Gallery: Thousands of KGB-snapped singing revolution photos enter archives

6,000 original camera negatives were given to the film section of the National Archives (Riigiarhiiv) on May 20. The negatives are from snaps by the KGB - the Soviet Union's main internal security organ - during the Singing Revolution era, and concerns mass eventsbetween 1987-1991. ETV show "Pealtnägija" had the chance to see the photos.

The film reels had been stored in a safe belonging to Jaanus Rohumaa, who has been a security company owner for 30 years. "To my knowledge, the existence of these photos is unique, not mention that this is the only place in the former Soviet Union where photos have preserved of events that affected us so deeply," Rohumaa said.

The individual who shot the photos methodically, at the same time trying to hide hisactual employer, called himself "Oleg". Even though he can be seen on many of the old shots and his name was published in [State Gazette] Riigi Teataja, the 63-year-old former KGB officer agreed to an interview, on the condition that his appearance and name wouldn't be published.

The man, Estonian-born, received training in the Red Army in the field of encryption, in today's sense, and said that he joined the KGB voluntarily in 1976 serving most of the time in the 7th Department, which was engaged in secret surveillance.

Secret surveillance was thus a big part of his life for decades. He never wore a uniform, and couldn´t even tell his wife what he was up to. "My wife didn´t ask questions, she knew that at home, not a word was to be said about it."

The exact number of images in the collection is unclear. In digitized form, a total of 6,500 files were created from the negatives, but since some frames may be repeated or are defective, there are actually fewer images in actuality.

The pictures show unconstrained rallies, pickets, demonstrations, commemorative events, speech and wake-up meetings, even funerals, as well as the expulsions of dissidents, and of course, all the significant events in Hirvepark and Lauluväljak.

Almost all the leaders of the people at that time, as well as some future stars, can be seen in the pictures. For example, at the opening of the memorial crosses commemorating the [World War Two] Battle of Porkuni, young historian and future prime minister Mart Laar speaks. Jüri Mõis, later founder of Hansapank, demands a self-sufficient Estonia.

The focus of the analytical work was among others, Heiki Ahonen and Eve Pärnaste. Ahonen was punished for agitation and propaganda against the Soviet Union and spent four years in prison, most of it in Perm labor camp in central Russia. Both also participated in the organizing of the legendary meeting at Hirvepark in Tallinn in 1987.

"Oleg" was also in the thick of the events of May 15, 1990, almost 30 years ago to the day, when members of the [pro-Soviet] interfront movement stormed Toompea. While several reports survived from the day which have gone down in history, alongside Edgar Savisaar's famous radio announcement "Toompea is under attack", the KGB photographer managed to capture the precise moment when the [Estonian] blue-black-and-white was torn off the roof.

By law, former KGB collaborators had to surrender to the security police following independence, but Oleg didn´t do so, and his name was published in the Riigi Teataja. The former KGB officer has no guilt or regrets about his actions, however. "If there would be another change of power now, I think all, or at least half, of [Estonian security police] Kapo's collaborators would become the enemy," he said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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