Estonia as a Soviet republic

​The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of the fifteen union republics of the USSR; it had some characteristics of a state – a territory, bodies of legislative and executive power, Soviet symbols, etc. This does not mean that a union republic was a sovereign state. The most important decisions, including those about life in Estonia, were made by the central powers of the USSR in Moscow.

​The holder of political power in the Soviet Estonia was the Communist Party of Estonia that was the only legal political party and, being a subordinate organisation of the CPSU, received its guidelines from Moscow. It exercised the executive power through the government of Soviet Estonia – the Council of Ministers. If necessary, the decisions already taken in Moscow were formalised by the laws of the puppet parliament or the Supreme Council. At the same time, a continuous fight for power was going on in the administration of the ESSR; as a result, most of the leaders of the ESSR were replaced according to the directions from Moscow in 1950.

​Any emergence of political forces that could have opposed the communists was precluded and all kinds of self-organising social movements were suppressed already in their initial stage. Dissidence was suppressed by the bodies of state security (KGB) and other military organisations. The huge system of prison camps (Gulag) had its branches in Soviet Estonia, too.

​During the Cold War, the regime constantly stressed the danger of war between the USSR and the Western states. This had a deep effect on Estonia, located on the western border of the USSR. Estonia was covered with Soviet military bases. Young Estonian men were conscripted into the Soviet Army. The confrontation of the Cold War had an effect on the whole of society through the all-embracing system of civil defence.

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