Estonian “June Communists” and Western European Fellow Travelers

Jaak Valge (Tallinn University)

Among the ministers of the Estonian pseudo-government that rose to power in June 1940, there were no prison-hardened old underground communists.  Like the pseudo-governments in the other Baltic countries, this Soviet-sponsored government has been called a “literary”-type government; since among the ministers there were a number intellectuals, the name is apposite.

The reason often posited why these individuals began working for Moscow seems at the first glance logical and persuasive: the authoritarian regime that emerged before the loss of the independence in Estonia and other Baltic countries rejected the intelligentsia.  However, further research reveals this was not the main reason.   An additional suggested reason that the left intelligentsia was willing to begin serving Soviet power in the summer of 1940 is their desire to soften the process of sovietization of Estonia.  This theory, however, is not supported by the evidence.

This presentation analyzes the views of the left intelligentsia in the 1920s and 1930s and their motives in 1940.  What brought such a large proportion of the left intelligentsia to serve Moscow in 1940?  What was the appeal of Soviet communism?  Did their views and actions differ from those of their Western European fellow travelers, and if so, how?  Is there reason to think that had the Soviet Union had occupied a Western European country, many of their local left intelligentsia would have also been willing to serve the occupying power?

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