Attempt to restore Estonian independence in 1944

​In spring and winter 1944 the representatives of former Estonian democratic parties founded the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia, which fulfilled the role of a proxy parliament. The Committee’s starting point in international politics was the Atlantic Charter signed by the American President and the British Prime Minister in August 1941. The Charter declared people’s right to self-determination, including those from whom this right had been forcefully taken.

In April 1944 Jüri Uluots, the last lawful Prime Minister of Estonia before the occupations, formed the Electoral Assembly. Constitutionally, the Assembly included the prime minister, commander in chief or commander of the armed forces, chairman of the upper (Riigivolikogu), and the lower house of parliament (Riiginõukogu), and the chairman of the supreme court. Only two people had escaped persecution – Prime Minister Uluots and the chairman of Riigivolikogu, Otto Pukk. The others were represented by their deputies. The Electoral Assembly claimed that Estonia had not lost its right to sovereignty because of the occupations. The Assembly appointed Prime Minister Uluots to fulfil the duties of the President of the Republic of Estonia according to the constitution. The decision was also approved by the National Committee.

In April 1944 the German security police arrested several hundred members of the national opposition, including the majority of the National Committee activists. The Committee’s activity dwindled, but enlivened again in August, accepting new members. Communication with Estonian representatives in Finland and Sweden (August Varma, Johan Pitka, August Rei and others) was maintained via couriers.

In their 1 August declaration the National Committee listed their tasks, executing state power until the constitutional organs could take over, and especially organising the defence of the Estonian state and people.

In August 1944 the Committee started secret discussions about forming the new government. On 16 September Hitler agreed to withdraw from Estonia. The retreat started on 17 September together with the onslaught of the Red Army on the front at the Emajõgi River. On 18 September 1944 Jüri Uluots nominated the government of the Republic of Estonia headed by Otto Tief, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs. The government also issued a declaration prepared by the Foreign Minister August Rei. It announced that the Republic of Estonia was neutral in the ongoing war and that Estonia had become the arena of war for reasons not caused by the Estonian people. The declaration was broadcast, and on 20 September the blue-black-and-white flag was hoisted on Toompea Hill, which remained there until the Red Army invaded the town. The Finnish and Swedish press published a notice about the new national government in Tallinn.

On 22 September the Red Army reached Tallinn, which had been abandoned by the Germans. Members of the government left the capital. Most failed to leave Estonia and were captured by the Soviet security forces. They were imprisoned or executed. The ailing Jüri Uluots had been taken to Sweden immediately after the government had assumed office.

After Uluots’s death in January 1945, the duties of the Prime Minister acting as President were assumed by August Rei, the oldest member of the government. On 12 January 1953 the latter appointed a new government, this time in exile. The last Prime Minister acting as President of the exile government was Heinrich Mark who in October 1992 handed over his credentials to the newly elected President Lennart Meri.

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