Lauristin, Johannes

​29 October 1899 Tallinn – 28 August 1941 (place unknown)
One of the leading Estonian communists, the first head of government of the Estonian SSR in 1940-1941

Lauristin graduated in 1917 from Tallinn high school and joined the Bolshevik Party in the same year. From 1919 to 1921 he served in the Estonian army and was then mainly active in underground communist work. He started at the Tallinn Technical School, but was expelled for communist activities. Lauristin edited several left-wing workers’ papers and worked in trade unions controlled by communists. He took part in founding the Estonian Communist Youth Organisation in 1922. In May 1923 he was elected a member of the Riigikogu, representing the Workers’ United Front (cover for the illegal communist party), although he had been arrested for communist activities in March. In 1924 he was imprisoned for seven years. Lauristin was freed in February 1931, but as he re-established contacts with communists, he was again arrested in March and sentenced to six years’ hard labour. He was freed in 1938 through an amnesty.

After liberation he was one of the leaders of local communists and was entrusted with various important tasks by the Soviet Union in the process of annexing the Republic of Estonia. In July-August 1940 he was Secretary of the Estonian Communist Party and from August 1940 chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (essentially the government of the Estonian SSR). At the session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in Moscow in August 1940, Lauristin presented the official request for Estonia’s admission to the Soviet Union.

He died in unknown circumstances in August 1941 while fleeing the Germans who were occupying Tallinn.

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