World War II

Sovietization of Estonia, 1945-1949

International Status : The USSR claimed the application of Estonia for membership in the USSR of 1940 as legal and valid; Britain and the U.S. did not, recognized the prewar Republic of Estonia, which continued to exist in form of a government-in-exile in Britain, which remained responsible for a number of Estonian embassies in western countries. Neither the U.S. nor Britain, however, were willing to press the issue of Estonian independence; with the USSR holding veto power in the UN Security Council, the government-in-exile did not have the option of using international organizations to argue their cause. In 1947 Britain announced de-facto recognition of Soviet rule over Estonia.

Demography : Soviet authorities deported a considerable number of Estonians; Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians etc. immigrated. A number of Estonians fled the country, some departed with the retreating German forces (in 1946 there were c. 30,000 Estonians in occupied Germany); later, Estonians fled to Sweden. Finland was not an option, as it was bound by treaty to deliver Soviet citizens to Soviet authorities. With the reestablishment of Soviet control, Estonian communists returned from their exile in the USSR. In 1949 the population of Estonia was stimated at 1,300,000.

Domestic Policy : Soviet authorities tried and executed war criminals, deported considerable numbers of collasborators and of those suspected of being hostile to a socialist society - often with their families (mass deportations). Enterprises were nationalized, the collectivization of land enforced. Russian was proclaimed official language. The Estonian Lutheran clergy was affected by the deportations; in 1949 there were 40 priests left. In 1945, c. 5 % of Estonian territory were annexed into the RSFSR.

The Economy : The economy was sovietized; as leading positions in administration and economy were only given to members of the Communist Party, and there were few Estonian Communists, a large number of Russians and other non-Estonians was brought into the country, most of whom did not speak Estonian. The economic policy focussed on reconstruction and on the establishment of a Soviet-style economic infra- structure, i.e. large-scale factories and housing complexes for their labour force, a policy which benefitted the urban working class (and thus, disproportionately, the non-Estonian population element). The Five Year Plan of 1945-1949 was the first such Soviet plan implemented in Estonia.
The Soviet administration developed Estonia's oil shale industry; meat production in 1948 was at about 40 % of prewar level.

Resistance : Estonian patriots taking up arms against Soviet occupation were called Forest Brothers. Logistically supported by the U.S., British and Swedish secret services, their operations continued until 1955.

Estonian Timeline, by Tapani Hietaniemi
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Estonia
Forest Brothers, from Tartu City Museum
Michael Warm, The Forgotten War
Article Forest Brothers, from Wikipedia
Article History of Estonia after WW II, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Estonia
Historical Population Statistics : Estonia, from Population Statistics at Univ. Utrecht
REFERENCE David G. Kirby, The Baltic World 1772-1993, London : Longman 1995
Toivo U. Raun, Estonia and the Estonians, Stanford : Hoover Institution Press 2001 [G]
Article : Estonia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1946 pp.291-292, 1947 pp.300-301, 1948 p.284, 1949 p.246, 1950 p.260 [G]
Article : Estonia, in : Americana Annual 1947 pp.237-238 (on events of 1946) [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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