Historical background

Hundreds of millions of lives have been scarred by communist repression and tyranny, spanning borders and continents around the world.

After the Bolshevik coup d’état in 1917, Russia was the first country to experience Red Terror. Millions of people fell victim. As a result of the Hitler-Stalin (Ribbentrop-Molotov) pact of 23 August 1939, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Baltic States were occupied by both totalitarian regimes. Much of the terror and mass destruction that ravaged Europe during the Second World War, was spawned at that secret meeting in Moscow, when the Soviet Union joined the Nazis to secretly carve up Europe between them.

A synchronized attack against Poland began just days later, resulting in the Soviets and Nazis sharing the occupation of Poland. Following his pact with Hitler, Stalin fixed the gaze of his imperialist ambitions on Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – starting with an ultimatum to place Soviet military bases on Baltic territory and ending with staged referendums to join the Soviet Union. In the process, countless civic workers, entrepreneurs, political leaders and activists were rounded up, tortured and executed. During the nights of June 1941, tens of thousands of women, children and men were forced from their homes and onto trains, deported to remote Gulag slave labour camps, from which few would ever return. While many brave Balts took up arms to resist Soviet repression,

When Nazi forces invaded and occupied the Baltics later that summer, one type of repressive regime was replaced by another, as occupying Nazi forces targeted Jewish and other minority groups in the region. In efforts to avoid the forced Nazi conscription, thousands of Estonian men fled to Finland in hopes of fighting for Estonian re-independence from abroad.

As Nazi forces retreated in 1944, nearly half million refugees fled the Baltics, fearing renewed Soviet repressions as the front line edged westward. Their worst fears were justified, as Soviet arrests, deportations, and executions returned to Eastern and Central Europe and continued for another 50 years. The hope for liberation and independence was crushed by Soviet occupation and control.

From Italy in the south to Finland in the north, Nazi tyranny claimed millions of lives of Jews, Poles, Roma, POW-s and others from later Soviet occupied territories. The trials in Nurnberg tried some of those responsible for the crimes, while many others escaped justice. The victims of Nazi terror deserve continued investigation into these crimes; as do the perpetrators deserve our ongoing condemnation.

Yet the victims of Europe’s and the world’s communist regimes have received little justice. The perpetrators of communist crimes have been allowed to evade responsibility or any accountability for their deeds and the traumas inflicted by their terror, continue to haunt their victims and their families around the world.

Awareness of the suffering the victims endured remains excruciatingly low as their experiences remain marginalized, on the sidelines of modern history.

The International Museum for The Victims of Communism and International Research Centre on The Crimes of Communism will ensure that the crimes of these regimes will never be forgotten, facilitating world class research and raising awareness through online projects and the immersive, state of the art museum will educate current and future generations about the crimes of communist regimes.


The International Museum for The Victims of Communism and International Research Centre of Crimes of Communism


This Museum and International Research Centre is the only centre in Estonia and the surrounding region to directly investigate the history of countries and peoples that fell victim to the crimes of communist regimes as a consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The objective of the museum and research centre is to research the crimes of communist regimes, to preserve this information and to convey it through permanent and temporary museum exhibitions, scholarly literature, articles and innovative educational materials.

The structure of the museum’s exposition is based on geography and highlights crimes committed against humanity under the rule of communist regimes. In addition to its primary focus, the museum will also examine the German occupation of Estonia (1941-1944) and the two periods of Soviet occupation (1940-1941, 1944-1991) which are presented separately, along with the present-day consequences and after-effects of the actions of those regimes.


Ideology: The Spread of Communism


The research centre and museum will focus on the many historical facets of how communist philosophy has been exploited for the seizure of power, including the spread of the ideology; its use as a subversive movement aimed at the violent seizure of power; its manifestations as state doctrine and establishment as a dictatorship after the seizure of power; and legal political activity in democratic societies.


Propaganda: Historical Lessons and Its Application Today


Among the topics of research at the Centre and Museum will be the development of communist propaganda, including the early uses of propaganda as a method for gathering supporters in the era of underground subversive activity, and how it was developed to secure domestic communist rule and subvert governments, movements and media in foreign states.

The deep historical connections between communist propaganda and today’s “fake news” and disinformation will be examined as well as historical countermeasures developed to challenge disruptive communist propaganda.

The “active measures” and spy craft, used by foreign governments today to undermine European and other western democratic institutions have been copied from those developed and used by communist authorities during the Cold War. The Centre and Museum examine the history of communist “active measures”, by looking at why these methods were developed, the foreign entities and diaspora groups that were targeted and the outcomes of some of these efforts.


Repression and Terror: Victims and Perpetrators


Millions of families around the world continue to carry the trauma caused by the brutally repressive tactics deployed by Europe’s totalitarian regimes. Both politically and ethnically motivated terror affected a vast range of nations and groups throughout the Central and Eastern European parts of Europe, referred to by Timothy Snyder as Europe’s Bloodlands.

A central objective of the museum is to promote and facilitate ongoing research into the political motivations and methods of communist repression. How and why families and individuals were targeted by communist authorities, their objectives and how they achieved them.

The historical, central role of the Patarei Prison as a primary tool and venue of Soviet repression, brings the realities of communist terror to life, as visitors learn about this history inside the same prison cells, corridors and execution chambers that countless victims stepped through.


Resistance and Survival


During the Second World War, thousands of brave individuals took up arms throughout Central and Eastern Europe to resist the occupying communist and Nazi regimes. The struggle for freedom and national independence between the shifting tides of war meant that those who wished to resist, were often faced with difficult choices.

The Museum and Centre will research and raise awareness of the individuals and groups who fought against communist and Nazi occupation and repression, the immense challenges they faced and the fate of their struggle.

The relatively unknown post-war resistance movement will be exposed, including how Western nations supported and then abandoned the movement after it was compromised by Communist authorities.


Patarei Prison: An Immersive, Living Historical Experience


As the starting point and junction for thousands of victims of Soviet and Nazi repression, the notorious Patarei Prison, located on the western edge of the Estonian capital Tallinn, remains a painful reminder of occupation and tyranny for an entire nation.

Its scarred and worn walls bear witness to the countless victims of the communist and Nazi regimes, who passed through its harsh, barren cells enroute to distant Gulag labour camps, and those whose penultimate journey ended in the prison execution chamber.

The International Museum for The Victims of Communism stands as a unique international memorial to the victims and a living historical artifact that will educate future generations about the terrible crimes committed by Europe’s communist regimes.

Situated within 5000 m² inside the Patarei Prison, The International Museum for The Victims of Communism offers a unique immersive historical experience where international visitors learn about communist crimes in the Baltic States, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and beyond.