County-Level Operative Groups and the Occupation of Estonia of 1944

Ardi Sillaberg (University of Tartu)

The second occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union during World War II took place from February to November 1944.  To restart and control the re-sovietization of the conquered territory behind the Red Army, Soviet leaders decided to send into German-occupied Estonia operative groups of security forces and civil servants, including institutions of the Estonian Communist Party (ECP).

In the fall of 1943 Moscow gave orders to the projected leaders of the Soviet Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to prepare a conjoined project for a new Soviet county-level administrative structure.  Shortly thereafter, orders came to begin assembling staff for county-level institutions—both party and executive committees—into operative groups.   There were separate operative groups for Tallinn and Narva as these were considered to be the most important cities in Estonia.  There also were separate operative groups for both the NKVD (Internal Affairs forces) and NKGB (state security forces).

Most of the operative groups began their activities in early March 1944, but in April 1944 the ECP Central Committee gave orders to postpone active preparations for return to Estonia.  In June the Central Committee concluded that only half of the personnel had been gathered for future Soviet institutions and that most had little to no qualifications.  From that point on, the only requirement for positions in the ESSR was knowledge of Estonian.  During the following months, quantity of future ESSR workers prevailed over quality, and this became the primary obstacle during the fall of 1944 when the re-sovietization of Estonia began.

Comments are closed.