Life in the Estonian SSR

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1956

In the 1950s, underground youth activities replaced the partisan fight in the forests. These secret organizations were characterized by strict discipline, statute and hand-written leaflets. Partisan fight and the literature from the first independent era were seen as examples. One such organization was the Estonian Nationalists' Association. Active resistance grew less prominent after the death of Stalin, when the whole situation became a bit more liberal. During the rule of Nikita Krushchev, or the glasnost-era, several intellectuals, that had been condemned during Stalin era, like Friedebert Tuglas, were able to appear in front of the public again. Due to the improvement of the overall situation, and to the understanding that the Soviet Union and Western countries won't go into war, most of the people started to get used to the Soviet rule. Nonetheless, the large amount of dissenters and numerous protests showed, that the crowds had not lost their wish to become free. Thus, both Hungarian (1956) and Check (1968) rebellions against the Soviet rule were supported.

The Soviet era preferred the development of the heavy industry, thus a lot of foreign workers were brought to Estonia. Most of them settled in the industrial regions in Eastern Estonia, but also in Tallinn. The rural areas had been organized into collective farms. Until the end of the 1950s, most of them were poor, then several started to find their legs and prospered. However, the Soviet economic model was inhibited by the fact that everything belonged to the state, and the individual lacked motivation to make an effort.

Link to the rest of the world: during Stalin rule, all of the Soviet empire was cut off with "an iron curtain". Foreign radio stations, which soon started to broadcast in Estonian, were main sources of information. The first such broadcast was the "Voice of America", which started in 1951, in New York City. Later came Radio Free Europe. Options to travel abroad were extremely limited at first, but in the beginning of 1960s, things started to change. A very significant step forward was the establishment of the ferry line between Tallinn and Helsinki, which allowed Finnish tourists to visit Estonia, and several Estonians to go to Finland. In dealings with the Estonians abroad, the Estonian Communist Party demanded for the establishment of a separate agency, which would be under the control of the authorities, yet, it allowed cultural exchange with the Estonian communities abroad.

Cultural life of Estonian SSR: the tradition of singing- and theater groups, founded during the first independence, continued. The Song Festival of 1947 was a major event. Even though they were held under red flags, the Song Festivals turned into mass-events, acquiring an interesting national shade. Lydia Koidula's "Mu isamaa on minu arm" became Estonia's "second national anthem", always sung at the end of the Festival. Due to Stalin-era repressions, the literature stayed low for a long time, only in the end of the 1960s, a new generation of young authors appeared, becoming famous during the glasnost-era. In the 1970s, Jaan Kross was the most important author, mainly writing historical novels.

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

 

 


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