ESTONIA – HISTORY IN BRIEF

By Alar Pastarus

Before 1918:

Northernmost of the three Baltic republics which were made independent after World War I. Estonia had a strategic importance in the eastern Baltic, and as such, was seized in 1721 by Peter the Great, who wished to extend his maritime outlets. Apart from the period between the two World Wars, and conquest by the Germans, Estonia remained a Russian province to August 20, 1991 when it re-established independence.

During the latter part of the 19th century the Estonians were subject to severe victimisation by the Russians and many of the peasants were moved. The uprising against the Tsar in 1905 started the demand for home rule in Estonia.

In World War I the Baltic states were occupied by German forces and stamps were issued overprinted for use by German troops in the area. In November 1917, following the Bolshevik uprising in Russia, the Estonian parliament declared independence. The Russians could not risk losing the naval base at Tallinn and moved forces against the Estonians. In the spring of 1918 the Germans moved into the country at the request of parliament and drove the Bolsheviks out of the country. As a result, Russia renounced its rights to Estonia in April 1918. Germany tried to create a dependent duchy but when Germany collapsed in November 1918 the Estonian provisional government finally emerged. During this period Russian stamps were used except that German occupying forces used the issues of the Eastern Military Command Area.

 

1918 to date:

First stamps inscribed Eesti Post were issued November 24, 1918 and were used concurrently with some Russian values overprinted for use in Estonia, though the provenance of these latter issues is questioned.

Estonia was sandwiched between the twin threats of fascism and communism, and in October 1934 martial law was declared. The Russo-German non-aggression pact of 1939 led to the partition of Poland, and Estonia was forced to accept Russian military bases on its territory. On June 16, 1940 Russia occupied Estonia and it was admitted into the USSR in August that year.

In June 1941 Germany invaded Russia and quickly overran the Baltic states. Stamps were issued by the Germans in 1941 and these were valid throughout Estonia from September 29, 1941 to April 30, 1942. The German Ostland overprints for occupied Russian territories were issued on November 4, 1941, and remained in use until the re-occupation of Estonia by the Russians in 1944. During the years of 1941 to 1949 the Soviet regime deports tens of thousands of Estonians to Siberia.

Tallinn skyline. Period about 1935. Photographer unknown. Click here to see a slide show.

1989 the national flag is again hoisted to the Pikk Hermann Tower and on August 20, 1991 Estonia re-establishes independence. Estonian own postage stamps appeared for sale on October 1, 1991 and from April 30, 1992 the Estonian Republic is once again a full member of the UPU (Universal Postal Union). On August 31, 1994 Russian troops withdraw from Estonia.

Estonian National Costumes. Bride with high bonnet. Isle of Muhu (period about 1900).
Postcard issued 1926 by Estonian National Museum in Tartu.