to appeal the decision of the court. The Special Councils that operated in this manner can be called state-organized quasi-judicial organs.
The implementation of extra-judicial institutions was justified by the reasoning that it was necessary to implement repressions against anti-Soviet elements, even without the possession of concrete evidentiary material.
With the 1935 directive of the Soviet Prosecutor, all political cases that lacked sufficient evidence to try them in ordinary courts were transferred to the Special Councils.
The Institution of the Prosecutor
The 1936 Soviet Constitution specified the composition and assignments of the Prosecutor’s Office. The supreme supervision of the Soviet People’s Commissariats and its subordinate institutions, as well as of the loyalty of officials and citizens, was assigned to the Soviet Prosecutor.
From the standpoint of political repressions, the most important activity of the Prosecutor was to supervise and sanction NKVD activity. A “special sector” was prescribed in the prosecutorial system, which was assigned to supervise the activities of the NKVD/NKGB institutions. This role was minimal in practice. A deputy prosecutor for “special matters”, and the “special department” who was subordinated to him was assigned to sanction the arrest decrees of the NKVD/NKGB, to confirm the summary of the charges and to legally process them. The prosecutors for “special matters” formed a separate category in the system. People who were especially trustworthy and obedient to the regime were chosen for these jobs, and their candidacies were approved by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, or according to the hierarchy, at lower levels of the Party organization. Its functions and practical activities were more closely tied to the NKVD/NKGB than to the Prosecutor’s Office.
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There were two sides to the activities of the Prosecutor’s Office. On one hand, they were to supervise and guarantee general legality, including in the security and court systems. On the other hand, the Prosecutor’s Office concealed the unlawful activities of the NKVD/NKGB when arresting and interrogating people, sanctioned their arrests, and confirmed fabricated charges, as well as presented them to the courts. There were prosecutors who, using their rights, tried to protest against illegal activities, but they were removed from their jobs and their decisions were annulled. To create a propagandistic reality, the prosecutors made public appearances, where they harshly demanded and proclaimed adherence to “Soviet legality”.
According to the Soviet Constitution, the accused were guaranteed the right to a defense. In the case of political accusations, this had no practical meaning.
Overview of Estonian Units in the Red Army and the Actions of the Destroyer
Battalions of the NKVD
On August 17, 1940, after the incorporation of the Baltic States into the USSR, the People’s Commissar for Defense Semyon Timoshenko ordered that the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian armed forces be reformed into Territorial Rifle Corps. It was directed that each Corps was to have an authorized strength of 15,142 men. They were to consist of two divisions, each consisting of 6,000 troops, and other units. These Corps were to exist for one year, during which period they were to be purged of “disloyal elements”, and the men had to learn Russian and the regulations of the Red Army. Thereafter these Corps were to be reorganized once again, on a non-territorial basis.
The Estonian Armed Forces were formed into the 22nd Estonian Territorial Rifle Corps. Major General Gustav Jonson (who had previously been the Commander of the Armed Forces in the Soviet-imposed government of Johannes Vares) was appointed to be the Commander of the Corps. Major General Richard Tomberg was appointed Commander of the 180th Rifle Division, and Major General Jaan Kruus was appointed to command the 182nd Rifle Division. In June of 1941, the Corps was sent to the Värska Training Camp, where approximately 300 senior officers were arrested on June 13–14, with most of them being sent from there to the Norilsk Prison Camp. The top-ranking officers of the Corps had been sent to Russia before them, purportedly to receive refresher courses. There, most of them were also arrested. Major General Aleksander Ksenofontov was now appointed to be the Commander of the Corps, with Colonels (Polkovniks) I. Missan and J. Kuroshev each assuming command of one of the two divisions of the Corps. At the beginning of the war, conscripts from the Soviet Union were mobilized into the Corps, bringing it up to its full authorized strength of 29,000 men. The Corps was subordinated to the 11th Army of the Southeastern Front and fought in the Pskov and Staraya-Russa area from July 4 to August 22. There were about 5,500 Estonians in the Corps at that time. The Corps suffered heavy casualties during battles that took place in August. Most of the Estonians were taken prisoner or defected to the German side. At the end of 1941, they were sent back to Estonia from the prisoner of war camps they had been held in. Many of these men volunteered for service in the security battalions of the German Army. The remaining Estonians in the Red Army were pulled back from the front in the fall, since they were considered unreliable, and were transferred to labor battalions.
In June of 1941, the Soviet NKVD state security organization began forming so-called “destroyer battalions”. In principle, the task of the destroyer battalions was to fight saboteurs and parachutists, but more often they were actually sent into combat against resistance forces and also carried out the “scorched earth” tactics proclaimed by Joseph Stalin.
Members of the destroyer battalions are guilty of killing hundreds of civilians. Major General Rakutin – Commander of the NKVD Border Troops in the Baltic Special Military District – was responsible for forming the destroyer battalions. Captain Mikhail Pasternak was the Commander of the Operative Section of the Staff for these units, and the responsible Commissar was Fjodor Okk, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Estonian Communist (bolshevik) Party.
The battalions were made up mostly of active members of the “spearheads” of the Party and the Soviets. Later, men who had been conscripted into the Soviet military were also forced to serve in the ranks of the destroyer battalions. A dozen or more destroyer battalions consisting of about 6,000 men were formed. Most of them were Estonians. In August 1941, two worker’s battalions were formed for the purpose of defending Tallinn, led by M. Pasternak and Karl Kanger, the Head of the Military Section of the Central Committee of the Estonian Communist (bolshevik) Party. These battalions were made up largely of members of destroyer battalions who had retreated to Tallinn. The combat readiness of the worker’s battalions was low, and they were quickly crushed by advancing German troops. A worker’s battalion was also constituted in Narva. Those members of the destroyer battalions who did not succeed in escaping from Estonia were arrested during the German occupation. Most of them were executed.
On July 2, 1941, men of military age in those parts of Estonia that were under the control of the Red Army began to be sent to Russia. A total of more than 30,000 men were taken to Russia. Although this action has been described as an ordinary mobilization in the past, doing so leaves a false impression. It would be more accurate to see this as just one more facet of “scorched earth tactics”. On July 10, 1941, Lev Mehlis – Head of the Main Political Directorate of the Red Army – ordered that the Estonians sent to Russia were to be assigned to labor battalions. In September 1941, the Estonian labor battalions were subordinated to the GULAG (The Main Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps) run by the NKVD. 10,000 of the men who had been sent to the labor battalions perished by spring of 1942.
On December 18, 1941, the State Defense Committee of the Soviet Union directed that the 7th Estonian Rifle Division was to begin to be formed on December 25 in the Ural Military District, with an authorized strength of 11,618 men. In February of 1942, the 249th Estonian Rifle Division also began to be formed, and in September 1942, work began on forming the 8th Estonian Rifle Corps on the basis of these divisions.
The majority of the manpower of these divisions was drawn from the labor battalions, but additional members were assembled from among Estonians living in Russia, and from other Soviet citizens. Many of the men who were sent to the divisions were in such weak physical condition that they died while the units were being formed. At the same time, the ranks of the units continued to be purged of so-called “untrustworthy elements”.
On November 7, 1942, the 8th Estonian Tallinn Rifle Corps was put on active status and integrated into the regular structure of the Red Army. On December 10, 1942, the roster of the Corps consisted of 32,463 men, including the 19th Guards Division, and the 85th Artillery Batallion, both of which had been subordinated to the Corps. Neither of these latter units had Estonians in their ranks. The Corps was brought under the command of the Kalinin Front and was sent into combat at Velikije Luki. The Commander of the Corps was Major General Lembit Pärn, with Colonel (Polkovnik) August Vassil in command of the 7th Division, and Colonel (Polkovnik) Artur Saueselg in command of the 249th Division.
The Estonian Rifle Corps fought in the battles of Velikiye Luki from December 9, 1942 until January 16, 1943. The Corps suffered heavy casualties. According to the reports it filed, 2,247 men were killed, 6,220 were wounded, and 2,020 were missing and unaccounted for. Most of the missing men had defected to the German side. They were sent to the Viljandi Prisoner-of-War Camp in Estonia via the Polotsk Prisoner-of-War Camp. In Viljandi they were released and given a month off, on the condition that they would thereafter serve in the German military. After the battles of Velikiye Luki, both division commanders were dismissed from their positions (they had both previously been officers in the Estonian military), to be replaced by Estonians from Russia. Karl Allikas assumed command of the 7th Division, and Johan Lombak was put in charge of the 249th Division.
Until October of 1943, the Division was held in reserve at the Kalinin Front, and was then subordinated after that to the 2nd Baltic Front. Even then, the Corps was still not sent to the front lines, with the exception of its artillery component, which was sent into combat in the Novosokolnik region near Pskov, and later on the Narva front.
In 1944, the Corps was assigned to the Leningrad Front, where it carried out defensive tasks to the rear of the 2nd Shock Army. During the period of 5–14 September, 1944, the Corps was transported over Lämmi Lake into the Võnnu area in Estonia, and it took part in the assault that culminated in the crossing of the Emajõgi River. After that, the divisions of the Corps participated in the conquest of the Estonian mainland and the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa. Forward elements of the 354th Rifle Battalion reached the Estonian capital of Tallinn on September 22, only to find that it had been abandoned by the Germans. Vassili Võrk was the commandant of Tallinn for three days. On September 22, the Corps was put under the command of the 8th Army of the Leningrad Front.
During the September 17–23 period, the Corps suffered 201 casualties on the Estonian mainland. 763 men were wounded, and 17 were reported missing in action. Losses were also borne during the fighting for control over Saaremaa, particularly in the Tehumardi battle and the Vintri landing, where 215 men of the 300th Rifle Batallion were taken prisoner.
From March until May 1945, the Estonian Rifle Corps was engaged in combat in the Courland area of Latvia, where it fought against the German “Nord” Army Group. On June 28, the Corps was renamed and began to be referred to as the 41st Guards Estonian Tallinn Rifle Corps. The 7th Division was renamed the 118th Guards Rifle Division and the 249th Division the 112th Guards Rifle Division.
On May 6 1946, the 41st Tallinn Guards Rifle Corps was disbanded. So-called “national units” continued to remain in Estonia until 1956. These were manned by conscripts. From 1946 to 1951, the men who were called up served in the 22nd Guards Estonian Unattached Rifle Brigade, and from 1951–1956 in the 118th Guards Estonian Rifle Division. From 1945–1951, Lembit Pärn was the Minister of Armed Forces and the Military Commissar of the Estonian SSR.
Post World War II Repressions
The return of the Soviet occupation in Estonia in the fall of 1944 did not bring peace. Instead, it was accompanied – as had been anticipated – by a number of new waves of repressions. Before the beginning of this new Soviet occupation, approximately 70,000 persons fled to other countries in anticipation of the worst, because of what they had experienced in 1941. Their fears were realized. 10,000 persons were imprisoned in 1944 and 1945, half of whom died within two years. Very large numbers of people were sent to prisons and forced labor camps in post-war Estonia. Imprisonment was a major form of repression of individuals, second only to new deportations. New forms of charges were leveled: treason, providing aid to the Germans, performance of service in the German Armed Forces or in the actions arranged by the civil administration, attempts to flee the “homeland”, etc. During the years to come, the family members of most of those who had been arrested were deported.
The first wave of post-war ethnic cleansing involved the deportation of Germans on August 15, 1945. There were 261 citizens of German origin among the 407 deportees, while the remaining 146 persons belonged to other ethnic groups. Most of these were Estonians who voluntarily accompanied those family members, who were being sent away. In most cases, the deportees were Germans who had repatriated to Germany during 1939 and 1940. Having returned to Estonia during the German occupation, they had not succeeded in departing Estonia before the advance of the Red Army.
In 1946, after the end of the war, there was a brief pause in the cycle of deportations being carried out in the Soviet Union, but it did not take long before a new wave began. During 1947, a population transfer involving thousands of Germans, Ukrainians and Finns (who had been involuntarily repatriated) was carried out. A campaign against “enemies of the people” and their family members was then initiated, with Lithuania being the first of the Baltic countries where a deportation was carried out on this basis. 1948 was a year of never-ending deportations for Lithuania. These transfers of population were carried out in increments and in a number of regions. 1949 was a particularly infamous year. In accordance with a decree issued by the Council of Ministers of the USSR on January 29, “kulaks and their families, families of bandits, nationalists in hiding, bandits who have served their sentences and have been given legal status but continue their activities, and their family members, as well as families who provide assistance to bandits” were to be permanently deported from the territory of the Estonian SSR. Most of those deported had a hard time in comprehending what it was they were supposedly guilty of. The employment of ideological phrases like “kulak”, “nationalist”, “bandit” and “counterrevolutionary” served to obfuscate the real reasons this was being done. After Estonia was reoccupied by the Soviet Union in 1944, Petseri County as well as Estonian territory on the eastern bank of the Narva River was annexed to the Russian SSR. Russia’s Pskov Oblast also grew in the area to the southeast of Estonia at the expense of the territory of the Republic of Latvia. The deportations carried out in these areas in May of 1950, involving the removal of 1,563 Estonians and Latvians (425 families) served the purpose of cleansing the area of non-Russians.
The last mass deportations from Estonia took place during 1951, when members of prohibited in the USSR religious groups from the Baltic countries, Moldavia, the Western Ukraine and Byelorussia were banished on the basis of an edict adopted by a Special Council of the Soviet Ministry of Security. This came to be called “the deportation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses”. 281 persons were seized and taken away from Estonia. The total number of deportees was 2,619 persons. Many of those were women and children.
A number of lesser campaigns took place between the major deportations. During October of 1945, 18 families were forcibly removed to Tjumen Oblast (51 persons), 37 families in November (87 persons), and 37 families in December (91 persons). Since these were family members of “traitors of the homeland”, they were to be sent away for a period of five years on the basis of a decision of a Special Council. During 1948–1950, a number of Ingrian Finns were also deported. This ethnic group, which had suffered repressions at the hands of the Soviets during and after the war, had made an attempt to take up residence in Estonia.
After the war (up until the death of Stalin), 30,000 persons were arrested in Estonia. About a third of them perished, which was a somewhat lower figure – proportionately speaking – than those who had received the same treatment before the war. Of the 23,000 persons deported after the war, approximately 3,000 perished. About 2,000 resistance fighters died in Estonia in combat with the occupation forces. After the death of Stalin, direct resistance to the Soviet authorities subsided, to be replaced by new forms of resistance. The Soviet regime itself ceased to engage in repressions on a large collective scale. Political arrests would continue, however, but at an incrementally lesser level. During the 1953–1988 period, some 500 persons were arrested in Estonia on political grounds.
Deportations – Integral Part of Soviet Domestic Policies
In Russia, deportations as political campaigns have a long tradition. Soviet Russia started in 1919 with the deportation of the Cossacks, and the repressions of the 1930’s that were carried out in the course of collectivization are well known. In this way, national and social groups, which had been chosen as targets, were subordinated to state terror, a terror of this magnitude was meant to create a constant sense of fear among the people, and thereby make them submissive to the ruling regime. In the 1930’s the “cleansing” of the western borders of the Soviet Union commenced; in March of that year, a 22-km area along the border of the Leningrad oblast was almost totally freed of “socially dangerous” residents. Similar operations were repeated in 1935–36. Thousands of Estonians who lived on the territory of the Soviet Union were also repressed during these operations.
A new wave of deportations started in 1940, when the Soviet Union occupied Western Ukraine and Western Belarus. These areas were “cleansed” of Poles and foreign citizens. From February to June 1940, about 276,000 people were deported from these areas. The next campaign, in the spring and summer of 1941, also included the territories of Moldavia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which had meanwhile been occupied.
After war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1941, and in the following year of 1942, German and Finnish minorities throughout the Soviet Union were resettled. Prior to that, in addition to the Cossacks, the Koreans, Jews and Iranians had suffered the same fate. In 1943–44, and even later, the total deportation of specific nationalities was carried out.
The Kalmyks, Chechens, the Ingush, Tatars and other Crimean peoples, Turks and others were the targets.
The end of the war in 1945 brought new repressions instead of peace and stability. The victims included everyone who had shown a readiness to cooperate in any manner with the German authorities in the areas that had been occupied by Germany. Mass deportations continued until the middle of the 1950’s, encompassing a total of 6 million Soviet residents. This does not include war prisoners, or those who had been taken to work in the Third Reich, about 3.2 million people, and who were repatriated during the first months after the war and sent into exile directly from the filtration camps.
For most people, a deportee is an exiled person. Officially, the deportees were divided into different categories, and the majority of deportations were carried out in four different ways. In Russian these means of deportation were named as follows: ???????, ??????, ??????????? ?????????, ?????? ?? ?????????, which are quite complicated to translate without some additional explanation. In the case of the first two, we are dealing mainly with principal or secondary punishments that were implemented by the courts or Special Councils against guilty parties, respectively for 5 years (???????) or 3 to 10 years (??????). Therefore, we can call these exiles with a set term or exiles.
The third means of deportation – special deportation (??????????? ?????????) was implemented for those who, by governmental decree, were sent to locations controlled by security organs, either forever or for a specific period. Most of the deportees from Estonia belonged to this category, although with some exceptions: Those convicted and deported in 1940–41 belonged to the group without a term, while those deported in 1949 and thereafter were among those who were exiled forever. Also included in the category of people sent into exile forever were Germans (also those who returned to the Soviet Union during the course of repatriation), foreigners, and stateless people, the Kalmyks, Chechens, the Ingush, Turks exiled from Georgia, Kurds, the Crimean Tartars exiled from Crimea, Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, partisans exiled from Ukraine (1944), along with their helpers and family members. The list would become too drawn out if we were to mention all those who belonged to this category.
The fourth most popular means of punishment, being sent into forced exile (?????? ?? ?????????), was implemented starting in February of 1948, against those who were freed after serving their terms in special camps and prisons, but also against spies, saboteurs, terrorists, opponents of the Communist Party (Trotskyites, right-wingers, Menshevites, Social-revolutionaries, anarchists, nationalists, White Guards, etc.) and against people that were considered to be dangerous due to their anti-Soviet connections and activities, but whose date of liberation fell into the war period.
Deportations from Estonia 1941
The 1941 deportations from Estonia were part of the “cleansing” operations in the newly occupied areas along the Soviet Union’s western border. The direct decision for mass repressions in Estonia was made in the first half of May 1941, with joint decree No. 1299–526ss of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Soviet of the People’s Commissariat that was entitled “Measures for Cleansing the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian SSRs of Anti-Soviet and Socially Dangerous Elements”. Politicians, higher officials, military men, members of the Defense League, police officers, entrepreneurs, landowners and their families were among the primary repression victims.
The collection of information on possible political enemies had started immediately after the occupation of Estonia. For this purpose, archives were purposefully examined, agents recruited from all possible walks of life, and simple accusations – an inappropriate anecdote, subversive story, etc. – were fixed.
Boris Kumm, the People’s Commissar for State Security, Andrei Murro, the People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs, and the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Estonian Communist Party, Karl Säre was the staff that formed the general leadership of the deportation operation in Estonia. For the direct preparatory work and execution of the deportations, an operational staff for the Republic was established: People’s Commissars Kumm and Murro, Deputy People’s Commissars for Security, Aleksei Škurin and Venjamin Gulst (a member of the operational staff for the management of county-level “troikas”), as well as Rudolf James, the head of the 2nd Department of the People’s Commissariat for Security. On June 4th, county-level troikas were created of agents from the security and internal affairs departments.
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An important role was played by the Communist Party, which informed the local party leaders, and through them, recruited Party and Communist Youth League activists to directly participate in the operation. Functionaries from the Communist Party headquarters were sent to the countryside during the execution of the operation to implement Party control.
During the night before June 14th, the actual execution of the deportations commenced. The number of people to be deported from Estonia was 11,102. On the evening of June 13th, local activists had been invited to meetings under various pretexts, where they were directed by security and militia personnel to arrest people. Due to a shortage of security operative agents and militia, reinforcements had been brought from Leningrad, and in emergency situations, Red Army soldiers were also used. By the morning, the majority of the detainees had been gathered in the specified railway stations. The report of the Petseri County Committee of the Estonian Communist Party stated optimistically – on the next day “everyone was very tired from the sleepless night and the work, but the mood was fresh and everyone was ready to fulfill any and all new assignments”.
Today it is not possible to say exactly how many people were deported in June of 1941. Based on different information, the number is between 9,000 and 10,000.
However, June 14th alone cannot be considered to be the anniversary of the 1941 deportations. Apparently, new deportation operations were planned for July, which due to the war that commenced between Germany and Russia, was only carried out on the islands of western Estonia. A considerably more extensive deportation took place on the islands from July 1–3. There was not time to deport the majority of the women and children captured during the operation, and they were released as the front approached.
According to information to date, up to 10,861 people were captured during the operations in June and July. Of these, a couple of hundred were killed before being deported; the men were arrested and sent to prison camps; the women and children deported. Although allegedly so-called “anti-Soviet elements” were being dealt with, over 1/3 of the deportees were minors.
On June 17th, the trains, with 490 wagons in all, left Estonia by way of Narva and Irboska. The majority of the deportees were taken to the Kirov and Novosibirsk oblasts. 60% of the women and children died of hunger, cold and illness, and over 90% of the men arrested and sent to the GULAG were killed or died in the camps.
March 1949 Deportations
On January 29, 1949, the USSR Soviet of Ministers adopted decree No. 390–138ss, which obligated the USSR State Security Ministry (SSM) to exile forever the kulaks and peoples’ enemies from the territory of the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian SSRs. To fulfill the decree, the SSM was to guarantee the detention of the deportees and their delivery to the stations, the USSR Interior Ministry (IM) was responsible for the convoy and transportation of the deportees. They were also responsible for guarding the deportees on the journey, for administrative supervision at the destination and employment in Siberia.
Lieutenant General Pjotr Burmak, head of the USSR SSM Internal Forces was named to head the operation. A temporary headquarters was organized in Riga, and First Deputy of the USSR Security Minister Ogoltsov was sent, who started to receive detailed information on the progress of the operation. Lieutenant General Afanassi Blinov, Deputy of the USSR Security Minister was sent to Tallinn, and Lieutenant General Nikolai Gorlinski, Deputy of Security Minister was sent to Vilnius. In Estonia, Boriss Kumm, the ESSR Minister of Security and Major General Jermolin, the USSR SSM representative in the Estonian SSR, who commanded a 12-member operational staff that carried out orders, coordinated the deportations.
The primary assignment of the headquarters formed in the countryside was to compile the detailed deportation plans and confirm operational maps and outlines, which reflected calculations on the operative agents and military personnel necessary for the operation, as well as the necessary vechicles, railway wagons, quantities of fuel, weapons, loading stations for the deportees, formation locations for the troop trains, etc.
On March 12th, USSR Minister of the Interior Kruglov gave the order to commence the operation. On March 13th, First Deputy of the USSR Security Minister Ogoltsov approved the plan for Estonia, which prescribed the exile of 7,500 kulak and bandit families. Based on the information received from the countryside, the SSM compiled dossiers of people’s enemies and kulaks. On March 17th, the 24-point activity plan for ESSR IM operation “Priboi” was completed. To prevent disturbances, a network of agents and informers was activated. All outsiders, suspicious people or those without documents in inhabited areas, public places or on roads were checked, and could be detained, if necessary.
According to Kumm’s plan, 1,987 operational groups were to be organized to carry out the operation, these included 2,611 operative agents, 2,867 men from SSM and IM forces, 3,053 fighters from the Destruction Battalions and 9,375 local activists and checked collective farmers, who were partially armed and dealt mainly with giving instructions, as well as recording and expropriating the possessions of the deportees. About 6,000 operative agents and soldiers were brought to Estonia from outside. The events at the locations were conducted under the direction of security operative agents. On March 24th, the Party Committees mobilized Party members, Communist Youth and other activists using Party meetings or training as an excuse. The assembled were given their instructions immediately before the beginning of the operation.
Between 9 pm and 5 am during the night before March 25th, the troop trains waiting in Pskov and Gatshina stations were directed to loading stations in Estonia. Operation “Priboi” started in the early morning of March 25th; at 4 am in the capitals; at 6 am in the countryside. The operation was to be completed within 72 hours.
In Estonia, 19 troop trains were formed to transport the deportees. Of these nine troop trains were directed to Novosibirsk oblast, six troop trains to Karsnoyarsk krai, two to Omsk oblast, and two to Irkutsk oblast. About 21,000 people in total were deported from Estonia, of whom the most numerous were 7 year olds. A little over 10% were men of working age. About 15% were older then 60, including some over 90. The deported included invalids, pregnant women and children exiled without their parents.
Creation of the Collective Farms
in the ESSR 1944–50
Collective farms(Russian, kollektivnoje hozjaistvo)were the main form of agricultural production in the Soviet Union. Simply explained, a collective farm was a group of people who were supposed to till the fields together, to own common means of production and divide the income equally. Under the ruling totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union, however, this idea turned out to be a farce. The peasants were forced to relinquish their land and means of production and join collective farms. There were no alternatives and resistance was punished. The collective farms were totally subordinated to the authority of the state and the Party; there was not the least bit of self-initiative or joint action. Everywhere they turned into badly managed collectives of extremely impoverished people. The collective farmers worked almost without compensation, while theoretically being owners and entrepreneurs. Since formally, collective farms corresponded to Communist ideology, then on principle, the Communist regime did not want to change anything. The deeper economic concept behind the collective farm system was to totally drain the rural economy through mandatory sales obligations and taxes in order to get resources for the industrialization of the state, for the building up of heavy and war industries. The collectivization regime was also the lever with which the regime totally subordinated a large part of society – the peasants – to its will.
During 1940–41, the first year of Soviet occupation, the new authority did not get around to collectivizing the farms in Estonia. A few collective farms were organized in the Russian villages in the border areas of Estonia. After the re-occupation of Estonian territory in 1944, collectivization was not hurried, because the authority the Communist Party (CP) representatives assigned to positions in the countryside was still weak and the implementation of the collectivization system, which was unpopular with Estonians, would have weakened it further. In order to win the support of certain segments of society, the land reform, which had not been completed in 1940, was completed. The reform was an attempt to show the farmers that the new authority was interested in the preservation of private farms, even the creation of new small farms, and it did not plan to create collective farms. At the same time, however, a progressive tax system was implemented, that decreed higher taxes for farms with more arable land. It was hoped that this tax system would be the main means of coercion for creating collective farms. The mandatory state purchase prices for the sales quotas were kept low by the central authorities. In this way, an artificial system was created, whereby the production capability of the farms was not sufficient to pay the taxes. The farms developed debts and tax debts incurred criminal liability. The farmers that ran into difficulties had no alternative but to relinquish their farms and animals. This entire farce was undertaken by the CP in order to make it seem that the creation of the collective farms was voluntarily. In order to understand this today, one must know that it was very important for the ruling regime in the Soviet Union to demonstrate that everything happening in the country occurred naturally and according to the will of the people, and at the same time, to conceal its true malevolence that actually aimed to control the entire society.
The decision to begin the collectivization of the farm economy in the Baltic republics was approved by the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee in May of 1947. According to the written word, the creation of the collective farms was to be voluntary and for ideological reason, and the first collective farms were to be formed by the owners of small farms. The owners of large farms, or kulaks, were, by nature, antagonistic to Soviet authority, and were not to be allowed on collective farms. The first collective farm in the ESSR was established on August 23, 1947 in Saaremaa and named after Viktor Kingissepp. From the beginning, the creation of collective farms progressed with difficulty. In December of 1947, the ECP Central Committee reported to the CPSU Central Committee that, of 17 planned collective farms; it has been possible to establish only 5. Although more were added in January of 1948, this did not improve the situation. Not a single collective farm had been established in Virumaa, Viljandimaa or Hiiumaa by that time.
After the visit to Estonia of a special commission sent from Moscow in January of 1948 and their criticism of the ECP, the ECP Central Committee took the matter more seriously (taxes were raised in July of 1948), but the tempo of collectivization still remained very slow. By the end of the year, the percentage of peasant farms included into collective farms had risen to 8%. Negative propaganda against the collective farms was provided by Russian collective farmers from the Western regions of the Soviet Union who, due to famine, has started to wander in search of food (in Estonia they were called bag boys), and the demobilized Russian soldiers from Russia who had remained in Estonia (there were about 10,000 of them working on the land in Estonia). To the question of why he didn’t return to his birthplace, one Russian farmer answered: “Why should I go there, there are only collective farms and famine. Due to collectivization, it’s not possible to live there.” The agitators sent by the ECP to convince the farmers to join the collective farms, were told by the farmers: “You have only lived in Russia for one year, but we have been told about collective farms by a person who was born and lived on one and knows the situation thoroughly.” Propaganda praising the collectivization system was totally ineffectual in Estonia.
The breakthrough in collectivization was made by the March deportations of 1949. Forcing farmers into collective farms was the main goal of these deportations, and this was successfully accomplished. An atmosphere of total terror was created by the deportations. The massive creation of collective farms already started on the day of the deportations, when cars drove around the countryside. The choice was simple and clear, into a collective farm here or in Siberia. The collectivization took on such a pace that it surpassed the collectivization tempo of Soviet Russia in the 1920’s. By the end of the year, 70% of farms had been collectivized. The remainder was the small farms whose owners didn’t have reason to fear being labeled kulaks and to be sent to Siberia, and who had some other source of income that helped them to pay the agricultural taxes. With the implementation of new higher tax rates in January of 1950, this portion was also eliminated. By the middle of 1950, already 82 percent of the farms were collectivized, and by the end of the year, this rose to 92 percent. With this, the state authority could consider collectivization to be complete.
Estonian Communist Party Membership
1940 – 1990
After the 1924 uprising, Communist activities had been successfully curbed in the Republic of Estonia and the underground activities of the Estonian Communist Party (ECP) were marginal. In 1938, the Communists who had been imprisoned earlier were granted amnesty. The number of underground Communists in Estonia before June of 1940, totaled 120–130, considerably less than in Latvia (about 400) or Lithuania (1,220). The first new members were accepted at the end of June and the beginning of July, when the Party was formally still an illegal organization. Among the first were: Neeme Ruus, Nigol Andresen, Johannes Vares-Barbarus. Apparently according to a plan from Moscow, the number of party members was to be increased to 1,500 by August 1. The sudden increase in the number of Party members was undoubtedly part of the rapid Sovietization of Estonia in July that was announced by Ždanov. In addition to the simplified acceptance of new members, the rush also resulted in a so-called open door policy. By the middle of August, the necessary number of Party members had been recruited, and rapid “mobilization” was replaced with the normal strictly regulated procedures. This, however, caused new problems, and in order to solve the situation, on March 10, 1941, the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee approved the acceptance of temporary procedures in the Baltic states. Communists arriving from the Soviet Union were given the opportunity to make recommendations, and based on the same procedures, the Party could accept individuals who had arrived in Estonia from the Soviet Union.
During the “open door” period, a number of unsuitable people ended up in the Party, and already in November-December of 1940, a purge of the ranks took place in the course of issuing new Party membership cards. 500–600 people were left behind the Party’s doors. As of January 1, 1941, the ECP had 1,169 members, and 867 candidates, for a total of 2,036 Communists, of whom 75% were Estonian, 23% Russian, and 2% of other nationalities. By June 1, 1941, 3,732 Party members were registered in Estonia, of them 2,576 enrolled by the ECP (including those coming from the Soviet Union and joining the Party in Estonia) and 1,156 Communists that had arrived from the Soviet Union.
The German-USSR war scattered the ECP organization. Of the 3,751 Communists registered on July 1, 1941, the fate of 3,172 is known: 1,459 were evacuated to the Soviet Union; 595 were mobilized in the first months of the war or joined partisan units; 382 fell in battle in Estonia during 1941; 729 remained behind the German lines on their own and 114 of them survived. After the war, three-quarters of them were expelled from the party due to inactivity. During the war, in one way or another, 40–50% of the pre-war membership of the ECP was out of action.
After the re-occupation of Estonia the Party immediately started to assemble its ranks. As of November 1, 1944, there were 1,949 Communists registered in 120 local ECP organizations. At that time, a relatively larger number of local Party organizations (39) operated in the SaRK (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) and RJK (State Security Committe)systems, the remainder in the ESSR Party and Soviets apparatus, and only four operated elsewhere. By January 1, 1945, there was already a total of 2,409 Communists. To expand their influence among workers, Party members working in central organizations were assigned to work in larger enterprises, where they were supposed to deal with Communist educational work. In July of 1947, to increase the influence of the Party in the countryside, the ECP Central Committee decided to create municipal Party Committees. By November of 1948, however, there were municipal committees in only 108 municipales out of 236.
By the end of 1948 there were 16,650 Communists registered in the ECP, of these 7,289 (44%) were Estonian, of whom only 2,368 had been enrolled into the Party in Estonia. Looking at the nationality composition of the ECP Central Committee and its apparatus, we see that the majority (about 2/3) was Estonian, but this also included “Russian Estonians” who came from the Soviet Union. At this time, the Party could not create a base of support for itself among the local residents, and in reality it could only rely on the new civil service that accompanied Soviet authority. 70% of the members were officials of either Party or Soviet institutions or in the management of enterprises. 15% of Party members were workers, 3.5% were peasants.
During the first post-war years of 1944–48, the main source of growth for the membership (80%) was demobilized soldiers and Communists arriving from the Soviet Union. Of these, the majority who joined the Party in Estonia were Estonians returning from the Soviet Union or at least those who had spent the war in the Soviet rear. The reason was mutual reluctance: the Party did not trust those who had lived in Estonia during the German occupation, and the people were not yet convinced of the irresistible force of the Party.
A significant change took place in 1949, and the connection to the March deportation is clear. On the one hand, a “cleansing” had been carried out among the people, and it wasn’t necessary to start repressing fresh Party members, and among those remaining it was easier to start finding people suitable for the Party. On the other hand, the “terror and charity” of the Party had been amply demonstrated to the people. At that time, to the majority, the supremacy of the occupation power seemed irrefutable, and this fear forced the people closer to authority. Numerically this break was still not as total as when the peasants were forced into collective farms. Rather, it was primarily a change in attitude: the Party was ready to accept local Estonians and increasingly more of them turned toward cooperation with the Communists. The number of Estonians in the Party started to rise significantly in 1951–1953, by which time the number was over 9,000.
The Party made an unexpected turn in 1952–1953. In 1952, the increase in membership was halved. The reason is not apparent from Party statistics. It is possible that more people from Estonia returned to the Soviet Union than arrived from there. In 1953, the Party membership has a unique decline, not taking into account the final struggles of the Party at the beginning of the 1990’s.
In that year, the number of members decreases by about 1,100, of which only 100 were Estonians. By considering the number of Party members, by category, along with the change in power in the Soviet Union (Stalin’s death and Beria’s temporary ascendancy, along with his new national policy, and then his disappearance), it seems likely that the decline in Party members in Estonia took place primarily on account of Russian internal affairs and security workers.
The short-term decline is followed by a rapid increase. If 1949 had brought the first break, then the shock of Hungary in 1956 is vividly reflected in the Party statistics: the number of Estonians joining the Party increases significantly and more than doubled – from only a few hundred new members per year to 1,000–1,500. These are still people who, as teenagers or in their youth, had experienced the loss of statehood, war and terror.
Increases of Estonians at this level continue until the end of the 1980’s. The active enrollment of Estonians in the Party results in the fact that by 1961, Estonians are the largest nationality group in the ECP. By this time, the number of Communists has risen to 37,848, of which 18,604 (49%) are Estonian. By the end of 1962, the proportion of Estonians is already more than half (50.5%), which will continue until 1988.
The beginning of the 1960’s is noteworthy for other reasons as well. In the subsequent period, the Party starts to accept those whom it had formerly repressed. The Party had the power to elevate those it had humiliated. Many limits for the formerly politically repressed were eased (they were able to acquire higher education).
An arbitrary boundary can be drawn in the middle of the 1970’s. Now “Stalin’s children” are ready to join the Party, people who have not seen war, for whom the worst terror was back in their childhood, and whose youth coincides with the “Thaw of the 60’s”. For them, joining the party is not motivated by fear, but it is a natural step on their career ladder. By 1976, ECP membership had grown to 84,250, of these 43,742 (52%) are Estonians. A symbolic milestone for the Party is 1981/1982 when the membership reaches 100,000.
The ECP membership achieved its peak in 1988, with 112,925 members, including 56,654 (50.1%) Estonians. The enrollment of Estonians declined markedly beginning in 1987, when the 1,000-member increase of the previous year was reduced to only 400. In the fermenting political boiler, people perhaps did not dare to decide what action to take.
1988, however, becomes the year for the beginning of the Party’s quick demise. In that year, about 800 Estonians leave the ranks of the Communist Party, but Russians also start to depart, so Estonians remain the largest group in the Party. In 1989 already 2,865 Estonians leave the Party. In 1990, the Party membership disappears; 41,541 Estonians leave and numerical predominance is left to the Russians, whose departure is markedly more reserved. On January 1, 1991, 11,452 Estonians remain on the Party’s membership rolls.