Kesklinn residents could shelter in bastion passages beneath the Old Town in the event of a future military attack it has been suggested. The Riigikogu's National Defense Committee is currently discussing plans for civil defense.
After Russia declared war Ukraine on February 24, the Riigikogu's National Defense Committee has been looking at how civilians could be protected in the event of an attack. This includes mapping potential bomb shelters as, unlike Ukraine's bigger cities, there are no metro stations to hide in.
Last week, the government allocated €86 million to the Ministry of the Interior to strengthen civil defense and internal security. ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) looked at how Estonia can protect its people.
The Estonian government has not developed bomb shelters since 1993 and there is no overview of buildings of facilities that can be adapted for this purpose. During the Soviet-era there were a few hundred shelters and people were supposed to seek refuge in apartment buildings' basements.
Architect Margit Mutso told AK: "I am deeply upset that for the last 20 years, when architects have tried to talk about shelters and civil protection, people at different levels of government, with different political views, have been ridiculed or treated with a certain superiority as if we were paranoid. I think that is unacceptable, and here we are today."
Plans for a network of shelters were drawn up by the State Chancellery in 2018 but never developed.
Deputy Director General of the Rescue Board Tauno Suurkivi said €50 million has been allocated for the development of a plan.
The plan is multi-layered and national governments, local authorities and the individual have roles to play. For example, apartment associations can start by inspecting their basements, he said.
"It is worth thinking about Maslow's pyramid: what are the most important things? Drink, food, heat and information in crisis conditions are the most important," Suurkivi said, referencing American psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory.
Over the past 30 years, the number of basements has dwindled. It is thought that underground parking lots could be used in extreme cases but they have not been designed for this and there is no proper ventilation or water supply.
Mutso believes the state needs to create rules so developers think about civilian defense. She said building underground structures is expensive but additional funding or new taxes could be created.
The architect said if the Rotermann Quarter in central Tallinn had been designed with this in mind, shelters could have been planned for employees and residents.
One potential shelter is the Kiek in de Kök Fortification Museum which has a network of underground passages under the Old Town. The walls are several meters thick, said visiting manager Peeter Talvar. The bastion passages were built in the 17th–18th centuries and currently house the Carved Stone Museum.
New solutions are also being developed. Estonian military equipment company Terramil has developed a plastic mobile bomb shelter that can be buried in the ground where needed.
Editor: Helen Wright