Baltic states under Soviet rule (1944–1991)
The Baltic states under Soviet rule covers the period from the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1945, stretching from the sovietization
Sovietization of the Baltic states
The Sovietization of the Baltic states refers to the sovietization of all spheres of life in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania when they were under control of the Soviet Union.-Immediate post occupation:...

 to regaining the independence in 1991. The Baltic states were incorporated to the Soviet Union into the 1940 annexation
Background of the occupation and annexation of the Baltic states
The background of the occupation and annexation of the Baltic states covers the period before the first Soviet occupation on 14 June 1940, stretching from independence in 1918 to the Soviet ultimatums in 1939–1940. The Baltic states gained their independence during and after the Russian revolutions...

 as the Soviet socialist republics of Estonia
Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic , often abbreviated as Estonian SSR or ESSR, was a republic of the Soviet Union, administered by and subordinated to the Government of the Soviet Union...

, Latvia and Lithuania and the Soviets saw they regained the republics
Occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union (1944)
The Soviet Union reoccupied most of the territory of the Baltic states 1944 in the Soviet Baltic offensive during World War II. The Soviet offensive regained control over the three Baltic capitals but failed to capture the Courland Pocket where the retreating Wehrmacht and Latvian forces held out...

 in 1944. The first secretary of the local Communist party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

 was usually a post of a communist of Baltic nationality. The Baltic states regained their independence nearly fifty years later in the aftermath of the Soviet coup of 1991.

Resistance and deportations

In the years 1945 and 1985 the Soviet Union executed the sovietization
Sovietization is term that may be used with two distinct meanings:*the adoption of a political system based on the model of soviets .*the adoption of a way of life and mentality modelled after the Soviet Union....

 aiming the extinguishing the national identities of the Baltic peoples. The effect was archieved rather in large-scale industrialisation
Industrialization is the process of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial one...

 than direct attacks of culture, religion and freedom of expression. For the Soviet authorities the elimination of opposition and the transformation of the economics went hand in hand. The Soviet used massive deportation
Deportation means the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country. Today it often refers to the expulsion of foreign nationals whereas the expulsion of nationals is called banishment, exile, or penal transportation...

s to eliminate the resistance of collectivisation and the support of partisans
Partisan (military)
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

. The Baltic partisans resisted the Soviet rule via armed struggle for a number of years. The Estonian Forest brothers
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

, as they were known, enjoyed the material support among the local population. The Soviets had already carried out the deportations in 1940–41, but the deportations between 1944–52 were much larger numbers. In March 1949, the top Soviet authorities organised a mass deportation
Operation Priboi
Operation Priboi was the code name for the Soviet mass deportation from the Baltic states on March 25–28, 1949, called March deportation by Baltic historians. Some 90,000 Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, labeled as enemies of the people, were deported to inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union...

 of 90,000 Baltic nationals, labelled as enemies of the people, into inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union.

The total number of deported in 1944–55 has been estimated at 124,000 in Estonia
Soviet deportations from Estonia
As the Soviet Union had occupied Estonia in 1940 and retaken it from Nazi Germany again in 1944, tens of thousands of Estonia's citizens underwent deportation in the 1940s...

, 136,000 in Latvia and 245,000 in Lithuania. The deportees were allowed to return after the secret speech of Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 in 1956, however many did not survive in their years in Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

. Large number of Baltic population fled westward in before the Soviet forces invaded in 1944. After the war, the Soviets outlined new borders for the Baltic republics. Lithuania gained Vilnius and Klaipeda regions, but Estonia and Latvia ceded some eastern territories to the Russian SSR
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

. Estonia lost 5 percent and Latvia 2 percent of its prewar territory.

Industrialization and immigration

The Soviets made large capital investments for energy resources and a manufacture of industrial and agricultural products. The purpose was to integrate the Baltic economics into the larger Soviet economic sphere. The industrial plans and a transport infrastructure were advanced by the Soviet standards. In all three republics, manufacturing industry was developed at the expense of other sectors, notably agriculture and housing. The rural economy suffered from the lack of investments and the collectivization. Baltic urban areas damaged during wartime and it took ten years to reachieved housing losses. New constructions were often poor quality and ethnic Russians immigrants were favored in housing.

Estonia and Latvia received large-scale immigration of industrial workers for other parts of the Soviet Union and changed the demographics
Demographics are the most recent statistical characteristics of a population. These types of data are used widely in sociology , public policy, and marketing. Commonly examined demographics include gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location...

 changes dramatically. Lithuania received also immigration but in smaller scale. Ethnic Estonians constituted 88 percent before the war, but in 1970 the figure dropped to 60 percent. Ethnic Latvians constituted 75 percent, but the figure dropped to 56.8 percent in 1970 and further down to 52 percent in 1989. In contrast, in Lithuania the drop was only 4 percent. However, absence of Russian immigration was only a part of explanation as Lithuania gained Vilnius area, fewer Lithuanians fled west and the state lost its Jewish
Lithuanian Jews
Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania:...

 minority. There was a difference between ethnic Russians. People who moved from Russia before 1940 annexation and knew the local language were named as "local Russians", for they had better relations with locals than those who settled later.

Baltic communists had supported and participated the 1917 October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 in Russia. However, many of them died during the Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 in the 1930s. The new regimes of 1944 were established native communists who had fight in the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

. However, the Soviets also imported ethnic Russians to fill political, administrative and managerial posts. For example, the important post of second secretary of local Communist party was almost always ethnic Russian or a member of another Slavic nationality
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...


Everyday living

The Baltic republic were isolated from the outside world between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s. The Soviets were sensitive about the Baltic area not only because its loyalty, but there was also located military installations, such as surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

 centres and a submarine base. The late 1960s Soviet democratic movements found support within Baltic intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

s. The Soviet Union signed the Helsinki Accords
Helsinki Accords
thumb|300px|[[Erich Honecker]] and [[Helmut Schmidt]] in Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki 1975....

 and next year, a monitoring group group was founded in Lithuania producing dissident publication in the 1970s and 1980s. Nationalism and religion inspired people to small-scale demonstrations and underground activities. The European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 passed a resolution supporting the Baltic cause in 1982.

The Soviet Union maintained ethnic diversity, but on the other hand it made efforts to impose uniformity. The new wave of the russification
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

 of education system began in the late 1970s to create a Soviet national identity. The education of Baltic children was conducted in their native languages, but the Russian language
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 was compulsory. Furthermore, the Soviet authorities limited expression in literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and the visual arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

. The song festival
Estonian Song Festival
The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity...

s remained a mean of national self-expression. Still, the intellectual life and scientific research were advance by Soviet standard. However, after 1975 there was increasing problems with shortage of consumer and food products, social problems, unchecked immigration and damage to the environment. By the 1980s there was social and political tension both within the Baltic republics and with Moscow.

Soviet reforms

The period of stagnation
Brezhnev stagnation
The Era of Stagnation, also known as Brezhnev stagnation or the Stagnation Period, refers to a period of economic stagnation under the rules of Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in the history of the Soviet Union which started in the mid-1970s.-Terminology:Various authors...

 brought the crisis of the Soviet system and reforms could not be long delayed. The new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 came to power in 1985 and responded with glastnost and perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

. They were attempts to reform the Soviet system from above to avoid revolution from below. The reforms occasioned the reawaking of nationalism in the Baltic republics, known as the Singing Revolution
Singing Revolution
The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for events between 1987 and 1991 that led to the restoration of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania...

. The first major demonstrations against the environment were Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 in November 1986 and the following spring in Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. Small successful protests encouraged key individuals and by the end of 1988 the reform wing had gained the decisive positions in the Baltic republics.

At the same time, coalitions of reformists and populist forces assembled under the Popular Fronts
Singing Revolution
The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for events between 1987 and 1991 that led to the restoration of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania...

. They concentrated largely on call for autonomy
Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

 rather than independence. The Supreme Soviet of the Estonian Supreme Soviet made the Estonian language
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

 the state language again in January 1989, and similar legistlation was passed in Latvia and Lithuania soon after. Next, the Baltic republics declared their sovereignty in November 1988 in Estonia, in May 1989 in Lithuania and July 1989 in Latvia. The Estonian Supreme Soviet reserved the right to veto law of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The Lithuanian Supreme Soviet even referred to Lithuania's independent past and its illegal annexation into the Soviet Union in 1940. The Latvian Supreme Soviet was more cautious. The presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union condemned the Estonian legistlation as unconstitutional
Constitution of the Soviet Union
There were three versions of the constitution of the Soviet Union, modeled after the 1918 Constitution established by the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic , the immediate predecessor of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics....


The first Supreme Soviet elections took place in March 1989. There was still only one legal communist party, but the availability of multi-candidate choice encouraged the popular fronts and other groups to spread their own electoral message. The Communist Party in all three Baltic republics was divided along nationalist lines, and political leaders were increasingly responding to people rather than the party. The biggest demonstration was the Baltic Way
Baltic Way
The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on August 23, 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning over across the three Baltic states – Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR, republics of the Soviet...

 in August 1989, where people protested the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop treaty by a human chain linking hands across the three republics. Still by 1990, there was no call for political independence but demands for economic independence from Moscow.

Restoration of independencies

In February 1990, the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet elections
Lithuanian parliamentary election, 1990
The Lithuanian legislative elections for 141 seats in the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR were held in the Lithuanian SSR on 24 February with run-off elections on 4, 7, 8 and 10 March 1990. In six constituencies voter turnout was below required minimum, therefore a third round was held on...

 lead to the Sąjūdis
Sąjūdis initially known as the Reform Movement of Lithuania, is the political organization which led the struggle for Lithuanian independence in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was established on June 3, 1988 and was led by Vytautas Landsbergis...

-backed pro-nationalists two-thirds majority. On 11 March 1990 the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet
Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR
The Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR was the supreme soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, one of the republics comprising the Soviet Union. The Supreme Soviet was established in August 1940 when the People's Seimas declared itself the provisional Supreme Soviet...

 declared Lithuania's independence
Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania
The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 was an independence declaration by the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted on March 11, 1990...

. As a result, the Soviets imposed a blockade on 17 April. Latvia and Estonia lagged behind as they had a large and objective Russian minorities represented. At the same, the Popular fronts were in increasing pressure in Latvia
Popular Front of Latvia
The Popular Front of Latvia was a political organization in Latvia in late 1980s and early 1990s which led Latvia to its independence from the Soviet Union. It was similar to the Popular Front of Estonia and the Sąjūdis movement in Lithuania....

 and Estonia, as citizens committee movement planned prepared for wholly non-Soviet elections to take place at or near the Supreme Soviet elections. They saw that independence could never restored legally by organs of the occupying powers and only citizens of prewar republics were qualified voters. The pro-independence candidates received overwhelming majority in the Supreme Soviet elections of March 1990. On 30 March 1990, the Estonian Supereme Soviet made declaration of independence. More exactly, it decalted the 1940 annexation illegal and begin trasition towards Republic of Estonia. On 4 May 1990, the Latvian Supreme Soviet made a similar declaration.

On 12 May 1990 the leaders of the Baltic republics signed a joint declaration of the Baltic Entente
Baltic Entente
The Baltic Entente was based on Treaty of Understanding and Collaboration signed between Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia on September 12, 1934 in Geneva. The main objective of the agreement was joint action in foreign policy. It also included mutual commitments to support each other politically, and...

. By mid-June the Soviets started negotiations with the Baltic republics as they agreed to freeze their declarations of independence. The Soviets had a bigger challenge elsewhere, as the Russian federal republic proclaimed of sovereignty
Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Declaration on State Sovereignty of the RSFSR was a political act of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, then part of the Soviet Union, which marked the beginning of constitutional reform in Russia...

 in June. Simultaneously the Baltic republics also started to negotiate directly with the Russian federal republic. In Autumn 1990, they set up a customs border between Baltic states, Russian federation and Belorussia. After the failed negotiations the Soviets made a dramatic attempt to break the deadlock and sent military troops to Lithuania and Latvia
January 1991 events in Latvia
The Barricades were events that took place between 13 and 27 January 1991 in Latvia. Latvia, which had declared independence from the Soviet Union a year earlier, anticipated that Soviet Union might attempt to violently regain control over the country....

 in January 1991. The attempts failed, dozens of civilians were killed and the Soviet troops decided to retreat. In August 1991, the hard-line members attempted to take control of the Soviet Union. A day after the coup on 21 August, the Estonian proclaimed independence. Shortly afterwards Soviet paratroops seized the Tallinn television tower
Tallinn TV Tower
The Tallinn TV Tower is a free-standing structure with an observation deck, built to provide better telecommunication services for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics regatta event . It is located near Pirita, six km north-east of the Tallinn city center...

. The Latvian parliament made similar a declaration at the same day. The coup failed but the Collapse of the Soviet Union became unavoidable. On 28 August, the European Community
European Communities
The European Communities were three international organisations that were governed by the same set of institutions...

 welcomed the restoration of the sovereignty and independence of the Baltic states. The Soviet Union recognised the Baltic independence on 6 September 1991. The Russian troops stayed for additional three years, as Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

linked the issue of Russian minorities with troop withdrawals. Finally, on 31 August 1994, the Russian troops withdrew from the Baltic states.
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