Vares, Johannes

12 January 1890 Heimtali parish, Viljandi County – 29 December 1946 Tallinn

​(nom de plume Johannes Barbarus)
Estonian writer and communist statesman, head of the puppet transitional government after the 1940 communist coup d’état


Vares graduated in 1917 from Kiev University as a doctor. He took part in World War I as a doctor, and in the War of Independence in 1919-1920. He then practiced in Pärnu from 1920 to 1939, and in 1939-1940 in Tallinn.

Vares published several modernist collections of poetry. In the 1920s and 1930s he twice visited the Soviet Union, and thought highly of the society he was shown. In summer 1940, after the communist coup d’état in Estonia, Vares was appointed prime minister of the puppet government. At that point he did not belong to the Communist Party, nor was he involved in politics. He was known as an intellectual with left-wing views, whose appointment as head of the transitional government stressed its seeming separation from the Soviet Union.

In 1940 Vares was member of the lower chamber of parliament of Soviet Estonia; between 1940 and 1946 he was chairman of the Presidium of the ESSR Supreme Soviet (formally head of the puppet government). From 1941 to 1946 Vares was a member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR; from 1940 to 1946 a member of the Central Committee and Bureau of the Communist Party of Estonia.

The facts surrounding Vares’ death are not clear. Officially he died after an illness, although he was actually shot with his own gun. Rumours spread that Vares was disappointed with Soviet power and either committed suicide or was eliminated by the KGB as a demoralised and ‘useless’ person.

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