Reinsalu: It is our duty to remember the victims of communism

Screenshot from an Estonian movie about deportations, "Risttuules" (ERR)
6/15/2015 11:00 AM
Category: Society

Speaking on the anniversary of the June deportations in 1941, Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu said it is everyone's duty to remember the victims of the communist regime.

“Today we remember all who fell victim to the deportations and political repressions. Estonia, along with other states, must continue to make sure communism is acknowledged as an unlawful ideology and that it is a crime against humanity,” he said, adding that there is no place for symbols which represent crimes against humanity, in public meetings in Estonia.

He said Estonia should build a monument to the victims of communism around the world, for Estonia's centennial celebrations in 2018.

Deportations

The Soviet Union occupied and forcibly annexed Estonia, along with Latvia and Lithuania, in the summer of 1940, but it had started preparations for the launch of terror in Estonian civil society already before the occupation. As elsewhere, the purpose of communist terror was to suppress any possible resistance from the very beginning and to instill great fear among people in order to rule out any kind of organized general resistance movement in the future as well.

In Estonia, the planned extermination of the prominent and active persons, as well as the displacement of large groups of people were intended to destroy the Estonian society and economy. The lists of people to be repressed were prepared well in advance.

The Soviet security organs started their repressive activities in Estonia already before its formal annexation into the Soviet Union during the course of occupation. Preparations for carrying out mass deportations were part of the total violence directed against the territories occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939–1940 and began in the winter of 1940–1941. On May 14, 1941, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the Council of the People’s Commissioners of the Soviet Union issued a top secret directive, “Directive on the Deportation of the Socially Alien Element from the Baltic Republics, Western Ukraine, Western Belorussia and Moldavia”.

The first deportation raid was begun on the night of June 13 and early morning of June 14, 1941. The search for persons subjected to arrest or deportation continued until the morning of June 16. Those carrying out the deportations behaved with extraordinary cruelty: even pregnant women and seriously ill elderly people were packed into overcrowded stock-cars.

According to the order, issued on June 13 from Moscow, over 10,000 people were deported from Estonia during 14-17 June 1941. Over 7,000 women, children and elderly people were among the deported. The extent of the genocide is indicated by the fact that more than 25 percent of all the people deported in June 1941 were minors – under 16 years of age. As the first trains loaded with deportees arrived at their destinations, the next wave of deportation was being prepared in Estonia by Soviet authorities. But the implementation was hampered by Germany’s assault on the Soviet Union. Due to the rapid advancement of the front, a second deportation was carried out only on the island of Saaremaa.

At the end of 1941, investigative commissions started to operate in the Soviet prison camps, carrying out on-site interrogations and passing court decisions, under which hundreds of the detainees were shot to death. By the spring of 1942, of the more than 3,000 men dispatched to prison camps, only a couple of hundred were still alive.

The fate of women and children sent to the remote regions of Kirov and Novosibirsk oblasts was also onerous. Altogether 4,331 people or less than a half of the 1941 deportees ever returned to their homeland.

J. M. Laats, S. Tambur

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