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Everyday Life in Stalinist Estonia

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Olaf Mertelsmann

In Estonia, as in other Eastern European countries, the Stalinist era remains in the center of attention of historians. Politics, repression and resistance dominate the historiography, while everyday life is definitely under-represented. This book attempts to close the gap and focuses on different aspects of everyday life in Stalinist Estonia.

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The Standard of Living of Estonian Workers, 1938–1955

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This chapter is based on literature1 and archival research in Estonia and also takes into consideration oral history sources, which are not cited explicitly here due to lack of space.2 Some valuable statistical material is available, especially budget surveys of workers’ households for 1938 and the 1950s. Unfortunately, the 1940s are not so well-documented. For this period we have to use circum- stantial evidence and some estimates. Two conclusions are evident. First, the standard of living severely declined due to the general circumstances and bad Soviet policy. Second, the situation was still better than in the “old republics” of the USSR. The latter fact attracted many immigrants, especially in a period of crisis in the late 1940s. Estonia’s government became authoritarian in 1934, before the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940. Sovietization and economic restructuring started during the first year of Soviet rule but were inter- rupted. From 1941 to 1944, Estonia was occupied by the Germans and renamed Generalkommissariat Estland, part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland. After the Red Army re-occupied Estonia, Sovietization resumed, and in 1949 forced col- lectivization almost completely ended privately run agriculture. Armed resis- tance persisted until the mid-1950s, when the former Baltic states—what Elena An initial version of this paper was presented at the conference “Labor History of Rus- sia and the Soviet Union: Works in Progress” at the International Institute of Social His- tory in Amsterdam, March 31–April 2, 2005. Part of the material was used...

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