Saksan ja Neuvostoliiton ulkoministerien von Ribbentropin ja Molotovin solmima hyökkäämättömyyssopimus salaisine lisäpöytäkirjoineen johti toisen maailmansodan syttymiseen ja pakotti Baltian maita ml. Viron myöntämään sotilastukikohtia alueeltaan Neuvostoliiton puna-armeijalle 28. syyskuuta 1939 solmitulla sopimuksella. Tukikohtakautta jatkui kesään 1940.
Ranskan luhistuttua Saksan hyökkäykseen touko-kesäkussa 1940 Neuvostoliitto päätti käyttää hyväkseen Molotovin-Ribbentropin sopimuksen salaista lisäpöytäkirjasopimusta Baltian maiden suhteen.
Kesäkuun 16. päivä 1940 Molotov esitti Virolle uhkavaatimuksen, jossa vaadittiin "Viron perustettavaksi uusi hallitus, jolla on kykyä ja halua taata Neuvostoliiton ja Viron keskinäinen avunantosopimuksen rehellinen täyttäminen" ja "varmistaa Neuvostoliiton joukoille heti vapaa kulku Viron tärkeimpien keskusten haltuunottamiseksi".
Neuvostoliiton miehitystoimenpiteitä Tallinnaan tuli 19. kesäkuuta 1940 johtamaan kenraalieversti Andrei Ždanov, Neuvostoliiton politbyronjäsen ja yksi Stalinin lähimmistä miehistä.
Neuvostoliiton edustajien ja sotilaallisen painostuksen seurauksena Viroon nimitettiin uusi lääkäri ja runoilija Johannes Varesin johtama hallitus n.s. "kansanhallitus", jonka kaikki ministerit olivat Ždanovin valitsemia. Silloisen Viron presidentin Konstantin Pätsin oli hyväksyttävä nimitys sellaisenaan.
Uuden hallituksen ensimmäisiä töitä oli vanhan porvarillisen Viron järjestöjen lakkauttaminen. Neuvostoliiton edustajien painostamana Päts määräsi uudet parlamenttivaalit pidettäväksi kymmenen päivän kuluessa vastoin perustuslakia, joka olisi edellyttänyt 35 päivän valmisteluaikaa. Vastalaillistettu Viron kommunistinen puolue ja muut uudet n.s. "demokraattiset" järjestöt muodostivat vaaliliiton, Viron työkansan liitto.
Siitä tuli ainoa sallittu vaaliliitto 14. ja 15. heinäkuuta järjestetyissä vaaleissa. Viralliset tulokset osoittivat, että 84,1 prosenttia äänioikeutetuista osallistui äänestykseen ja 92,8 prosenttia heistä antoi äänensä Viron työkansan liiton ehdokkaille. Aikalais-todistukset puhuvat kuitenkin toista äänestysvilkkaudesta.
Lisäksi tulokset olivat osaksi väärennettyjä.
Early in the morning of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact. Most notably, the pact contained a secret protocol, revealed only after Germany's defeat in 1945, according to which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence".
In the north, Finland, Estonia and Latvia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. Poland was to be partitioned in the event of its "political rearrangement"—the areas east of the Narev, Vistula and San Rivers going to the Soviet Union while Germany would occupy the west.
Lithuania, adjacent to East Prussia, would be in the German sphere of influence, although a second secret protocol agreed in September 1939 assigned the majority of Lithuania to the USSR
World War II began with the invasion of an important regional ally of Estonia – Poland, by Germany. Although some coordination existed between Germany and the USSR early in the war, the Soviet Union communicated to Nazi Germany its decision to launch its own invasion seventeen days after Germany's invasion, as a result, in part, of the unforeseen rapidity of the Polish military collapse.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded its part of Poland under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
Vyacheslav Molotov signs the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in Moscow on August 23, 1939. Joachim von Ribbentrop and Josef Stalin stand behind him.
September 3, Great Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand declare war on Germany.
September 14, the Polish submarine ORP Orzeł reached Tallinn, Estonia.
On September 17, the Soviet Union invaded its part of Poland under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocol. During this invasion, a close coordination of German and Soviet military activity took place.
On September 24, 1939, with the fall of Poland to Nazi Germany and the USSR imminent and in light of the Orzeł incident, the Moscow press and radio started violently attacking Estonia as "hostile" to the Soviet Union. Warships of the Red 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 agreement on September 28, 1939.
The pact was made for ten years:
Estonia granted the USSR the right to maintain naval bases and airfields protected by Red Army troops on the strategic islands dominating Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga;
The Soviet Union agreed to increase her annual trade turnover with Estonia and to give Estonia facilities in case the Baltic is closed to her goods for trading with the outside world via Soviet ports on the Black Sea and White Sea;
The USSR and Estonia undertook to defend each other from "aggression arising on the part of any great European power";
It was declared: the pact "should not affect" the "economic systems and state organizations" of the USSR and Estonia.
There is no consensus in Estonian society about the decisions that the leadership of the Republic of Estonia made at that time.
When Soviet troops marched into Estonia the guns of both nations gave mutual salutes, and bands played both the Estonian anthem and the Internationale, the anthem of the USSR, at the time.
Similar demands were forwarded to Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. Finland resisted, and was attacked by the Soviet Union on November 30. Because the attack was judged as illegal, the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations on December 14. Finland held out in the Winter War until March 1940, when the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed.
The first population loss for Estonia was the repatriation of about 12,000–18,000 Baltic Germans to Germany.
The ground for the fate of Estonia in World War II was laid by the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, particularly its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939.
The Republic of Estonia declared neutrality in the war but fell under the Soviet sphere of influence due to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. Mass political arrests, deportations, and executions followed.
In the Summer War during the German Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the pro-independence Forest Brothers captured South Estonia from the NKVD and the 8th Army before the arrival of the German 18th Army. At the same time, the Soviet paramilitary destruction battalions carried out punitive operations, including looting and killing, based on the tactics of scorched earth proclaimed by Joseph Stalin. Estonia was occupied by Germany and incorporated into Reichskommissariat Ostland. Finnish Infantry Regiment 200
In 1941, Estonians were conscripted into the 8th Estonian Rifle Corps and in 1941–1944 to the Nazi German forces. Men who avoided these mobilisations, fled to Finland to be formed into the Finnish Infantry Regiment 200. About 40% of the Estonian pre-war fleet was requisitioned by British authorities and used in Atlantic convoys. Approximately 1000 Estonian sailors served in the British Merchant Navy, 200 of them as officers. A small number of Estonians served in the Royal Air Force, in the British Army and in the U.S. Army.
From February to September 1944, the German army detachment "Narwa" held back the Soviet Estonian Operation. After breaching the defence of II Army Corps across the Emajõgi river and clashing with the pro-independence Estonian troops, the Soviet forces reoccupied mainland Estonia in September 1944. After the war, Estonia remained incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR until 1991, although the Atlantic Charter stated that no territorial arrangements shall be made.
World War II losses in Estonia, estimated at around 25% of the population, were among the highest proportion in Europe. War and occupation deaths listed in the current reports total at 81,000. These include deaths in Soviet deportations in 1941, Soviet executions, German deportations, and Holocaust victims.
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
In the aftermath of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Estonia was left into the Soviet sphere of interest and incorporated into the Soviet Union as a Soviet Socialist Republic. The history of the Soviet Estonia formally begins with the establishment of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1941.
The Secret Additional Protocol of the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact signed on August 23, 1939 relegated the Republic of Estonia to the Soviet sphere of influence. 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.
Kaleva (airplane) destroy
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 judge and punish "traitors to the people", which included opponents of Sovietization and those who did not vote for incorporation in the Soviet Union.
This election is considered illegal, since the amended electoral law--along with hundreds of other laws passed by the Vares government--had not been approved by the upper house of parliament, as required by the Estonian constitution. The upper house had been dissolved soon after the Soviet occupation and was never reconvened.
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. The newly elected parliament (Riigikogu) met on July 21. Its sole piece of business was a petition to join the Soviet Union. which passed unanimously. In response, the Estonian SSR was formally incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 9, 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.)
Soviet occupation of Estonia
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 colonisation with it. According to some Western scholars, relations between the Soviet Union and Estonian SSR were those of internal colonialism.
The earlier economic structures constructed mostly in 1920–1940 were purposefully destroyed; New production structures were constructed only to satisfy interests of the colonial power, assigning priorities according to an all-union production chain network; Local environmental resources were used in an extensive, robber-like manner; The employment and migration policies were tailored towards assimilating the native population; Former economic ties of Estonia were cut off and Estonian economy was isolated from non-Soviet markets.
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.
Immediately following the June 1940 Estonian occupation by the Soviet Union and forcible incorporation 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.
The Russian government and officials maintain that the Soviet annexation of Estonia was legitimate.
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.
A propaganda poster from the Stalin era. The poster says: "The spirit of the great Lenin and his victorious banner encourage us now to the Patriotic War."
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 led 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 Soviet Union 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.
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Wehrmacht reached Estonia in July 1941.
The Nazi Germans were perceived as liberators from the USSR and Communism in general.
Thousands of Estonian men fought directly alongside the German army throughout the war. An anti-communist guerrilla group called the Forest Brothers also assisted the Wehrmacht.
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.
Estonian boat refugees
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.
Estonian boat refugees
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, committed suicide when the KGB tracked him down and attempted to arrest him in 1978. He drowned in a lake, when the KGB agent, disguised as a fisherman, was after him.
Estonian boat refugees
Soviet prison doors on display in the Museum of Occupations, Tallinn, Estonia.
During the first post-war decade of Soviet rule, Estonia was governed by Moscow via Russian-born ethnic Estonian functionaries. Born into the families of native Estonians in Russia, the latter had obtained their education in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. Many of them had fought in the Red Army (in the Estonian Rifle Corps), few of them had mastered the Estonian language. For the latter reason they were known under a derogatory term "Yestonians", alluding to their Russian accent.
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.
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.
Destruction of graveyards and war memorials
Estonian graveyards and monuments from the period of 1918–1944 were dismantled. Among others, in the Tallinn Military Cemetery the majority of gravestones from 1918 to 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 dismantling of monuments from the Republic of Estonia, which had survived or had been restored during the German occupation, continued. On April 15, 1945, in Pärnu, a monument by Amandus Adamson, erected to 87 persons who had fallen in the Estonian War of Independence, was demolished.
The dismantling 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."
After Joseph 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.
Plans to acquire Spitfires and Lysanders from Britain were thwarted when the outbreak of World War II in 1939 forced Britain to cancel all export orders. After the defeat of Poland, Estonia was forced to accept a Mutual Assistance Pact with the Soviet Union, signed on 28 September 1939.
This allowed the Russians to establish military bases in
Estonia, which were later used in the Winter War against Finland. On 17 June 1940 the three Baltic States were invaded by Soviet forces. Bogus soviet-style elections were organised and the resulting communist parliament applied for membership of the Soviet Union.
This was granted on 6 August 1940. During the June 1940 invasion the Air Defence took no action and subsequently aircraft remained locked in their hangars. The air force became the Aircraft Squadron of the 22nd Territorial Corps of the Soviet Army in the summer of 1940.
On 22 June 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The speed of tadvance was such that Estonia was soon cut-off from Russia by German forces. The 22nd Territorial Corps was ordered to evacuate to Russia, but many Estonian personnel deserted and joined the guerrilla forces fighting the retreating Red Army. The Germans were welcomed as liberators when they arrived.
During the subsequent Soviet presence, Estonia became heavily militarized, with some 10% of the population being Soviet troops based at over 500 military installations.