The 1930s in Estonia: an Era of Silence and foreign affairs

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Political situation in Estonia: in the beginning of the 1930s, all discussions regarding the Constitution had become very tense. Several governments in a row had been unable to save Estonia from the economic crisis, and the public was displeased with the "political haggling". This is why a new group, demanding for strong leadership, stepped up. This was the Vaps Movement (Union of Participants in the Estonian War of Independence). In the elections of 1933, the constitutional  draft put forward by the Vaps was passed. A presidential seat was formed, which received great authority. To prevent the Vaps from coming to power, presidential candidates, Konstantin Päts and Johan Laidoner, decided to organize a military coup.

On March 12, 1934, cadets of the Military Academy and members the Defense League, took Toompea and the city centre under their control, and surrounded all buildings belonging to the Union. At the same time, the members of the Vaps movement were arrested all over Estonia, about 400 people all together. By the demands of Konstantin Päts, the government announced an overall state of emergency and general Laidoner was appointed as the commander-in-chief. Latter prohibited political meetings and protests, he also shut down the Vaps movement. With this, what is called "The Era of Silence" begun. In 1935, other parties were shut down too, the Parliament had been in "a silent state" since 1934. A democratic opposition was formed to balance the government, but it never did anything decisive to change the current situation.

In April 1938, the new Constitution came into force, being a bit more democratic than the previous ruling system. Konstantin Päts was elected Estonia's first president. However, the parties were not reinstated, even though opposition candidates had the chance of being elected to the lower chamber of the Parliament, Riigivolikogu. Members to the upper chamber, Riiginõukogu, were appointed by the president. This sort of system applied until 1940.

Estonian foreign policy: in 1921, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were accepted to the League of Nations. One of the last major powers of the world to acknowledge Estonia was the USA, in the summer of 1922. Estonia hoped for both the support of the Western countries, and the improvement in relationships with Russia.

The international situation worsened on 1930s, when Germany and Japan left the LoN, and begun their aggressive foreign policy. Western powers did not use decisive measures to restrain the aggressors, instead they tried to pacify them. At the same time, the ambitions of the Soviet Union grew. By the end of the 1930, Estonia was in a very difficult situation: both Soviet Union and Germany posed a threat, and there was no-one to turn to. None of the foreign countries were interested enough in Estonia to risk a war.

Source: M.Laur, A. Pajur, T. Tannberg "Eesti ajalugu II" Tallinn 1995 "Avita"


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