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After a brief historical introduction the paper deals with the impact of the first year of Soviet rule 1940–1941, the armed resistance of summer 1941 and the German occupation of 1941–1944. The focus is, however, the post-war period. Sovietisation, economic exploitation and the politics of repression and outright terror led to armed resistance. Most of those who were labelled as ‘forest brethren’ simply went into hiding to avoid possible arrest or mobilisation into the Soviet army. Only a minority actively participated in armed resistance. The paper discusses the connection between the progressive reconciliation of the population with the Soviet regime and the decline of resistance as well as the way in which hopes of Western intervention or the breakdown of the Soviet order in Estonia proved to be unfounded. The paper analyses Soviet strategies in the eventually successful fight against the partisans. These ranged from amnesties and the legalisation of the forest brethren to the deportation of potential supporters and the use of informers and assassins. In any event, the forced collectivisation of 1949 made it much harder for peasants to support the forest brethren.

In: Violent Resistance

This article offers an overview of the development of social and oral history in Estonia since the regaining of independence, in 1991. It is argued that the evolution of these fields of study has been influenced by three main factors: the Socialist past, the smallness of the country, and the fact that Estonia was for a long time an agrarian society. In addition to these factors, these fields have been shaped by the political transition to democracy and the massive institutional changes that took place in the Estonian society. Overall, research on social history faced a certain quantitative decline in early 1990s, in favor of new topics covering the “blank spots” of historical research, which had been declared taboo under the Soviet rule. At the same time, however, intense scholarly interaction and exchange with international historiographical trends has improved the quality of history research in Estonia. Oral history, especially life story research, conducted in an interdisciplinary manner, has undergone a rapid development, and is thus illustrative of the major changes that have occurred in the recent Estonian historiography.

In: East Central Europe
From the Baltics to Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe 1944–1956
The end of the Second World war did not mean the end of violence for many regions in Eastern Europe. The establishment of Communist-led governments often met not only civil but also armed resistance. These actions were taken by partisan groups and paramilitary forces which in some cases had been formed already during the war to support axis forces. In other cases – like Poland’s Armia Krajowa – they fought Nazi and Soviet occupiers with the same fervour. The aims of the fighters were the end of Communist rule and – like in the Baltic region – independence from the Soviet Union. Difficulties in accessing sources and research taboos as well as a focus on other aspects of the Cold War are reasons why violent resistance in Europe after the Second World War is a topic yet rather underestimated and comparably little investigated by historiography. This book gives a comprehensive first overview of the ultimately futile attempts to end the rule of Moscow and her proxies.