1945 Coercive Collectiveization
When Germany's offensive against the Soviet Union began
in 1941, German troops also invaded Estonia and instituted a
terrorist regime. The Soviet first recaptured the Baltic
States in 1944. The Russians initiated forced
industrialization and forced collectivization of
agriculture. The same "development model" Stalin had
implemented in the Soviet Union since 1929. Around 80,000
Estonians emigrated to the West and this, together with the
Russian colonization, helped to change the traditional
ethnic composition of the population.
See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Estonia.
About 20,000 esters were deported in 1945-46, and the
third wave of forced deportations took place in 1949, when
about 40,000 were sent to distant parts of the Soviet Union.
These were predominantly peasants who opposed the forced
collectivization carried out by the Soviet authorities.
When Leonid Brezhnev's term as Soviet leader was played
out in the early 1980's, various opposition movements
emerged in Estonia: Democracy Movement and Estonian National
Front. And there appeared opposition papers like the
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachov took power in the Soviet
Union, and his Glasnost (openness) policy stimulated social
and political activity - also in Estonia. In August 1987, a
demonstration in Tallinn demanded the publication of the
secret supplementary protocols of the 1939 German-Russian
Non-Attack Pact. In parallel, the same requirement was
imposed in Latvia and Lithaun.
In January 1988, former political prisoners formed the
Estonian Independence Party. It was to fight for
self-government in the country, reintroduce multi-party rule
and introduce Estonian as official language. Another group,
the Society of Estonian Heritage, was formed to preserve the
nation's historical monuments.
In April of that year, nationalists and communists formed
the Estonian People's Front and organized a demonstration in
June 1988 with the participation of 150,000 people. Here the
country's flag appeared for the first time since 1940. In
September, a similar demonstration was held with 300,000
participants, and a few days later the ban on the Estonian
flag was lifted.
The People's Front held its first congress in October,
confirming the demand for autonomy and asking Moscow to
recognize that the 1940 superpower had occupied the country
by force. The following month, the Estonian Supreme Soviet
(parliament) declared that it had supremacy in the country
(not Moscow) and that it would veto laws passed in Moscow
without its consent.
In August 1989, about 2 million Esters, Latvians and
Lithuanians formed a human chain that was more than 560 km
long and stretched from Tallinn to Vilnius. The requirement
was recognition of the independence of the Baltic States. In
February 1990, a convention of Estonian representatives
adopted the country's declaration of independence on the
basis of the 1920 Tartu peace treaty between the Soviet
Union and young Estonia.
At the May 1990 elections, the People's Front and
nationalist groups gained an overwhelming majority in
parliament. Nationalist leader Edgar Savisaar was appointed
to head the first elected government since 1940. In August,
Parliament declared the country's independence, but Moscow
refused to recognize the declaration.