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Behind the Iron Curtain

Soviet Estonia in the Era of the Cold War


Edited By Tõnu Tannberg

During the Cold War, Estonia lay behind the Iron Curtain. Even in the grip of Soviet rule, the country underwent many important developments. This volume brings together fourteen papers on the political, economic, and cultural history of Estonia during the Cold War. Their topics range from international relations and the border regime to tourism and the media. The papers are based on extensive archival research and make use of many previously unexamined documents. The resulting book offers new insights into the history of Estonia and of the Cold War on a local level.
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Cold War Show Trials in Estonia: Justice and Propaganda in the Balance


← 138 | 139 →Meelis Maripuu

Abstract: The paper demonstrates how Soviet judicial institutions and the prosecution of crimes internationally not subject to statutes of limitations as a whole were used to achieve the political aims of the Soviet regime. More specifically, the author considers show trials held in the occupied Baltic countries in the early 1960s, highlighting their general organizational scheme, domestic and foreign policy aims, propaganda media coverage, manipulation of witnesses, and discrediting of expatriate circles.

Starting in 1960, a wave of show trials of persons accused of Nazi crimes, including participation in the Holocaust, rippled through the Soviet bloc as part of the Cold War. These trials had several important features in common. From the end of World War II until the mid-1950s, political show trials took place in countries under the control of the Soviet Union in which communists and socialists, former comrades-in-arms of the Soviets, were convicted, and even sentenced to death, with the aim of consolidating Soviet control.1 Alongside the direct consolidation of power, these trials played an important role in the Cold War propaganda battle, where they were meant to demonstrate the immutability of the Soviet regime. The trials were held in classic Stalinist style, with arrest and the bringing of charges generally guaranteeing a conviction.2

Two factors worked together to make contemporary historians accept unquestioningly the results of Soviet show trials concerning World War II: the importance of the Holocaust in today’s world and the inaccessibility of relevant...

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