Thousands of candles, one for each of the men, women and children deported by the Soviets to Siberia in 1949, will be lighted on Freedom Square in Tallinn today. Nearly 3 percent of the Estonian population were seized in a few days and dispatched to remote areas of Siberia on March 25, 1949.
In the summer of 1940 the Soviet Union occupied Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as a result of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23, 1939. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Estonia lost approximately 17.5 percent of its population.
The Soviet occupation brought about an event that until then had only been read about in history books and which became the most horrible memory of the past centuries – mass deportations which affected people of all nationalities living in Estonia. The two deportations that affected Estonia the most, on June 14 in 1941, and March 25 in 1949, are annually observed as days of mourning.
In the course of the operation that began on March 25 in 1949, over 20,000 people – nearly 3 percent of the 1945 Estonian population – were seized in a few days and dispatched to remote areas of Siberia.
The majority of the 1949 deportees were women (49.4 percent) and children (29.8 percent). The youngest deportee was less than a year old; the oldest was 95 years old. At least two babies were born on the train to Siberia.
5,000 Estonians were dispatched to Omsk oblast, into the region directly affected by the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. From 1949 to 1956, about 260 nuclear and fusion bomb explosions were carried out there and the victims of radiation sickness were left without medical treatment for decades.
The victims will be remembered all across Estonia. There will be a remembrance service at the St. John's Church in Tallinn and St. Paul’s Church in Tartu. The candles will be lighted on Freedom Square in Tallinn, Town Hall Square in Tartu, Martens Square in Pärnu and Town Square in Rakvere.
Editor: S. Tambur