Estonia Experience of Cold War


EstoniaExperience of Cold War

Estonia,one of the fifteen constituent republics of the former Soviet Unionexperienced unique problems during the cold war period.Emergingout of the Second World War political and military tensions betweenthe two superpowers, the Cold War rivalry between the western blockand the Eastern bloc lasted for approximately forty five years.Although it did not involve large scale fighting between theconflicting sides it led to heightened tensions, suspicions, and aseries of international confrontation that was a disaster to thesuperpowers. There were no direct wars but there were regional warsthat the two sides supported such as the proxy wars. This paperdiscusses the experience of cold war in Estonia. The paper beginswith a general overview of the cold war followed by Estonianexperience of the cold war and later relates it to the nationalismand nationalistic theories.

Overviewof the cold war between the Eastern and the Western Blocs

Closeto two years after the Second World War, the world was characterizedby a lot of confusion from the west to the east. Several nations hadbeen totally destroyed. Economic status of most of the countries hadbeen badly affected after these countries channeled all theirresources to the expensive battle in the effort of maintaining it.The war caused thousands of citizens to be displaced&nbspafter theirhouseholds and assets destroyed in the course of battle. The state ofthe world at that time caused the United Nations to come forward as away of providing way forward, peace and stability in the unstableworld. There was a lot of uncertainty among nations of what thefuture had for them.1

Withmany countries in disarray, there arose two Superpowers. The twosuperpowers were the Union of the soviet Socialist Republics aliasthe Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union togetherwith its allies in the Warsaw Pact formed the Eastern bloc and had acommon ideology communism. The United States together with NATOallies formed the western Bloc whose common ideology was capitalism.2

TheEastern bloc formed with the aim of selling their ideology to ensurethat countries of the World embrace their communist ideology. TheUnited States on the other hand rose to oppose and make ensure thatall nations of the World adopt their capitalist ideology. Thedifference in ideology and desire to convert other nations made thesuperpowers naturally against each other. The Second World War hadweakened the Soviet Union. However, in the process of rebuilding thecountries, the Soviet Union emerged to impart communism in them.United States being naturally opposed to communism tried to preventthe countries from communism by offering aid through the MarshallPlan. The then U.S president issued a decree dubbed Truman Doctrinethat any nation that remained capitalist would be assisted andprotected by America.3

Throughoutthe two world wars, the first and the second world wars, Germanyproved to be very strong that it created a lot of fear. An agreementwas made to divide it into two across its capital to weaken it. Thewestern bloc controlled Western Berlin while the Eastern Bloccontrolled the Eastern Berlin. The division was done by building abig Wall popularly known as the BerlinWall. The Wall remained a sign of the Cold War and differencesbetween the Eastern and Western Bloc.&nbsp&nbspEvery participant inthis war wanted to ensure their opinion was felt in the countries ofthe World. Communists sought to ensure their ideology is spreadthroughout the whole world while the capitalists desired thatcapitalism continue. The war was felt in the whole world due to itsmagnitude. Most countries participated as the fighting powersheightened tensions by ensuring that each knew who was behind themthrough the formation of groupings to protect themselves.

Thewar brought tensions that were felt in the whole world by millions ofcitizens. The world powers engaged in a fatal arms war that almostmade the world a nuclear free-for-all. Nuclear War threatened bothsides of war. Due to heightened stress leaders started learninglessons with the realization that nuclear threat was more centralthan differences in viewpoints. It led to the creation of détentepolicy implying lessoning of tensions. The war ended in Germanythrough the taking down of the Berlin Wall in 1989.4

TheCold War is an essential time of world History. Similar to otherengagements with overseas nations, the Cold War seriously affectedcivilians at home. For common citizens the war was frighteningdueto endlessfearof nuclear war. The reason was that incase of nuclearwar noone would survive be it the people or the countries.Dueto fear of nuclear people resulted to buildingbombshelters in theirhomes.

Estoniaduring the cold war (1944-1990)

TheSecond World War altered the world balance of powers. The influenceof the Soviet Union, being one of the winning states after WWII, interms of making decision in world matters rose significantly.Countries from the Eastern Europe were conquered and their regimesput under the control of Moscow. The countries forming the Westernbloc in their effort to continue the support of the war period couldnot prevent the Soviet Union expansion. Instead of the earlier agreedcooperation, a fresh new conflict grew between the superpowers –the Cold War that enormously affected progresses in the globe up tothe late 1980s. The countries forming the Eastern bloc separatedthemselves from the world behind what came to be known as the ironcurtain. Estonia and other countries commonly referred as the Balticcountries came behind the curtain.

Duringthe cold war period, things were difficult for Estonians. What thepeople of Estonia went through was more to do with the destruction oftheir nationalism. From 1918 until 1940 Estonia was independent. Thiswas until Soviet troops invaded the country with the aim of placingthe country under Soviet influence. The country was forced to sign anagreement called the mutualassistancepactwhichenabled Sovietarmy to inhabit Estonia.5A parliamentary election followed full of communist candidatesleading to the formation of the Communist parliament that made iteasy for Estonia to be captured to the Soviet Union. The inhabitationof the Soviet Union was characterized by deportations, terror,killings, and mass arrests.6

Afterthe first invasion of Estonia, it followed another Sovietoccupation which was a follow-up on the first. This was moreorganized. It was characterized by, more deportations of Estonians toremote parts of the Soviet Union, ruthlessness, mass arrests, masskillings, imparting of communist ideology to unify cultural andsocial life, and the ruining of everything that symbolizedindependent Estonia. This destruction was meant to ruin theirnational identity. Others included private property nationalization,religious persecution, agricultural collectivization, formation oftribunals with no democratic principles, brainwashing of youth,absence of national army, Russian became the main language, importantjob in local leadership offered to Russians. Between 1956 and 1965over 250,000 settlers came from Russia to a nation of approximately800,000 Estonians. Currently ethnic Russians form a quarter of theresidents.

Afterhuge Estonian fatalities, damaging of properties and great economiclosses, the efforts of the Baltic countries to restore theirindependence status never bore any fruit because in 1944, thesecountries saw more immigrants come settle in their land. At time ofthe Stalinism (1944-1953), saw the start of the mass spread of Sovietideologies to the ordinary life, the control of opposition, thespiritual persecution and the installation of a command economy. Theregime reached its highest point during the deportations which wascharacterized by terror.7

Sovietdeportation of Estonians

Thiswas an act that brought a lot of problems to the citizens and nationof Estonia. The Soviet Union began the plans of mass deportations ofEstonian citizens in the 1940s with a briefly written document ofdeporting the Estonians to Siberia. In June 14, 1941 the first phaseof deportation begun. Families which went to bed with no idea of whatwas coming were woken up by hammering on their doors. They wererequired either to accept deportation or be arrested. All theirassets were confiscated. They were ordered to pack immediately. In ashort while trucks arrived for deporting them. The deportations werecharacterized by unusual cruelty in that the sick, elderly andexpectant women even packed into overloaded stockcars.Inthe first phase of Estonian deportation, over ten thousand peoplewere deported in that month of June. Among the people deported, 70%comprised elderly, children and women. The magnitude of the genocideis evident in the sense that over 25 percent of the people deportedin children of under the age of 16 years.8The deportations critically affected the Estonia’s population andas the first phase came to an end the second phase was underway. Thesecond phase of deportation did not fully succeed due to Germany’sassault on the Soviet Union that hindered the mass deportation. Thedeportation that succeeded was on Saaremaa Island only.

Eightyears after the mass deportation, another one was planned andsucceeded in 25 March 1949 where more than 20,000 people werecaptured and deported to remote parts of Siberia. The communist partywanted this group to go and complete collectivization .9The group of deportees comprised of 49 percent of women and 29percent of children. There were children of less than one year oldand others were born on the way. The deportations were full ofinhumane acts for example over 5000 people were deported to Omskoblast that was affected by nuclear. Those who became sick due tonuclear radiation were left with no treatment. The children born withabnormities plus the people who became sick were informed that theywere suffering from brucellosis.

Duringthe Cold War, the regime saw a danger of war between the Western andUSSR states. This had profound impacts on Estonia due to its locationat the border of USSR. The country was filled with Soviet militarybases. Youths of Estonian origin were recruited into the Army. TheCold War affected the whole society through the complete system ofcivil defense.

Estonia post-1989 experience

Theunending immigration and settlement in Estonia initiated adaptationsto the system during the Nikita Khrushchev regime. However, this didnot mean that the regime was accepted. This was depicted in the massmovements of the 1980s that led to the restoration of independence in1991. Forthis Baltic country the fifty years being under the Soviet Unionsignified cultural, economic and political seclusion from the Westerncountries which led to backwardness of society.

Afterthe cold war, the treat framing by the locals changed drasticallyfrom the time the cold war ended. Initially there was still a lot offear among the Estonians about their previous occupying power as athreat to their state. According research done, 60 to 78 percent ofEstonians saw Russia as threatening state. Several years later, thefigures changed such in the 2000-2003, the percentage dropped from 33to 15 percent.10

Yearsafter independence in 1991, Estonia has allied itself to America.Following the fall of the Soviet Union the country has advanced inemploying rule of law, democracy, economic freedom and establishingsturdy national defense. They opposed the Russian influence andaligned itself to the west. Estonia and the other Baltic states arenot of Eastern but of Western origin. Though small in terms ofpopulation and geographical size, it is a powerful defender of thedemocracy, human rights and economic freedom. Estonia has developed.After independence, it did not have even a phone line but currently,it is leading in e-governance and business. 11

The command economy and itsconsequences on EstoniaEstoniabefore the control by the Soviet Union was successful in agricultureand industry. It highly depended on its labor force and localresources. Destruction of the Estonia’s economy started afterinstallation of the Soviet regime between 1940 and 1941. When the warended, the economy was totally destroyed. This was possible becausethe creation of collective farms (collectivization), land reform,state-planned economy, and compulsory industrialization. The commandeconomy reigned without taking into consideration the locallyavailable resources of labor and raw materials, local needs,traditional ways of production. Theindustrial businesses generated in Estonia such as the militaryindustry required skilled labor, necessitating a massive arrival ofmigrant workers. The creation of heavy industry state manageddistribution of products rather than normal market demand and supplyforces led to adverse deficit of agricultural commodities andconsumer goods in the whole of Soviet Union. Additionally, theconsumption level and the cost of living Estonian SSR in the afterwar period became higher than anywhere else in the USSR. Even thoughthere was an iron Curtain, the western influence could still reachthe Estonians through the mails from their relatives in the Westernbloc, and also through Finnish tourists. They adapted the Finnish wayof life as they took them as their models. TheSecond World War and the Soviet Union split the Estonian culture intotwo the cultural lives at home and in exile.12Outside the country, there were few consumers of Estonianculture/language hence high chances of assimilation into the foreigncountry culture. Estonian culture at home resisted restrictions tocultural freedom finally guaranteeing the continuation of Estonianculture. Estonianreligious life was under threat. The Soviet Union through the statesecurity forces (KGB) put spiritual life of the Estonian people undercontrol. The split of Soviet Estonia through economically andpolitically from other parts of the globe, supplemented byinformation blackout from the west had negative impacts. In spite ofall the efforts to destroy the Estonian culture by the Soviet Union,Estonian culture, education, and language persevered. Anothercomponent of the Soviet politics was ruining of Estonian culturalheritage made by its previous generations. Information materials suchas books and periodicals published and kept in libraries during theindependent Estonia were destroyed. The whole community wassubjected to propaganda in order to make their spiritual life underthe control the ruling Union.Estonian Cold war experienceand nationalismHistoryof Estonia similar to other countries from the Eastern Bloc has beencharacterized by many years of foreign occupation, rule, anddomination .The experience has had effects in the shaping Estonianidentity. A country can easily define itself after coming in contactwith other nations due to visible differences. After defining itself,the country can use it as a power. Nationalism can be said to be themost powerful political force in the whole world even more thannuclear. Nationalism is defined as the belief that mankind iscomposed of different groups with common culture, common myths,language, symbols and the groups must have their own state.13Nationalismput together European countries from the dynastic states to modernnation states and the spread of the ideology that led to the Britishand the Soviet empires. Nations try to protect their cultural valuesand identities through having their own state because lack of a stateleads to assimilation and absorption. Once a nation has beenestablished it is self-sustaining and hard to conquer. Any leadershiphas to be very aware of the power of tribal, cultural, or territorialloyalties that exist among its citizens to avoid the rise ofnationalism from within. A good example is during the cold war whenthere was exaggeration the power of transnational ideologies such asthe capitalist and communism, underrating the extent to whichcultural identities would ultimately produce extreme encountersinside the Marxist world.14


Ball,Simon J. Thecold war.Arnold, 1998.

Coffey,Luke. &quotThe Baltic states: Why the United States must strengthensecurity cooperation.&quot&nbspWashington,DC: The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved May&nbsp22(2013): 2014.

Gustafson,Thane. CapitalismRussian-Style.Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Mälksoo,Lauri. &quotSoviet genocide? Communist mass deportations in theBaltic States and international law.&quot LeidenJournal of International Law14, no. 04 (2001): 757-787.

Noreen,Erik, and Roxanna Sjöstedt. &quotEstonian identity formations andthreat framing in the post-cold war era.&quot Journalof Peace Research41, no. 6 (2004): 733-750.

Pamir,Peri. &quotNationalism, Ethnicity and Democracy: ContemporaryManifestations.&quot&nbspTheInternational Journal of Peace Studies&nbsp2,no. 2 (1997): 1-12.

Posen,Barry R. &quotNationalism, the mass army, and military power.&quotInternationalsecurity18, no. 2 (1993): 80-124.

Statiev,Alexander. &quotMotivations and goals of Soviet deportations in theWestern Borderlands.&quot TheJournal of Strategic Studies28, no. 6 (2005): 977-1003.

Tannberg,Tõnu, and Enn Tarvel. &quotDocuments on the Soviet militaryoccupation of Estonia in 1940.&quot Trames10, no. 60/55 (2006): 81-95.

Westerhof,Gerben J., and Corey LM Keyes. &quotAfter the fall of the BerlinWall: Perceptions and consequences of stability and change amongmiddle-aged and older East and West Germans.&quot TheJournals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and SocialSciences61, no. 5 (2006): S240-S247.

Wulf,Meike. LocatingEstonia: Perspectives from exile and the homeland.Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2009.

1 Ball, Simon J. The cold war. Arnold, 1998

2 Gustafson, Thane. Capitalism Russian-Style. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Mälksoo, Lauri. &quotSoviet genocide? Communist mass deportations in the Baltic States and international law.&quot Leiden Journal of International Law 14, no. 04 (2001): 757-787.

3 Ibid

4 Westerhof, Gerben J., and Corey LM Keyes. &quotAfter the fall of the Berlin Wall: Perceptions and consequences of stability and change among middle-aged and older East and West Germans.&quot The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 61, no. 5 (2006): S240-S247.

5 Tannberg, Tõnu, and Enn Tarvel. &quotDocuments on the Soviet military occupation of Estonia in 1940.&quot Trames 10, no. 60/55 (2006): 81-95.

6 Mälksoo, Lauri. &quotSoviet genocide? Communist mass deportations in the Baltic States and international law.&quot Leiden Journal of International Law 14, no. 04 (2001): 757-787.

7 Ibid

8 Ibid

9 Statiev, Alexander. &quotMotivations and goals of Soviet deportations in the Western Borderlands.&quot The Journal of Strategic Studies 28, no. 6 (2005): 977-1003.

10 Noreen, Erik, and Roxanna Sjöstedt. &quotEstonian identity formations and threat framing in the post-cold war era.&quot Journal of Peace Research 41, no. 6 (2004): 733-750.

11 Coffey, Luke. &quotThe Baltic states: Why the United States must strengthen security cooperation.&quot&nbspWashington, DC: The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved May&nbsp22 (2013): 2014.

12 Wulf, Meike. Locating Estonia: Perspectives from exile and the homeland. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2009.

13 Pamir, Peri. &quotNationalism, Ethnicity and Democracy: Contemporary Manifestations.&quot&nbspThe International Journal of Peace Studies&nbsp2, no. 2 (1997): 1-12.

14 Posen, Barry R. &quotNationalism, the mass army, and military power.&quot International security 18, no. 2 (1993): 80-124