Estonia in World War II

A.) Soviet Takeover and Occupation, 1939-1941

On August 23rd 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union signed a NON-AGGRESSION PACT, the significance of which lay in a secret memorandum attached to it, according to which the cordon of states established after World War I and located between Germany and Russia was to be partitioned amongst these two powers. Estonia was allocated to the USSR. Estonia's German minority (21,000) was repatriated to Germany.
First, Stalin pressed the three Baltic Republics in signing a PACT OF DEFENSE AND MUTUAL ASSISTANCE (Sept. 28th 1939), which permitted the USSR to station Soviet troops in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. On June 17th 1940 (France had fallen to German troops), the Red Army formally declared Estonia occupied, claiming the Republic had violated the Pact of Mutual Assistance. A new government including communists was formed; soon the communists took over the government and "requested" Estonia, as a Soviet Republic (so proclaimed on July 21st), to be admitted to the Soviet Union (granted on August 6th 1940).

Many Estonians opposing communism and Russian interference were deported to Siberia (population losses under Soviet occupation estimated at 60,000); the NARVA region saw a replacement of much of it's Estonian population by ethnic Russians.

Stamps issued by the Germans for occupied Estonia. Note : country name in German (Estland) and in Estonian (Eesti).
They were used only during a short period, then replaced by German stamps overptinted "Ostland".

B.) German Occupation, 1941-1944

On June 25th 1941 German forces began to invade the Soviet Union. Stalin was under shock, the Russian leadership paralyzed; German forces quickly gained ground and occupied Estonia.
Soon the occupied territories in what used to be the northwestern part of the Soviet Union, including Estonia, as OSTLAND came under German military administration.
The military front was on the fringes of St. Petersburg, which the Germans chose to systematically starve rather than occupy, and further east. Estonia's relatively small Jewish minority of ca. 2,000 was deported by the Germans to Auschwitz.

C.) Estonia Soviet Again

In September 1944 the Red Army closed in on Estonia. About 70,000 Estonians fled the country, to neutral Sweden, many emigrating from there to Canada or the U.S.A.; Estonia again became a Soviet Republic. Estonians began a guerilla war against Soviet Occupation (1944-1953), in which 15,000 fighters died.

In 1941, Britain, the USA and the USSR had become NATURAL ALLIES. With the Soviet Union's role in the defeat of the Axis Powers vital, Churchill had no means at hand to question Estonia's 'voluntary' choice to join the Soviet Union in 1940.

Estonian Timeline, by Tapani Hietaniemi
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Estonia
The Soviet terror air raid to Tallinn on March 9/10, 1944 by Andres Valdre, detailed
DOCUMENTS German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, w. Secret Memorandum, Aug. 23rd 1939, from The History Place, text of memorandum in German from A selection of events and documents on the history of Finland
REFERENCE David G. Kirby, The Baltic World 1772-1993, London : Longman 1995
United States Holocaust Museum, Historical Atlas of the Holocaust, NY : MacMillan 1996 [G]; pp.64-69 on the Baltic Countries
Article : Soviet Union - Estonia, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.1252-1254 [G]
Article : Estonia, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.263-265, 1943 p.264, 1944 pp.249-250, 1945 p.263, 1946 p.266 [G]
Article : Estonia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1944 pp.265-266, 1945 p.266 [G]
Article : Estonia, in : New International Year Book Events of 1940 pp.219-220, 1941 pp.191-192, 1942 pp.221-222, 1943 p.189 [G]
Article : Baltic States, in : New International Year Book 1944 pp.58-59, 1945 pp.57-58 [G]
Article : Estonia, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.189-191, 1941 pp.169-170, 1942 p.152, 1943 p.159 [G]
Article : Baltic States, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1944 pp.44-45 [G]
David Kirby, The Baltic States 1940-1950, pp.22-39 in : Martin McCauley (ed.), Communist Power in Europe 1944-1949, London : MacMillan 1977 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 25th 2009

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