Soviet deportations from Estonia


Soviet deportations from Estonia

As the Soviet Union had occupied Estonia in 1940 and retaken it from Nazi Germany again in 1944, tens of thousands of Estonia's citizens suffered deportation in the 1940s. Deportations were predominantly to Siberia and Kazakhstan by means of railroad cattle cars, without prior announcement, while deported were given few night hours at best to pack their belongings and separated from their families, usually also sent to the east. The procedure was established by the MGB Order № 001223 of January 211941. Estonians residing in Leningrad Oblast had already suffered deportation since 1935. [Martin, Terry (1998). [http://www.jstor.org/view/00222801/di000017/00p0286a/0 The Origins of Soviet Ethnic Cleansing] . "The Journal of Modern History" 70.4, 813-861.] The first repressions in Estonia affected Estonia's national elite. On July 171940, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Johan Laidoner (died in 1953 in Vladimir prison) and his family, and on July 301940, President Konstantin Päts (died in 1956 in a psikhushka in Kalinin Oblast) and his family were deported to Penza and Ufa, respectively. In 1941 they were arrested. The country political and military leadership was deported almost entirely, including 10 of 11 ministers and 68 of 120 members of parliament.

June deportation of 1941

As well as on other territories annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939-1940, in Estonia the first large scale deportation of ordinary citizens was carried out by the local operational headquarters of the NKGB of the Estonian SSR under Boris Kumm (chairman), Andres Murro, Aleksei Shkurin, Veniamin Gulst and Rudolf James according to the top secret joint decree No 1299-526ss "Directive on the Deportation of the Socially Alien Element from the Baltic Republics, Western Ukraine, Western Belorussia and Moldavia" [Постановление ЦК ВКП(б) и СНК СССР от 14 мая 1941 г. за N 1299-526сс «Директива о выселении социально-чуждого элемента из республик Прибалтики, Западной Украины и Западной Белоруссии и Молдавии». Published in Николай Бугай (ред., 2005) "Народы стран Балтии в условиях сталинизма (1940-е – 1950-е годы). Документированная история" [Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society 11] . Stuttgart: Ibidem-Verlag. P. 103-104. ISBN 3898215253.

According to this decree, the following categories should be transferred: (1) active members of so-called counterrevolutionary organisations and members of their families; (2) former leading officials of the police and prisons, as well as ordinary policemen and prison guards involved in anti-soviet activity or espionage; (3) former significant landowners, merchants, factory owners and leading officials of former governments – all with the members of their families; (4) compromised former officers; (5) the family members of the sentenced to death and of members of counterrevolutionary organisations gone into hiding; (6) individuals repatriated from Germany and subject to resettlement in Germany; (7) refugees from the annexed Polish areas who refused to accept Soviet citizenship; (8) active criminals; (9) prostitutes.
] by the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) and the Council of People's Commissars of the Soviet Union of May 141941. [http://www.historycommission.ee/temp/pdf/conclusions_en.pdf Conclusions] of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity.] On June 141941, and the following two days, 9,254-10,861 people, mostly urban, of them over 5,000 women and over 2,500 children under 16 [Kareda, Endel (1949). "Estonia in the Soviet Grip: Life and Conditions under Soviet Occupation 1947-1949". London: Boreas.] [Uustalu, Evald (1952). "The History of Estonian People". London: Boreas.] Laar, Mart (2006). [http://web-static.vm.ee/static/failid/128/Deportations_from_Estonia.pdf Deportation from Estonia in 1941 and 1949] . "Estonia Today". Fact Sheet of the Press and Information Department, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. June 2006.] , 439 Jews (more than 10 percent of the Estonian Jewish population) [Weiss-Wendt, Anton (1998). [http://hgs.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/12/2/308.pdf The Soviet Occupation of Estonia in 1940-41 and the Jews] . "Holocaust and Genocide Studies" 12.2, 308-325.] were deported, mostly to Kirov Oblast, Novosibirsk Oblast or prisons. There hundred were shot. Only 4,331 persons have ever returned to Estonia. 11,102 people were to be deported from Estonia according to the order of June 13, but some managed to escape. The operation affected Latvia and Lithuania at the same time. Few weeks later, approximately 1,000 people were arrested on Saaremaa for deportation, but the Great Patriotic War started for the Soviet Union and a considerable part of the prisoners were freed by the advancing German forces.

During the first year of Soviet rule nearly 54,000 Estonian citizens were executed, deported or mobilized into the Red Army. Following the German attack against the Soviet Union on June 221941, in early July, 33,000 Estonian men were conscripted into the Soviet Army. On July 101941, the conscripts from the annexed territories were declared not reliable and sent to labor camps, where many died.Mälksoo, Lauri (2001). [http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=208040 Soviet Genocide? Communist Mass Deportations in the Baltic States and International Law] . "Leiden Journal of International Law" 14, 757–787.] 5,600 more were drafted, but defected soon.Parming, Tõnu (1972). [http://www.jstor.org/view/00324728/di980749/98p0765p/0 Population changes in Estonia, 1935-1970] . "Population Studies" 26.1, 53-78.] In July 1941 Estonia was conquered by Nazi Germany, who were forced out by advancing Soviet troops in 1944. Immediately prior to the Soviet government regaining control, about 70,000 persons fled abroad for Germany and Sweden. As soon as the Soviets had returned the deportations resumed. The first wave of deportation has always been well documented, as many witnesses were subsequently able to flee abroad during the Second World War. Deportations after 1944 were, however, much harder to document.Taagepera, Rein (1980). [http://www.jstor.org/view/00385859/ap010125/01a00040/0 Soviet Collectivization of Estonian Agriculture: The Deportation Phase] . "Soviet Studies" 32.3, 379-397.] 18 families (51 persons) were transferred to Tyumen Oblast in October (51 persons), 37 families (87 persons) in November and other 37 families (91 persons) in December as "Traitor of Motherland family members"." [http://www.okupatsioon.ee/english/overviews/ylev/ylev-PERSECUT.html Estonia’s Occupations Revisited: Accounts of an Era] ". Compiled by Heiki Ahonen. Tallinn: Kistler-Ritso Estonian Foundation, 2004. ISBN 9949108217.] Also in 1944 at least 30,000 were mobilized for labour service in other parts of the Soviet Union. In August 1945, 407 persons, most of them of German descent, were transferred from Estonia to Perm Oblast.

March deportation in 1949

During collectivization attempt in the Baltic republics, on January 291949, the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union issued top secret decree No. 390–138ss [Постановление Совета Министров СССР от 29 января 1949 г. №390-138сс «О выселении с территории Литвы, Латвии и Эстонии кулаков с семьями, семей бандитов и националистов, находящихся на нелегальном положении, убитых при вооруженных столкновениях и осужденных, легализованных бандитов, продолжающих вести вражескую работу, и их семей, а также семей репрессированных пособников бандитов».] , which obligated the Ministry for State Security (MGB) to exile the kulaks and the people's enemies from the three Baltic Republics forever. So in the early morning of March 251949, the second major wave of deportation from the Baltic Republics, operation "Priboy" ("Breakers"), carried out by MGB began, which was planned to affect 30,000 in Estonia, including peasants. [Strods, Heinrihs & Matthew Kott (2002). The file on operation "Priboi": A re-assessment of the mass deportations of 1949. "Journal of Baltic Studies" 33.1, 1-36.] Lieutenant General Pyotr Burmak, commander of the MGB Internal Troops, was in charge for the operation in general. In Estonia the deportations were coordinated by Boris Kumm, Minister of Security of Estonian SSR, and Major General Ivan Yermolin, MGB representative to Estonia. Over 8,000 managed to escape, but 20,722 (7,500 families, over 2.5 percent of the Estonian population, half of them women, over 6,000 children under the age of 16, and 4,300 men) were sent to Siberia during three days. A little over 10 percent of them were men of working age. The deported included disabled people, pregnant women, newborns and children separated from their parents. The youngest deportee was 1-day-old Virve Eliste from Hiiumaa island, who died a year later in Siberia; the oldest was 95-year-old Maria Raagel. [www.postimees.ee March 25, 2004 ] Nine trains of people were directed to Novosibirsk Oblast, six to Krasnoyarsk Krai, two to Omsk Oblast, two to Irkutsk Oblast. Many of them perished, most have never returned home. This second wave of the large-scale deportations was aimed to facilitate collectivization, which was implemented with great difficulties in the Baltic republics. As a result, by the end of April 1949, half of the remaining individual farmers in Estonia had joined kolkhozes.

During 1948–1950, a number of Ingrian Finns were also deported from Estonian SSR. The last large-scale campaign of deportations from Estonia took place in 1951, when members of prohibited religious groups from the Baltic countries, Moldavia, Western Ukraine and Belorussia were subject to forcible resettlement.

Continuous deportation

Outside the main waves, individuals and families were continually deported on smaller scale from the start of the first occupation in 1940 up to the Khrushchev Thaw of 1956 when destalinisation led Soviet Union to switch its tactic of terror from mass repressions to individual repressions. The Soviet deportations only stopped for three years in 1941-1944 when Estonia was occupied by Nazi Germany (see Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany).

Estonians' experience with the first year of Soviet occupation, which included the June deportation, led to two significant developments:
* It motivated a major wave of refugees leaving Estonia, mostly by ships over the Baltic Sea in late 1944, after the news about Nazi Germany's withdrawal became public. About 70,000 people are known to have arrived in their destination; an unknown number perished on the autumn storms and naval warfare. [The Estonian State Commission on Examination of the Policies of Repression [http://www.parliament.ee/public/Riigikogu/TheWhiteBook.pdf The White Book] , page 30]
* It incentivised many Estonians, who had previously been rather sceptical about joining German army (between January 1943 and February 1944, about 4000 people, mostly male, over half of them below 24 years old, i.e. draftable, had fled to Finland [The Estonian State Commission on Examination of the Policies of Repression [http://www.parliament.ee/public/Riigikogu/TheWhiteBook.pdf The White Book] , page 29] ) to join the recently created foreign legions of Waffen-SS, to still try to keep Red Army off Estonian soil and thus, avoid a new Soviet occupation. The attempt failed. For an example of such an ethnic foreign legion, see 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian).

Only in 1956, during Khrushchev Thaw, were some survived deportees allowed to return to Estonia.

Legal status

In 1995, after the re-establishment of Estonian independence, Riigikogu, the parlament of independent Estonia, declared the deportations officially a crime against humanity, and a few perpetrators of the 1949 deportations, former officers of MGB, stood trial and were convicted under Article 61-1 § 1 of the Criminal Code. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/11/26/weston26.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/11/26/ixworld.html Estonia brings Stalin's secret police to justice] , Telegraph.co.uk, November 262002.] Johannes Klaassepp (b. 1921), Vladimir Loginov (b. 1924) and Vasily Beskov (b. 1918) were sentenced to eight years' probation in 1999. On July 301999, Mikhail Neverovsky (b. 1920) was sentenced to four years in prison. On October 102003, August Kolk (b. 1924) and Pyotr Kisly (b. 1921) were sentenced to eight years in prison with three years of probation. The case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights, as the sentence was allegedly contrary to the prohibition of retroactive application of criminal laws, but on January 172006 the application was declared inadmissible. On October 302002, Yury Karpov got an eight-year suspended sentence. On November 72006, Vladimir Kask was also sentenced to eight years in prison with three years of probation. The Russian Federation, the only legal successor state to the Soviet Union, has never recognized the deportations as a crime and has not paid any compensation. Moscow has criticized the Baltic prosecutions, calling them revenge, not justice, and complained about the criminals' age. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20021101/ai_n12664823 Stalin agent found guilty in Estonia] , The Independent, November 12002.]

The Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity [ [http://www.historycommission.ee/ Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity ] ] was established by President Lennart Meri, who himself was a survivor of the 1941 deportation, in October 1998 to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Estonia or against Estonian citizens during the Soviet and Nazi occupation. The commission held its first session in Tallinn in January 1999. Renowned Finnish diplomat Max Jakobson was appointed to chair the commission. There are no Estonian citizens among its members.

See also

* Population transfer in the Soviet Union

Notes

Further reading

*Anepajo, Terje. [http://www.erm.ee/pdf/pro14/terje.pdf Reception of the Topic of Repressions in the Estonian Society]
* [http://www.historycommission.ee/temp/pdf/conclusions_en.pdf Conclusions] of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity.
*" [http://www.okupatsioon.ee/english/overviews/ylev/ylev.html Estonia’s Occupations Revisited: Accounts of an Era] ". Compiled by Heiki Ahonen. Tallinn: Kistler-Ritso Estonian Foundation, 2004. ISBN 9949108217.
*Kareda, Endel (1949). "Estonia in the Soviet Grip: Life and Conditions under Soviet Occupation 1947-1949". London: Boreas.
*Kirss, Tiina (2005). Survivorship and the Eastern exile: Estonian women's life narratives of the 1941 and 1949 Siberian deportations. "Journal of Baltic Studies" 36.1, 13-38.
*Kuusk, Pearu. [http://linnamuuseum.tartu.ee/pdf/MarchEventsof1949inDeporters.pdf March Events of 1949 in Deporters' Reports by the Example of Tartu] .
*Laar, Mart (2006). [http://web-static.vm.ee/static/failid/128/Deportations_from_Estonia.pdf Deportation from Estonia in 1941 and 1949] . "Estonia Today". Fact Sheet of the Press and Information Department, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. June 2006.
*Mälksoo, Lauri (2001). [http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=208040 Soviet Genocide? Communist Mass Deportations in the Baltic States and International Law] . "Leiden Journal of International Law" 14, 757–787.
*Parming, Tõnu (1972). [http://www.jstor.org/view/00324728/di980749/98p0765p/0 Population changes in Estonia, 1935-1970] . "Population Studies" 26.1, 53-78.
*Taagepera, Rein (1980). [http://www.jstor.org/view/00385859/ap010125/01a00040/0 Soviet Collectivization of Estonian Agriculture: The Deportation Phase] . "Soviet Studies" 32.3, 379-397.
*Uustalu, Evald (1952). "The History of Estonian People". London: Boreas.
*Õispuu, Leo (2001). "Repressed Persons Records (RPR). Book 6. Deportation from Estonia to Russia. Deportation in June 1941 & deportation in 1940-1953". Tallinn: Estonian Repressed Persons Records Bureau. ISBN 9985909658.
* [http://web-static.vm.ee/static/failid/058/25_March_1949.pdf Estonia Today. Fact Sheet, March 2005] , Press and Information Department, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
* [http://linnamuuseum.tartu.ee/en/branches/kgb/deport.html Deportation] . Tartu City Museum.


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