Stalinist-Era Policies of Repression and Mass Arrests in the Baltic Countries, 1944-1945: The Case of Estonia

Meelis Saueauk (University of Tartu)

Mass arrests were an integral part of the sovietization of the Baltic region.  With the re-occupation of the Baltic countries by the Red Army in 1944, mass arrests were carried out in 1944 and 1945 by units from the organs of Soviet state security—the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), the NKGB (People’s Commissariat for State Security), and SMERSH (the Red Army’s counter-intelligence agency).  These arrests were the most numerous in the Baltic region during the entire period of Soviet rule.  This paper discusses these arrests, focusing on those in Estonia.

Arrests in the Baltic were also carried out by sub-units of the NKVD and NKGB that existed only formally under the jurisdiction of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Soviet Socialists Republics, formed behind the lines in the USSR during the war.  These units were manned in part by Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians.

According to instructions from Moscow, supporters of independence in the Baltic region were slated for arrest; these were to be branded as “bourgeois nationalists” and collaborators with the Germans.  This effort was given to local Communist Party organization.  There was no meaningful control over the extent of the arrests due to the fact that so many offices were authorized to carry them out.  Consequently, it is difficult to determine with precision how many people were arrested; the surest method for a careful investigation of the arrests is to research each individual case and determine the fate of the person involved, despite the time and effort this requires.

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