27. Soviet Union/Estonia (1940-1991)

Crisis Phase (August 6, 1940-September 30, 1944):  The Soviet Union formally annexed Estonia on August 6, 1940.  Some 1,750 Estonians were killed as a result of resistance to Soviet troops, and some 7,450 Estonians were killed during the Soviet occupation.  Some 10,200 Estonians were deported to labor camps in Siberia beginning on June 14, 1941.  Some 5,700 of the deportees died during detention.  Some 35,000 Estonian men were mobilized into the Soviet military in July and August 1941, including some 3,000 men who died en route to the Soviet Union.  German troops invaded Estonia on July 5, 1941, and German troops captured Narva on August 17, 1941.  German troops captured Reval (Tallinn) on August 28, 1941.  Some 7,000 Estonian citizens were executed by German authorities, and some 31,360 Estonians were imprisoned by German authorities.  Some 6,270 of these individuals died during imprisonment. Some 3,350 Estonians fled as refugees to Finland between 1941 and 1943.  Soviet troops attacked Estonia beginning in February 1944.  Soviet military aircraft bombed Tallinn on March 9-10, 1944, resulting in the deaths of some 900 individuals.  Soviet troops captured Narva on July 26, 1944 and Tallinn on September 22, 1944.  German troops withdrew from Estonian beginning on September 17, 1944.  Former Prime Minister Juri Uluots, acting as provisional president of Estonia, appointed Otto Tief as prime minister on September 18, 1944.  Some 70,000 Estonians fled as refugees to Germany and Sweden (7,000 of these refugees died during their flight from the country).  Some 39,000 Estonians were killed, and some 250,000 individuals were displaced during the crisis.

Conflict Phase (October 1, 1944-December 31, 1956): Some 15,000 Estonian nationalists (“forest brothers”) waged an insurgency against Soviet troops beginning in October 1944.  More than 70,000 Estonians fled to Finland, Sweden, and Germany.  Soviet troops deported 20,700 Estonians to Siberia on March 25-26, 1949, including some 3,750 individuals who died during the deportations.  Some 30,000 Estonians were imprisoned for political reasons between 1944 and 1951, including some 6,300 individuals who died during imprisonment.  Soviet troops largely suppressed the “forest brothers” rebellion in 1956.  Some 19,000 Estonians were killed, and some 80,000 Estonians were displaced during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (January 1, 1957-September 6, 1991):  The European Parliament (EP) condemned the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries on January 12, 1983.  The Popular Front-PF (Rahvarinne) was established by Edgar Savisaar and Marju Lauristin on April 13, 1988.  Several thousand Estonians demonstrated in Tallinn against the 1940 Soviet annexation of Estonia on July 23, 1988.  Some 250,000 Estonians participated in a pro-independence demonstration in Tallinn on September 11, 1988.  The Estonian Supreme Soviet approved the Estonian Sovereignty Declaration on November 16, 1988, which declared that the Estonian government could disregard any Soviet law that infringed on Estonian laws.  On November 26, 1988, the Presidium of the Soviet Union announced that the declaration was unconstitutional. On December 7, 1988, the Estonian Supreme Soviet voted to reconfirm the constitutional amendment.  The Estonian Supreme Soviet approved legislature making Estonian the official language of the republic on January 18, 1989.  Ethnic Russians in Estonia demonstrated against discrimination on March 14, 1989.  The Estonian Supreme Soviet annulled the 1940 annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union on November 12, 1989.  Parliamentary elections were held on March 18, 1990, and the PF headed by Edgar Savisaar won a majority of seats.  The Estonian Supreme Council called for the independence of Estonia from the Soviet Union on March 30, 1990.  Edgar Savisaar was named prime minister on April 3, 1990.  On May 8, 1990, the Estonian parliament reinstated the 1938 Estonian constitution.  The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic became the Republic of Estonia on May 9, 1990.  Some 78 percent of Estonians voted for independence in a referendum on March 3, 1991.  The Estonian parliament declared Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union on August 20, 1991.  The government of Iceland provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to Estonia on August 22, 1991, and the European Community (EC) provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to Estonia on August 27, 1991.  The U.S. government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to Estonia on September 2, 1991.  The State Council of the Soviet Union accepted the independence of Estonia on September 6, 1991.

[Sources: Banks and Muller, 1998, 298-302; Ference, 1994, 337-391; Laar 1992; Raun 1991.]