The Swedish Connection: Transnational Networks and Communication between the Democratic Opposition in Soviet Estonia and the Estonian Exile Community during the 1980s

Lars Fredrik Stöcker (European University Institute,  Florence,  Italy)

The first credible information about the existence of a small, but nevertheless organized democratic opposition in Estonia, which reached the West in the mid-1970s, marked an important watershed for Estonian exile politics, especially in Sweden.  As during World War II and the immediate post-war years, geography regained its importance for the informational exchange between the exiles and their fellow countrymen in the home country.

In the late 1970s, a small number of Estonian activists on both sides of the Iron Curtain managed to establish first channels of regular informational exchange between Soviet Estonia and the free world, whose central key node was Stockholm, one of the main centers of the Estonian diaspora.  Due to the conspirative networks between Sweden and Estonia, which often proved to be able to outwit the KGB’s otherwise very effective surveillance system, the representatives of both Estonian exile politics and the domestic opposition could develop a so far unimaginable level of cooperation.

Based on archival research and oral history interviews with formerly politically active Swedish exile Estonians as well as Soviet Estonian dissidents active in the 1970s and 1980s, the paper aims at reconstructing the coordinated exile and dissident strategies of surmounting the isolation of Soviet Estonia from the turn of the decade onwards.  This transnational angle adds a fruitful perspective to the research on the last decade of Soviet rule in Estonia, from which both Soviet Estonian and exile historiography as well as, on a broader level, Cold War history as a whole can profit.

Keyword: Stocker

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