Diary of Karl Soonpää on June 17, 1940

Auditor General Karl Soonpää's diary entry from June 17, 1940 – 80 years ago.

June 17. The papers have printed a TASS report with a Russian note to Latvia. The latter is accused of upholding a military alliance with Estonia in contravention of the pact and expanding it to cover Lithuania. Also, of attempting to expand it to include Finland. Demands include access for Russian troops to Latvia, the removal of the Latvian government in favor of one that would honor the pact. In the end, it reads that a corresponding note has been sent to Estonia and the Estonian government has complied and resigned.

Government of the Republic (V. V.) meeting at 5 p.m. It turns out the army is conducting itself properly – demanding premises but not making demands as to where and what kind.

Things are different when it comes to the navy. Adm. Kucherov has given a letter to [deputy war minister, Maj. Gen. August] Traksmaa, demanding a list of designated premises for the navy, topped by Pagari Street 1 and followed by the Peetri factories (railways service), prefecture, waterways government, customs head office, officers' casino etc. Premises need to be furnished – including the modern apartments near the Police Garden. A number of Russian troops have moved to the capital. They have left the islands, Haapsalu and Paldiski.

These movements have followed battle tactics, complete with scouts and vanguards. Our people have remained calm everywhere. The Russians have played harmonicas and waved to the people laughing, but no one has reacted.

Another government meeting at 10 p.m. Gen. Laidoner reports on his Narva trip to meet with Gen. Meretskov. The latter apparently had the text of the agreement with him from Moscow, with Laidoner unable to change a single word of it between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The Russians will be bringing in two corps – five divisions – with 200 tanks. No new aircraft will come.

Troops will be stationed in almost all Estonian cities. [More detailed locations have been removed from the text.] Tanks at Kuigatsi-Puka. Defense League to be disarmed. Laidoner: Could the Defense League really pose a threat to Russian armored cars and tanks? Meretskov: Of course not, but the Russian soldier cannot understand how an Estonian peasant can have a combat gun while a Russian one cannot.

To secure communications, Russian representatives are set up at more important telephone exchanges and commandants attached to railway junctions. The Russian troops also want the right to buy directly from Estonian farmers.

What could be Russia's aim, to Sovietize the Baltics or take up defensive positions against the threat from the west early on. Because the first would not require so many troops, while stationing the latter to have a south-facing front could suggest the second. More so as France has turned to Germany with a request for peace that could free up German divisions if it happens.

It is likely that both targets are sought. It turns out that Adm. Kucherov has explained the extent of his demands through the intention of moving the Baltic Fleet headquarters to Tallinn. – To a foreign country?!

Historian Küllo Arjakas: Around 90,000 Red Army troops started crossing into Estonia at 4 a.m. (Estonian time) on June 17. To specify the new locations of the Red Army, Gen. Laidoner went to Narva to be given the new base locations and other conditions (so-called Narva Dictate) by head of the Leningrad Military District Kirill Meretskov. Major railroad, telegraph and telephone stations had to be surrendered to Soviet military control, while the civilian population (Defense League) had to be disarmed inside 48 hours.

Estonia also had to surrender suitable plots for airfields and airstrips, equip Russian garrisons with power etc.

The Estonian air force had to ground flights over Estonia for 14 days following the agreement. Gen. Laidoner signed the conditions of the so-called Narva Dictate at 3 p.m. Military units from Paldiski and Klooga occupied Tallinn by midday on June 17. The Red Army also moved into sea fortresses and set up armed guards at military sites.

Two government sittings were held on June 17. The first discussed accommodation for new Soviet military units and the domestic situation. A decision was made to compensate persons forced to move because of the need to put up the Red Army. The second sitting was to hear Gen. Laidoner's report on the military agreement made in Narva and to discuss current issues.

The newspaper Uus Eesti reported on June 17 that the government of the Soviet Union had made demands against the Estonian government to ensure compliance with the mutual assistance pact between the two countries.

Head of the Soviet navy group Stepan Kucherov sent a letter to Deputy War Minister Maj. Gen. Traksmaa, demanding a total of 40 buildings to be surrendered by midnight of June 19 for the accommodation of the Baltic Fleet, "complete with furnishings, furniture, power lighting etc." and including the War Ministry building, navy headquarters, waterways service, defense contractor Arsenal and its workshops, shipyard with two wharfs, several luxury hotels, the War Tribunal building, Police Prefecture building and a number of houses on Pärnu Road, Raua Street, Kreutzwaldi Street, Gonsiori Street, Narva Road and in Pirita. In the same letter, Kucherov also demanded the seaplane aerodrome, fuel cisterns, the Goods and Military Port complete with warehouses and wharfs and "20 summer residences in Pirita and Nõmme."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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