By Kalju Mätik
The Soviet Union was a dictatorial state of a special kind. In democratic states the majority rules, but the rights of the minority are protected. In dictatorial states the minority rules and the rights of the majority are not protected. In the Soviet Union the minority ruled and nobody’s rights were protected, including the most orthodox fellowtravellers.
In many dictatorial states the repressive policies of the state are in some accordance with the laws so that a law-abiding citizen must not be afraid of any reprisals from the authorities. The Soviet Union was the state of total lawlessness. The regime broke the international treaties signed by it, violated its own constitution and its own laws. Throughout the world democracy and personal freedoms are spreading, although setbacks quite often take place. In this field the Soviet Union made a giant leap backward in comparison with its predecessor – Tsarist Russia. In Tsarist Russia many freedoms were suppressed, but all this was done in accordance with the existing laws. Only in extreme cases, like during the 1905 revolution, the authorities in many cases broke their own laws in order to remain in power.
In 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, dividing Europe. By signing this treaty the Soviet Union encouraged Germany to start the World War II. Some time later, the Soviet Union threatened with force imposed the so-called mutual assistance treaties on the Baltic States. Based on this treaty, the Soviet Union was granted military bases on the territory of the Baltic States. About 25,000 Soviet military men were brought to the bases in Estonia. Officially the bases were necessary to the Soviet Union for self-defence but in reality for occupation of Estonia. In Art. V of the treaty it was declared: “The accomplishment of the treaty must not in any case invade the sovereign rights of the contracting parties, especially their system of economy and the political system.” For a few months the Soviet Union fulfilled the treaty in order to conceal its real aims.
On October 25, 1939, the people’s commissar of defence of the USSR K.Voroshilov issued a decree where he strictly prohibited whatever interference into the internal affairs of the Estonian Republic./…/ Various anti-Soviet provocateurs try to represent the entry of our troops into Estonia as the beginning of it’s “sovietization”./…/ The talks about the ”sovietization”, if they will take place among servicemen must be uprooted and from now on prevented in the most merciless way, because they are only for the benefit of the enemies of the USSR and Estonia . /…/ All persons, who consider themselves as leftists and attempt in some way to interfere with the internal affairs of the Estonian Republic, must be considered as the most malicious enemies of socialism and most severely punished. (1)
On June 16, 1940, the USSR submitted an ultimatum to Estonia, accusing the Baltic States of concluding military alliance directed against the USSR:
“The government of the USSR cannot further tolerate such situation and considers as necessary and without delay:
1. Immediately appoint to office in Estonia such government which would be able and ready to secure the honest implementation of the mutual assistance treaty;
2. To secure immediately the unrestricted passage of Soviet units into Estonia’s territory and their location in the important centres to secure the implementation of the Soviet-Estonian mutual assistance pact and to avoid possible provocative actions against the Soviet garrisons in Estonia.”(1)
Behind the Estonian border Soviet troops were located, numerically exceeding the Estonian troops, especially in artillery, tanks and aviation. From the sea Estonia was blocked by the Soviet navy. The airliner on the Tallinn-Helsinki route was shot down by a Soviet fighter plane. All the crew and the passengers were killed. The Soviet pilot was surely ordered to commit this crime. Later he published his memoirs where he described this event in detail.
Let us bear in mind that the population of the three Baltic States altogether was approximately about 6 million and the population of the USSR approximately 180 million, it means 30 times more.
By submitting this ultimatum the USSR broke the aforementioned mutual assistance treaty.
In order to create illusion that the pro-Soviet government was imposed on Estonia legitimately the mock elections were performed. In this case lots of laws were broken by the occupation authorities as well. All non-communist candidates were forcibly removed and the event was performed in accordance with the principle “one man, one vote, one candidate”. The results were foregone. One of London´s newspapers published the results of the so-called elections already before the official end of the event.
According to the treaty, the Soviet troops had to be located in the areas stipulated by the treaty. Actually, after June 16, they seized the whole territory of Estonia, including Tallinn the capital. When a group of communists wanted to disarm the communication battalion of the Estonian army, exchange of fire broke out. Soon the attackers were joined by three Soviet armoured cars which supported them with machine-gun fire. When the newlyappointed minister of defence arrived, he ordered the soldiers to stop shooting and to lay down arms.
Many crimes of the communist regime became possible due to the support given to them by the Western democracies and to tolerant attitude to the aforementioned crimes. On August 14, 1941 the leaders of the USA and Great Britain signed the Atlantic Charter where they declared the following, “Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will to live; and they wish to see the sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them”.
On September 24, 1941 the USSR also signed the Atlantic Charter. The Declaration of the Soviet Union states the following, “In its foreign policy the Soviet Union /.../ shall proceed the principle of national self-determination /.../. The Soviet Union shall protect each nations right to sovereignty and territorial integrity, the right to establish such an order of state and form of government it deems purposeful and necessary to ensure the economic and cultural prosperity of the whole country”.(2)
But in real life nobody of the signatories intended to fulfil their promises. Soviet authorities even concealed the full text of the Atlantic Charter from the general public. The Big Soviet Encyclopaedia says about the Atlantic Charter: “The Atlantic Charter ... there was said that the USA and Britain...will respect the right of all nations to choose for themselves the form of government... By joining the Atlantic Charter the USSR expressed its dissenting opinion on some questions.”
The Encyclopaedia Americana claimed, “Although not an official document, the Atlantic Charter was employed effectively as a propaganda weapon against the Axis powers during World War II.”
At that one may ask that if it was simply "a coffee break conversation" between the two friends, why it was recorded and published as an international treaty? After the official end of the World War II thousands men were in forests in the Baltic States, Poland and West-Ukraine, vainly hoping that the Western countries would fulfil their promises to help them restore the sovereign rights and self-government to those who had been forcibly deprived of them. The shameful behaviour of the Western leaders in this question was similar to the behaviour of Hitler or Stalin. They did nothing to fulfil the obligations they had pledged.
Before applying the Lend-Lease Act to the USSR the USA could have demanded that the USSR signed a pledge to withdraw its troops from all East-European countries within a fixed period after the end of the World War II and this document had to be proclaimed in all units of the Soviet army, as it was ordered in the aforementioned decree of Voroshilov. In 1942, when the USSR was on the brink of total military and economic collapse, it would have agreed to such proposal.
The USA and Great Britain could save millions of people from the communist slavery without spilling a droplet of blood of their servicemen. But their leaders didn’t want to do it. They and some other Western politicians wanted the communist scarecrow to survive and to be used for justifying whatever activities, aimed at securing the interests of the profit-greedy big business. Such activities might be considered as the twentieth century slave trade. Stalin´s “socialism with predator´s face” was more acceptable to the Western selfseekers than Dubćek´s “socialism with human face”. The worse for us, the better for them, because Dubćek´s ideas would have been much more popular than Moscow`s “prison socialism”.
It is self-evident that the people of a sovereign country must obey the laws of their own country and in a legal state the laws are not retroactive. The Soviet authorities had a different opinion in this problem. A decree of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium of Nov. 1940, signed in the Kremlin in Moscow by the chairman of the Presidium, Mikhail Kalinin, and secretary Aleksandr Gorkin, enacted prosecution in compliance with Russian laws for “crimes” committed on the territory of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia already before the establishment of Soviet rule in those states. By a resolution of the Presidium of the provisional Estonian SSR Supreme Soviet of Dec. 16 the same year, the Russian penal code became effective on the Estonian territory in prosecution for crimes committed before the Soviet rule was established here. The resolution was signed by the chairman of the presidium Johannes Vares and secretary Voldemar Telling. An Estonian translation of the 1926 version of the Russian penal code, including amendments up to Nov. 15, 1940 was published in 1941.
As the subsequent activity of the Communist Party and KGB proves, Comrades Vares and Telling by signing the resolution (whether or not they were authorized to do so), gave Kalinin and the genocide mechanism under his jurisdiction the opportunity to shoot or arrest at least half of the Estonian population. Particularly well-suited for this purpose were Articles 58 (counter-revolutionary crimes – on six and a half pages) and 59 (crimes against the ruling system perceived as especially dangerous to the Soviet Union) but others as well.
Under Articles 58-10, 58-13 and others, people were convicted and punished for their activities practised in the independent Republic of Estonia and fully in agreement with Estonian laws and customs.
Any criticism of the Soviet Union, whether spoken or published, was regarded as slander and punished under Article 58-10.(3)
Soon after the occupation of Estonia the Soviet authorities started terror. The terror was intentional and showed that the occupiers had no desire to fulfil the mutual assistance treaty which was forced on Estonia by them. Already on October 11, 1939 the deputy of the USSR state secretary people’s commissar Ivan Serov issued instructions concerning implementation of operation No. 001223 “Deportation of the anti-Soviet elements from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.” At the same time the Baltic States were officially still considered as independent ones.
The extent of communist terror in Estonia is quite comparable with the extent of terror in the countries which were occupied by Nazis. Nazi terror was mainly directed against the enemies of the regime and the persons who were neutral and were not involved in political activities. On the contrary, communist terror was directed against all strata of the society, including its most orthodox fellowtravellers.
Bearing in mind that the Soviet regime was illegal in Estonia, its laws were also invalid on Estonia’s territory. In condition of the total information blockade it was difficult, especially for the persons who had come to Estonia during the Soviet occupation to understand the situation and to make right conclusions. At the same time the activities of the Soviet authorities applying the mass terror were in many cases in direct controversy with the USSR laws and the laws were often in direct controversy with the Soviet constitution.
The full amount of the repressions is not exactly known until now, but the Estonian Repressed Persons´ Records Bureau is elaborating the archives and has published “Political Arrests in Estonia 1940-1988” (in two volumes), “Deportations from Estonia to Russia 1949” and “Deportations from Estonia to Russia 1940-1953”. The work is not yet completed, but even the volumes published until now give some imagination of the extent of the terror.
In the two volumes “Political Arrests in Estonia 1940-1988” the names of 34,625 persons who were arrested in Estonia during foreign occupation have been presented. Soon the third volume, which will contain approximately 15,000 names will be published. 2,861 arrested persons were sentenced to death. In prisons and labour camps died due to inhuman conditions or were murdered 8,176 persons. The number of the persons who died of hunger or illness or were murdered varied significantly.
year deaths in percent
The average punishment including prison or labour camp sentence and additional banishment varied significantly. On the average it was 15.77 years. The heaviest sentences were made in 1951, on the average 25.93 years. The usual practice in this year was 25 years in a the labour camp and 5 years in internal exile. The average punishment extent in different years was as follows:
year punishment in years
After Stalin’s death, the sentences were somewhat shorter:
1954 and 1955 about 15
1956-1958 more than 10
Among the people arrested there were at least 82 persons (0.24 percent) who were only 15 years old or younger. The age of 666 arrested persons is unknown. 20 years old and younger were 1,786 persons (5.16%). Among the arrested were 1,386 persons 60-90 years old.
Of the arrested persons only a small minority was acquitted. For example, of the 20,164 people in the first volume of the “Political Arrests in Estonia”, only seven were found not to be guilty.(3)
On October 1, 1946, the verdict of Nürnberg Tribunal on 22 defendants was handed down. Three of the defendants were acquitted. It means that the percentage of defendants acquitted by the Nürnberg Tribunal exceeded the percentage of acquitted defendants in Estonia by 393 times. Afterwards the Soviet authorities also came to the conclusion that many people who had been executed by them really were not guilty. In some cases the Soviet Encyclopaedia claimed that the person “fell the victim of enemy’s slander and was afterwards rehabilitated”.
Imprisonment, labour camp sentences and banishments were not the only repressions. Until May 1989 was in force the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from October 12, 1957 which prohibited for many categories of the deported persons to return to Estonia.
When discussing the repressions the arrested, killed and deported people have usually been counted, but the extent of terror was much wider. When physical terror was applied to a certain percentage of the population, the psychological terror was applied to the whole population. In condition of total insecurity and lawlessness, when whatever reprisals could be applied whenever to everybody, the majority of people became so intimidated that they didn’t dare to express even the mildest dissatisfaction with the regime. The rulers of the USSR tried to spread this horror narcosis even outside the USSR. In these activities they got support from their western allies. The participants of the Yalta conference in February 1945 decided to “help” the displaced persons from the USSR and East European countries to return home, in many cases forcibly. By March 1946 2.43 million persons were repatriated, 273,000 of them were passed over to the NKVD. (4)
After the end of the World War II a small amount of refugees was deported from Finland and Sweden to the USSR, presumably under the Soviet pressure. The aim of these activities was to intimidate the people, living outside the USSR and to avoid any political activities which were inadvisable for the Kremlin. After signing the respective decree, Juho Kusti Paasikivi, president of Finland, wrote in his diary, “It is awful: Russians have always different understanding in justice and legality as the people of Western world and Nordic countries have.”
The USSR considered all the refugees from the Baltic States as Soviet citizens, even in case when they had left their homeland before the communist regime was established there. Those who had got Swedish citizenship got in the same time a notice from the Swedish Immigration Office which said, “The Immigration Office informs you that you have further the citizenship of the USSR. The Swedish state cannot guarantee your security outside Sweden until you have the USSR citizenship.”(5)
Many Estonians who had lived in Sweden left for the USA or Canada, in some cases even using small vessels having doubtful seaworthiness.
The Soviet officials had double standards almost in every case. The fight against the German occupiers and their collaborators was always justified, the fight against Soviet occupiers and their collaborators was always considered as crime.
General Andrei Vlasov and his staff were hanged, the men of lower ranks got hard punishments as well. At that let us bear in mind that Vlasov did during the World War II the same what the leader of Bolsheviks Lenin did during the World War I.
The Soviet-style double standards are in use even nowadays. During the communist rule people often thought in one way, spoke in the second way and acted in the third way.
Nazi war criminals were punished, the communist ones were not. Rudolf Hess was in prison until his death at the age of 93. The former NKVD official Idel Jakobson who had signed death sentences for 621 persons, ignoring all legal norms, was not punished at all and lived freely in Tallinn until his death at the age of 93. If he had driven a car being drunken or taken the train without paying the fare he would presumably have been punished.
After Stalin´s death the Soviet leaders coined the code word “personality cult” and blamed Stalin for all the crimes committed by the regime. They claimed that everything had happened due to the peculiarities of Stalin´s character, especially during the last years of his life. At the same time they ignored the fact that the same idea of the personality cult could well have been applied to Germany during Hitler´s rule. They said that the Germans had been guilty of Hitler´s crimes. At the same time they didn´t consider the Russians guilty of Stalin´s crimes, saying that the Russian people had also suffered from Stalin´s rule. One could ask, why should an ordinary German be against Hitler if "the first country of workers and peasants" (as the Soviet Union called itself) not only acknowledged Hitler´s regime as legal, but had concluded a treaty of friedship with him.
An Estonian proverb says "A hunchback can be cured only by the grave." It may be so in case of physically hunchbacked ones, but a morally and mentally hunchbacked person can´t be cured even by the grave. His children and even grandchildren will often inherit his distorted world outlook and immorality. The whole generation which has grown up during communist dictatorship has in a number of cases a totally distorted understanding in world affairs. The lies designed by the communist propagandists are still in use and being disseminated both by ordinary newsmen and high-ranking state officials. When a former communist talks about discrimination of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic States or restoring constitutional order in Chechnya, it is understandable. These people have got their posts and privileges for their loyalty to the communist dictators. But it is strange to say, even some former political prisoners believe the lies of ex-communists.
For example a Russian historian Vladimir Osipov, who had twice been imprisoned during communist rule for political reasons, wrote in “Inform. Rossija”, “The Estonian racists who have created the regime of apartheid for the 40 per cent of their population, sit in the UNO and the European Council. Isn´t it time to raise the question of expelling them from all international organizations? Isn´t it time to apply the economic sanctions to the Baltic “South-African Republic?”"
The well-known Russian human rights activist and former political prisoner Sergei Kovalyov together with the chairman of the Committee of the International Affairs and External Trade of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation Lukin addressed a letter to the General Secretary of the European Council C.Lalumiére, in which they claimed that the new citizenship law under discussion in the Estonian Parliament would divide the population of Estonia into two categories on the ethnic basis. Further they claimed that the situation in Estonia was like apartheid in South Africa.
All such activities are going on at connivance of the Estonian state officials. In Roman Empire the tools of production were divided into three categories: dumb, having voice and speaking ones. The communist dictatorship tried to turn the people from speaking tools of production into having voices like horses, oxen and sheep. The people were so intimidated that they often didn´t dare to tell the truth even to their closest friends and relatives.
Nowadays we have too many high-ranking state officials who have voices like horses and oxen in Roman Empire, but who don´t speak where and when they ought to. By keeping silent instead of calling a spade a spade they help ex-communists to create an illusion that they are the real defenders of human rights, and thus create preconditions for restoring communist tyranny.
All the crimes committed by communists and Nazis became possible due to the inactivities of the majoritiy of population of the respective countries. A Russian-language underground journal “Lutch Svobody” (The Ray of Freedom) which was published in Estonia in 1970ies, wrote about the political terror in the Soviet Union, “If a hatchet-waving madman kills tens of people on the marketplace, then one must blame not him, but those who saw it all and didn´t undertake anything to stop him”.
Nowadays the step-by-step restoration of communism is going on in the countries, which had earlier been under the communist yoke. The ghost of Munich, Tehran and Yalta is menacing the mankind again. There is nothing to be astonished that the words of Jörg Haider turned the European Union into a great fury, but the Russian colonial war against Chechnya is quite acceptable to the European hypocrites!
1. Polpredy Soobschtschayut. Moskva, "Mezhdunarodnye Otnosheniya,1990
2. Bolshaya Sovetskaya Enciklopediya
3. Political Arrests in Estonia 1940-1988
4. I.Jürjo. Pagulus ja Nõukogude Eesti, Umara, Tallinn, 1996
5. A.Kriisa, Okupeeritud Eesti - nii nagu ta on, Stockholm, 1984