‘Government of Vares’

​The puppet transitional government formed by the Soviet Union in the occupied Republic of Estonia in summer 1940

On 16 June 1940 the Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to the Republic of Estonia, demanding the formation of a new government. The government led by Jüri Uluots handed in its resignation. Under the pressure of military threats from the Soviet Union, Estonia allowed more Red Army troops into the country (the so-called Dictate of Narva), which essentially started the occupation of Estonia. This process was supervised by a specially despatched envoy, Andrei Zhdanov, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. According to instructions issued by him and the Soviet embassy in Tallinn, a puppet government was formed. The Soviet Union wanted a smooth change of government, in order to avoid too much international scrutiny and resistance in Estonia itself. The position of Prime Minister was given to Johannes Vares, doctor and poet, who was warmly disposed towards the Soviet Union. Left-wing intellectuals and people involved in the workers’ movement were appointed ministers. Several members of the new government were much better known than Vares, such as the deputy prime minister Hans Kruus, professor of history at Tartu University; Foreign Minister Nigol Andresen, who had been a member of the Riigikogu, and Minister of Agriculture Aleksander Jõeäär, one of the leaders of the left-wing Socialist Workers’ Party in the Republic of Estonia and a long-time member of the Riigikogu. Not a single communist was appointed to the new government, but most joined the party in July.

On 21 June the representatives of the Soviet Union organised demonstrations in Estonian towns, demanding that the government step down. In order to legalise the coup d’état, candidates for the positions of the prime minister and government ministers were presented to President Konstantin Päts the same day. The government acceded the next day. The government of Vares, operating under the control of the Soviet Union, worked until 25 August 1940, when the constitution of the Estonian SSR was passed by the lower chamber of the Riigikogu, and the organs of state power of the Republic of Estonia became invalid. Most of the members of the Vares government continued as ministers of the Estonian SSR or in some other leading posts.

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