The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (Estonian: Eesti Nõukogude Sotsialistlik Vabariik; Russian: Эстонская Советская Социалистическая Республика, Estonskaya Sovetskaya Sotsalisticheskaya Respublika), often abbreviated as Estonian SSR or ESSR, was a republic of the Soviet Union, administered by and subordinated to the Government of the Soviet Union. The ESSR was initially established on the territory of the Republic of Estonia on July 21, 1940, following the invasion of Soviet troops on June 17, 1940 and the installation of a puppet government backed by the Soviet Union, which declared Estonia a Soviet state. The Estonian SSR was subsequently incorporated into the USSR on August 9, 1940. This territory was also occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944.
Most countries did not recognise the incorporation of Estonia de jure and only recognised its Soviet government de facto or not at all. A number of these countries continued to recognize Estonian diplomats and consuls who still functioned in the name of their former governments. This policy of non-recognition gave rise to the principle of legal continuity, which held that de jure, Estonia remained an independent state under illegal occupation throughout the period 1940-91.
Independence of the Republic of Estonia was reestablished on August 20, 1991.
On September 24, 1939 warships of the Soviet Navy appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. Moscow demanded that Estonia allow the USSR to establish military bases and station 25,000 troops on Estonian soil for the duration of the European war. The government of Estonia accepted the ultimatum signing the corresponding mutual assistance agreement on September 28, 1939.
On June 12, 1940, according to the director of the Russian State Archive of the Naval Department Pavel Petrov (C.Phil.), the order for total military blockade of Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet.
On June 14, the Soviet military blockade of Estonia went into effect while the world’s attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany. Two Soviet bombers downed a Finnish passenger airplane "Kaleva" flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki.
On June 16, Soviet NKVD troops raided border posts in Estonia (along with Lithuania and Latvia). Soviet leader Joseph Stalin claimed that the 1939 mutual assistance treaties had been violated, and gave six hour ultimatums for new governments to be formed in each country, including lists of persons for cabinet posts provided by the Kremlin. The Estonian government decided, according to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, to not respond to the Soviet ultimatums by military means. Given the overwhelming Soviet force both on the borders and inside the country, the order was given not to resist, to avoid bloodshed and open war.
On June 17, the Red Army emerged from its military bases in Estonia and, aided by an additional 90,000 Soviet troops, took over the country, occupying the territories of the Republic of Estonia,, and organizing and supporting communist demonstrations all over the country. Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League surrendered according to the orders and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Independent Signal Battalion stationed at Raua Street in Tallinn showed resistance. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. There was one dead, several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Independent Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed.
By June 18, military operations of the occupation of the Baltic States were complete. Thereafter, state administrations were liquidated and replaced by Soviet cadres, followed by mass repression. The Time Magazine reported on June 24, that "Half a million men and countless tanks" of the Soviet Red Army "moved to safeguard [Russia's] frontier against conquest-drunk Germany," one week before the Fall of France.
On June 21, 1940, the Soviet occupation of the Republic of Estonia was complete. That day, the President Konstantin Päts (deported to Ufa on July 30 and later arrested) was pressured into affirming the Andrei Zhdanov appointed puppet government of Johannes Vares, following the arrival of demonstrators accompanied by Red Army troops with armored vehicles to the Presidential palace. The Flag of Estonia was replaced with a Red flag on Pikk Hermann tower.
On July 14-15 rigged, extraordinary, single-party parliamentary elections were held where all but pro-Communist candidates were outlawed. The goal of occupation authorities was to maximize turnout to legitimize the new system, which included stamping passports in voting facilities for future identification of voting, along with a threat running in Estonia's main daily paper, the Rahva Hääl, that "It would be extremely unwise to shirk elections . . . Only people's enemies stay at home on election day." Each ballot carried only the Soviet-assigned candidate's name, with the only way to register opposition being to strike out that name on the ballot. According to official election results, the Communist "Union of the Estonian Working People" bloc won 92.8 % of the votes with 84.1 % of the population attending the elections. Time Magazine reported that, following the elections, tribunals were set up to try and punish "traitors to the people", which included opponents of Sovietization and those who did not vote for incorporation in the Soviet Union.
Once the elections were concluded, authorities which had previously denied any intention of setting up a Soviet regime, then openly spoke of Sovietization and incorporation into the Soviet Union. On July 21 the parliament (Riigikogu) proclaimed the formation of the Estonian SSR, and, despite the promises given before the election, petitioned to join the Soviet Union on July 22. In response, the Estonian SSR was formally incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 6, 1940, and nominally became the 16th constituent republic of the USSR. (On July 16, 1956, the Karelo-Finnish SSR was demoted to the Karelian ASSR; from then on until 1991, the Estonian SSR was considered the 15th constituent republic.)
On July 23, 1940, the Estonian SSR nationalized all land, banks and major industrial enterprises in Estonia. Peasants were only allotted small plots of land during the land reforms. Small businesses were also later nationalized. The occupation brought with it colonisation. According to some Western scholars, relations between the Soviet Union and Estonian SSR were those of internal colonialism.
All banks and accounts were essentially nationalized; a lot of industrial machinery was disassembled and relocated to other Soviet territories. Before retreating in 1941, Red Army, following the scorched earth policies, burnt most industrial constructions, destroying power plants, vehicles and cattle. Millions of dollars worth of goods were also moved from Estonia to Russia during the evacuation of 1941.
During the first year of Soviet occupation (1940–1941) over 8,000 people, including most of the country's leading politicians and military officers, were arrested. About 2,200 of the arrested were executed in Estonia, while most others were moved to prison camps in Russia, from where very few were later able to return.
On July 19, 1940, the Commander-in-chief of the Estonian Army Johan Laidoner was captured by the NKVD and deported together with his wife to Penza, RSFSR. Laidoner died in the Vladimir Prison Camp, Russia on March 13, 1953. The President of Estonia, Konstantin Päts was arrested and deported to Ufa on July 30. He died in a psychiatric hospital in Kalinin (currently Tver) in Russia in 1956.
800 Estonian officers, about half of the total, were executed, arrested or starved to death in prison camps.
A total of 59,732 people is estimated to have been deported from Estonia during the period between July 1940 and June 1941. This included 8 former heads of state and 38 ministers from Estonia, 3 former heads of state and 15 ministers from Latvia, and the then president, 5 prime ministers and 24 other ministers from Lithuania.
The Soviet 1940 occupation of Estonia decimated the local economy, as Moscow began nationalizing private industries and collectivizing smallholding farms. Most of the larger businesses and half of Estonia's housing were nationalized. Savings were destroyed with an imposed artificially low exchange rate for the Estonian kroon to the Soviet ruble.
According to Sergei Isakov, almost all societies, newspapers, organizations of ethnic Russians in Estonia were closed and their activists persecuted.
Other ethnic Russians in Estonia arrested and executed by different Soviet War Tribunals in 1940–1941: Ivan Salnikov, Pavel Mironov, Mihhail Arhipov, Vassili belugin, Vladimir Strekoytov, Vasili Zhilin, Vladimir Utekhin, Sergei Samennikov, Ivan Meitsev, Ivan Yeremeyev, Konstatin Bushuyev, Yegor Andreyev, Nikolai Sausailov, Aleksandr Serpukhov, Konstatin Nosov, Aleksandr Nekrasov, Nikolai Vasilev-Muroman, Aleksei Sinelshikov, Pyotr Molonenkov, Grigory Varlamov, Stepan Pylnikov, Ivan Lishayev, Pavel Belousev, Nikolai Gusev, Leonid Sakharov, Aleksander Chuganov, Fyodor Dobrovidov, Lev Dobek, Andrei Leontev, Ivan Sokolov, Ivan Svetlov, Vladimir Semyonov, Valentin Semenov-Vasilev, Vasili Kamelkov, Georgi Lokhov, Aleksei Forlov, Ivan Ivanov, Vasili Karamsin, Aleksandr Krasilnikov, Aleksandr Zhukov, etc. Full list at:
Immediately following the June 1940 Estonian occupation by the Soviet Union and forcible incorporattion as a result of a Soviet-supported Communist coup d'état, the only foreign powers to recognize the Soviet annexation were Nazi Germany and Sweden.
The United States, United Kingdom and several other countries considered the annexation of Estonia by the USSR illegal following the Stimson Doctrine—a stance that made the doctrine an established precedent of international law. Although the US, the UK, the other Allies of World War II recognized the occupation of the Baltic states by USSR at Yalta Conference in 1945 de facto, they retained diplomatic relations with the exiled representatives of the independent Republic of Estonia, and never formally recognized the annexation of Estonia de jure.
Pre-Perestroika Soviet sources reflecting Soviet historiography described the events in 1939 and 1940 as follows: in a former province of the Russian Empire, the Province of Estonia (Russian: Эстляндская губерния), Soviet power was established in the end of October 1917. The Estonian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Narva on November 29, 1918 but fell to counter-revolutionaries and the White Armies in 1919. In June 1940 Soviet power was restored in Estonia as workers overthrew the fascist dictatorship in the country.
According to Soviet sources, pressure from the working people of Estonia forced its government to accept the 1939 proposal for a mutual assistance treaty by the Soviet Union. On September 28, 1939 the Pact of Mutual Assistance was signed which allowed the USSR to station a limited number of Soviet Army units in Estonia. Economic difficulties, dissatisfaction with the Estonian government's policies "sabotaging fulfillment of the Pact and the Estonian government", and political orientation towards Nazi Germany lead to a revolutionary situation in June 1940. A note from the Soviet government to the Estonian Government suggested that they stuck strictly to the Pact of Mutual Assistance. To guarantee the fulfillment of the Pact, additional military units entered Estonia, welcomed by the Estonian workers who demanded the resignation of the Estonian government. On June 21 under the leadership of the Estonian Communist Party political demonstrations by workers were held in Tallinn, Tartu, Narva and other cities. On the same day the fascist government was overthrown, and the People's government lead by Johannes Vares was formed. On July 14-15 1940 elections for the Estonian Parliament, the State Assembly (Riigikogu) were held. The "Working People’s Union", created by an initiative of the Estonian Communist Party received with 84.1% turnout 92.8% of the votes.. On July 21, 1940 the State Assembly adopted the declaration of the restoration of Soviet power in Estonia and proclaimed the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. On July 22 the declaration of Estonia's wish to join the USSR was ratified and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR was petitioned accordingly. The request was approved by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on August 6, 1940. On July 23 the State Assembly proclaimed all land to be people's property while banks and heavy industry were nationalized. On August 25 the State Assembly adopted the Constitution of the Estonian SSR, renamed itself the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR and approved the Council of People's Commissars of the Estonian SSR.
Although initially the Germans were perceived as liberators from the USSR and its repressions by those Estonians who hoped for the restoration of independence, it was soon realized that they were but another occupying power. Germans pillaged the country for the war effort and unleashed the Holocaust. Estonia was incorporated into the German province of Ostland.
The Soviet Union retook Estonia in 1944, thereafter occupying it for nearly another half century. This began when the Red Army re-occupied Estonian Ingria, Narva, and eastern Vaivara Parish in the Battle of Narva, Southeast Estonia in the Tartu Offensive and the rest of the country in the Baltic Offensive. Faced with the country being re-occupied by the Soviet Army, 80,000 people fled from Estonia by sea to Finland and Sweden in 1944. 25,000 Estonians reached Sweden and a further 42,000 Germany. During the war about 8,000 Estonian Swedes and their family members had emigrated to Sweden. After the retreat of the Germans, about 30,000 partisans remained in hiding in the Estonian forests, waging a guerrilla war until the early 1950s.
After re-occupation, the Soviet nationalization policy of 1940 was reimposed, as well as the collectivization of farms. Over 900,000 hectares were expropriated in the few years following reoccupation, while much of that land was given to new settlers from Russia or other locations in the Soviet Union. Rapid collectivization began in 1946, followed in 1947 by a crackdown against kulak farmers. The kulak repression started as oppressive taxation, but eventually led to mass deportations. Those who resisted collectivization were killed or deported. More than 95% of farms were collectivized by 1951.
The 1949 mass deportation of about 21,000 people broke the back of the partisan movement. 6,600 partisans gave themselves up in November 1949. Later on, the failure of the Hungarian uprising broke the morale of 700 men still remaining under cover. According to Soviet data, up until 1953 20,351 partisans were defeated. Of these, 1,510 perished in the battles. During that period, 1,728 members of the Red Army, NKVD and the militia were killed by the "forest brothers". August Sabbe, the last surviving "brother" in Estonia, was discovered and killed by KGB agents in 1978.
During the first post-war decade of Soviet rule, Estonia was governed by Moscow via Russian-born Estonian governors. Born into the families of native Estonians in Russia, the latter had obtained their education in the Soviet Union during the Stalinist administration at the end of the 1930s. Many of them had fought in the Red Army (in the Estonian Rifle Corps), few of them had mastered the Estonian language.
Although the United States and the United Kingdom, the allies of the USSR against Nazi Germany during World War II, recognized the occupation of the Republic of Estonia by USSR at Yalta Conference in 1945 de facto, the governments of the rest of the western democracies did not recognize it de jure according to the Sumner Welles' declaration of July 23, 1940 Some of these countries recognized Estonian diplomats who still functioned in many countries in the name of their former governments. These consuls persisted in this anomalous situation until the ultimate restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991.
Immediately after the war, major immigration projects were undertaken, labeled "brotherly aid under Stalinist nationality policies". For postwar reconstruction, hundreds of thousands of Russophones were relocated into Estonia, mainly the cities. For example, during the years of 1945-1950, the total urban population count grew from 267,000 to 516,000; over 90% of the increase being fresh immigrants.
A special care was taken to change the ethnic structure of population, especially in Ida-Viru County. For example, a policy of prioritising immigrants before returning war refugees in assigning dwelling quarters was adopted.
Estonian graveyards and monuments from the period of 1918-1944 were dismantled and destroyed. Among others, in the Tallinn Military Cemetery the majority of gravestones from 1918–1944 were destroyed by the Soviet authorities. This graveyard was then re-used by the Red Army after World War II.
Other cemeteries destroyed by the authorities during the Soviet era in Estonia include Baltic German cemeteries, Kopli cemetery (established in 1774), Mõigu cemetery and the oldest cemetery in Tallinn, the Kalamaja cemetery (from the 16th century). After the re-occupation of Estonia in 1944, the destruction of monuments from the Republic of Estonia, which had survived or had been restored during the German occupation, continued. On 15 April 1945, in Pärnu, a monument by Amandus Adamson, erected to 87 persons who had fallen in the Estonian War of Independence, was blown up. The destruction of war memorials continued for several years and occurred across all districts of the country. A comprehensive file concerning the monuments of the Estonian War of Independence, compiled by the Military Department of the EC(b)P Central Committee in April 1945, has been preserved in the Estonian State Archives. Monuments are listed by counties in this file and it specifies the amount of explosive and an evaluation concerning the transportation that were needed. An extract regarding Võrumaa reads:
"In order to carry out demolition works, 15 Party activists and 275 persons from the Destruction Battalion must be mobilised. 15 workers are needed for the execution of each demolition and 10 people are needed for protection... In order to carry out demolition works, 225 kg of TNT, 150 metres of rope/fuse and 100 primers are needed, since there is no demolition material on the spot. 11 lorries, which are available but which lack petrol, are needed for carrying the ruins away."
On May 21, 1947, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) authorized collectivization of Estonian agriculture. Initially it was implemented with great difficulties in the Baltic republics but it was facilitated by mass deportations of dissident farmers, termed 'kulaks'. As a result, by the end of April 1949, half of the remaining individual farmers in Estonia had joined kolkhozes. 99.3% of farms had been collectivised by 1957
Mass deportations of ethnic Estonians during the Soviet era together with migration into Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union resulted in the proportion of ethnic Estonians in the country decreasing from 88% in 1934 to 62% in 1989. While the Baltic republics had the highest living standard in the Soviet Union and high rates of industrialization, the ethnic Estonians in Estonian SSR (similarly to Latvians in Latvian SSR, but unlike Lithuanians in Lithuanian SSR) suffered a sharp decline of their proportion in the total population due to the large-scale immigration, mostly of Russians. While in 1934 the Estonians comprised 88 percent of the total population of Estonia, by 1959 and 1970 their number had decreased to 75 and 68 percent, respectively (and to 61.5% by 1989.)
This decline in percentage was especially severe among the urban and young populations. Within 11 years between 1959 and 1970 the proportion of Estonians in Tallinn declined by as much as 4%, from 60% to 56% of the total population. Population growth throughout the existence of the Estonian SSR was mainly due to immigration from other regions of the Soviet Union. Although the percentage of Estonians in the total population of the Estonian SSR declined due to Soviet migration policies, the total number of ethnic Estonians increased over the Soviet period as a whole. This was due to a positive natural growth rate of some 1 or 2 thousand per year. As an example, in 1970, the number of live births of Estonians was 14,429 and the number of deaths was 12,356, giving natural increase of 2,073 ethnic Estonians.
In 1940–1941 and 1944–1951 during the Soviet deportations from Estonia tens of thousands of Estonian citizens were forcibly resettled to Siberia. During the first year of occupation, 1940–1941, alone, an estimated 43,900 lives were irrecoverably lost, not counting refugees. The following three-year Nazi occupation brought with it a loss of 32,740 lives, again not counting refugees. Another 16,000 deaths were caused through Soviet repressions in the years following 1944.
In the year 1950, the major problems meriting medical research were declared to be tuberculosis, traumatism, occupational diseases and dysentery. In comparison to the war years, birth rate had increased, mortality (including infant mortality) decreased, and the birth rate again exceeded the death rate.
Despite the immense needs for research, the Faculty of Medicine at the Tartu State University (now University of Tartu) suffered from major purges, culminating after March 1950. Altogether, 56 staff of the university were purged; in the Faculty of Medicine, 12 professors of 17 were removed from their positions. They were replaced with less skilled but politically reliable staff.
A number of large-volume capital investments were undertaken by the Soviet central power to exploit resources on Estonian territory of Oil shale, lumber and, later, uranium ore, as part of the postwar reconstruction program. The first Five Year Plan of the occupation, called the fourth Five Year Plan, prescribed a total of 3.5 billion roubles of investments for enterprises in Estonia.
One of the important goals in this reformation of Estonia's economy was providing economic support to Leningrad. To this end, 40% of the total capital investments of the fourth Five Year Plan to be spent in Estonia were intended for investments in oil shale mining infrastructure. Gas-rich oil shale was delivered to Leningrad via a specially built pipeline starting from 1948; gas from this very same source did not reach Tallinn until 1953. In 1961, 62.5% of the gas produced was still delivered to Leningrad.
After Stalin's death, Party membership vastly expanded its social base to include more ethnic Estonians. By the mid-1960s, the percentage of ethnic Estonian membership stabilized near 50%.
Another 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. This heightened media environment was important in preparing Estonians for their vanguard role in extending perestroika during the Gorbachev era.
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.
Tallinn was selected the host of the sailing events which led to controversy since Western countries had not de jure recognized ESSR as part of USSR. In preparations, a number of sports and general infrastructure buildings were built, including Tallinn TV Tower, Pirita Yachting Centre and Linnahall.
During preparations to the Olympics, sports buildings were built in Tallinn, along with other general infrastructure and broadcasting facilities. This wave of investment included Tallinn TV Tower, Pirita Yachting Centre and Linnahall.
Alcoholism became a growing health issue. Up until 1985 and the beginning of glasnost, it was illegal to publish statistical data on alcohol sales. It is estimated that alcoholism peaked in 1982-1984, when consumption reached 11.2 litres of absolute alcohol per person per annum. (In comparison, in Finland during the same period consumption only 6-7 litres per person per annum).
By the beginning of the Gorbachev era, 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. By 1989 the political spectrum had widened, and new parties were formed and re-formed almost daily.
The republic's Supreme Soviet transformed into an authentic regional lawmaking body. This relatively conservative legislature passed an early declaration of sovereignty (November 16, 1988); a law on economic independence (May 1989) confirmed by the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet that November; a language law making Estonian the official language (January 1989); and local and republic election laws stipulating residency requirements for voting and candidacy (August, November 1989).
Although the majority of Estonia's large Russian-speaking diaspora of Soviet-era immigrants did not support full independence, they were divided in their goals for the republic. In March 1990 some 18% of Russian speakers supported the idea of a fully independent Estonia, up from 7% the previous autumn, and by early 1990 only a small minority of ethnic Estonians were opposed to full independence.
The first freely elected parliament during the Soviet era in Estonia had passed Estonian Sovereignty Declaration on November 16, 1989 , independence resolutions on May 8, 1990, and renamed the Estonian SSR the Republic of Estonia. On August 20, 1991 the Estonian parliament issued a Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union. On September 6, 1991, Supreme Soviet of the USSR recognized the independence of Estonia., immediately followed by the international recognitions of the Republic of Estonia.
In 1992, Heinrich Mark, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia in exile, presented his credentials to the newly elected President of Estonia Lennart Meri. On February 23, 1989 The flag of the Estonian SSR was lowered on Pikk Hermann, and replaced with the blue-black-white flag of Estonia on February 24, 1989.
The last Soviet troops withdrew from Estonia in August 1994.
By 1947, the private sector had entirely disappeared, accompanied by a rapid industrialization that occurred soon after Soviet reoccupation. Soviet planners expanded oil shale mining and processing in the late 1940s, taking over that industry in northeast section of Estonia. In the 1970s, the Soviet economy experienced stagnation, exacerbated by the growth of a shadow economy.
National income per capita was higher in Estonia than elsewhere in the USSR (44% above the Soviet average in 1968). Official Estonian sources maintain that Soviet rule had significantly slowed Estonia's economic growth, resulting in a wide wealth gap in comparison with its neighboring countries (e.g., Finland, Sweden). For example, Estonian economy and standard of living exceeded that in Finland prior to WWII. Despite Soviet and Russian claims of improvements in standards, even three decades after WWII Estonia was rife with housing and food shortages. Eastern Bloc economies experienced an inefficiency of systems without competition or market-clearing prices that became costly and unsustainable and they lagged significantly behind their western European counterparts in terms of per capita Gross Domestic Product. Estonia's 1990 per capita GDP was $10,733 compared to $26,100 for Finland. Estonian sources estimate the economic damage directly attributable to the second Soviet occupation (from 1945 to 1991) to lie in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars. Similarly, the damage to Estonian ecology were estimated at around 4 billion USD.
In the Soviet system, all local proceeds were initially appropriated into the federal budget at Moscow, and some of them were then invested back in the local economies. Thus, investment figures do not represent actual income; rather, they resemble the spending side of the national budget.
The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic did not have armed forces of its own. Because of the strategic geographical location, Estonia was considered as a strategic zone for the Soviet Armed Forces. The territory was therefore heavily militarized and added to the Soviet Baltic Military District which included a strong presence of the Soviet Air Defence, Navy and also the Strategic Rocket Forces. The Baltic Military District included the following units:
144th Guards Motor Rifle Division, (Tallinn); 182nd Guard Motorized
Rifle Regiment, (Klooga)
188th Guard Motorized Rifle Regiment, (Klooga); 254th Guard Motorized Rifle Regiment, (Tallinn)
148th Independent Recon-Battalion, (Klooga); 295th Independent Engineer-Battalion, (Klooga)
228th Tank Regiment, (Keila); 450th Artillery Regiment, (Klooga)
170th Naval Shturmovik Aviation Regiment, (Ämari);
321th Naval Shturmovik Aviation Regiment, (Ämari)
366th Interceptor Aviation Regiment, (Pärnu); 384th Interceptor Aircraft Regiment, (Tallinn)
425th Interceptor Aviation Regiment, (Haapsalu); 655th Interceptor Aviation Regiment, (Pärnu)
656th Interceptor Aviation Regiment, (Tapa); 66th Soviet Attack Air Regiment, (Kunda)
192th Military Transport Aviation Regiment, (Tartu); 196th Military Transport Aviation Regiment, (Tartu)
132nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment, (Tartu); 2nd Air-Defence Army
While views diverge on history of Estonia, the core of the controversy lies in the different interpretations of the historical events during World War II and after.
During the time of glasnost and the reassessment of Soviet history in USSR, the USSR condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Nazi Germany and itself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the restoration Republic of Estonia's sovereignty. (See History of Estonia: Regaining independence).
According to the European Court of Human Rights, Government of Estonia, EU, USA Estonia remained occupied by the Soviet Union until restoration of its independence in 1991 and the 48 years of Soviet occupation and annexation was never recognized as legal by the Western democracies.
At the same time revisionism in Russia has begun to raise fears among some historians that the Kremlin is trying to rewrite history in a way that risks playing down some of the less palatable events in the history of the Soviet Union.
Although it is evident from documentary evidence at the time that in all three Baltic States those who did not turn out to vote in the 1940 referendums were later summarily tried and executed on charges of treason, the Russian government continues to maintain that the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was legitimate and that the Soviet Union liberated the countries from the Nazis. It is commonly stated that the Soviet troops had entered the Baltics in 1940 following the agreements and with the consent of the then governments of the Baltic republics. They maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of the three Baltic states, therefore, the argument goes, the word 'occupation' can not be used. "The assertions about [the] 'occupation' by the Soviet Union and the related claims ignore all legal, historical and political realities, and are therefore utterly groundless." (Russian Foreign Ministry)
The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (Estonian: Eesti Nõukogude Sotsialistlik Vabariik; Russian: Эстонская Советская Социалистическая Республика, Estonskaya Sovetskaya Sotsalisticheskaya Respublika), often abbreviated as Estonian SSR or ESSR, was a republic of the Soviet Union, administered by and subordinated to the Government of the Soviet Union. The ESSR was initially established on the territory of the Republic of Estonia on July 21, 1940, following the invasion of Soviet troops on June 17, 1940 and the installation of a puppet government backed by the Soviet Union, which declared Estonia a Soviet state. The Estonian SSR was subsequently incorporated into the USSR on August 9, 1940.