Kingissepp, Viktor

​Born 24 March1888 Kaarma parish, Saaremaa Island – executed 3 May 1922 Tallinn

Leader of Estonian communists 1917-1922, posthumously the most famous Estonian ‘communist martyr’ 
Graduated from the Kuressaare secondary school and studied law from 1906 in St Petersburg. In 1906 joined the Bolshevik wing of the Russian social-democratic party and was despatched by them to Estonia. Participated in the publication of bolshevist workers’ paper Kiir in Narva in 1912-14. Banished for his political activity, he then lived in Tver and Kazan gubernijas in Russia in 1914-16. Mobilised in 1916 to the Transcaucasus front; returned to Estonia after the February Revolution, where he started organising the work of local soviets in Narva in July-August 1917. After the October Revolution, he was deputy chairman of the Revolutionary War Committee in Estonia involved in organising the bolshevist takeover; he supervised the formation of the Red Guards, and arranged the disbanding of the Estonian Province Assembly on 15 November 1917. Following the German occupation of Estonia in spring 1918, he left for Russia, where he worked in the newly founded Cheka (Extraordinary Commission). One of his tasks in summer 1918 was to investigate the attempted assassination of Vladimir Lenin. In November he was despatched to Estonia to do illegal party work. Here he became the head and chief ideologue of the local underground communist movement, which illegally published a large number of leaflets and pamphlets. He played a significant role in preparing the first trade union congress in August 1919 and persuading it to support the Bolsheviks.   He was very active in organising the work of the Estonian CP after the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed between the Soviet Union and Estonia in February 1920. As a member of the CP Central Committee he also directed the activities of the communist group of the parliament and the communists in the Tallinn city council in the early 1920s. He worked underground until 1922, when he was captured on 3 May by the Security Police. He was found guilty of crimes against the state, and shot. Kingissepp was quickly turned into a martyr of communist movement, whose name was given to towns (the former Jamburg in Russia still bears the name of Kingissepp today), schools, factories etc; his life and work was depicted in numerous books and films. Kuressaare, the capital of Saaremaa Island, where he grew up, was renamed after him in Soviet times. As most of his contemporary leading Estonian communists were executed in the Soviet Union as public enemies in the 1930s, Kingissepp posthumously became the most significant and legendary Estonian communist.

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