June 1940 in Estonia – a ‘people’s revolution’ or a shift of powers, staged by the Soviet Union?

​The Soviet regime treated the occupation of Estonia in 1940 and the accompanying events as a “people’s revolution”. Its aim was to show to the world that this was not an occupation but the result of internal revolutionary activity within Estonia.

To formalise the occupation, political demonstrations, directed by the representatives of the USSR, were held in Tallinn and in eleven other Estonian towns on 21 June 1940, demanding the resignation of the government and the improvement of living conditions for the labour force. The puppet government, formed with the participation of the representative of the USSR Andrei Zhdanov and the Embassy of the USSR was led by Johannes Vares; it assumed office on June 22. The elections to the puppet parliament, submissive to the occupation regime, were staged in July. Starting with the state structures of power (Ministry of Interior, Political Police, the Army), political cleansing was carried out in government institutions and local governments, replacing the former administrations by new ones, which were loyal and obedient to the new regime.

Shaping of the myth of “people’s revolutions” was started in the press already during the summer of 1940, printing false information about the alleged low standard of living and the depressing conditions of the workers in the Estonian Republic, and claiming that “the wrath of Estonian workers overthrew the bourgeois government of Estonia”. During the post-war period, the myth was elaborated in tendentious history books, where the roles of the Red Army and the representatives of the USSR were neglected in the discussion of the events in 1940 and where the theory of socialist revolution was elaborated.

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