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Behind the Iron Curtain

Soviet Estonia in the Era of the Cold War


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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(Anti)-Religious Aspects of the Cold War: Soviet Religious Policy as Applied in the Estonian SSR


← 358 | 359 →Atko Remmel

Abstract: The author demonstrates that the implementation of state policy on religion was not particularly effective in the Estonian SSR. It was mild compared to several other regions of the Soviet Union, and particular campaigns “on the religious front” frequently depended on the discretion of local officials. Soviet policy on religion directed a great deal of attention toward new secular Soviet ceremonies and managed rather effectively to graft new rites into society.

The Baltic republics were the “Soviet West” for the people of the Soviet Union. At the same time, those republics were presented to the West as a kind of display window where quite a few things could take place that would be unthinkable elsewhere. This also meant a somewhat more lenient attitude concerning religion, which led some to believe that Estonia was a testing ground for a more lenient religious policy.1 This position seems to be incorrect, but it does indicate that, despite the centralized Soviet system, there was some room for different interpretations of religious policy in the USSR. The prerequisite for this, however, was a complicated system that had developed rather randomly, the fundamental nature of which was the attempt to solve problems using organizational means—“if there is a task, then create an agency to resolve it.”2 Thus, the apparatus for antireligious work was intertwined with different interests and chains of command. It was far from effective and relatively eloquently proved Stalin’s claim that “cadres decide...

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