Adopted on 18 June 2002

Starting in 1940, when the Soviet occupation began in Estonia, followed in 1941 by the German occupation and in 1944 once again a Soviet occupation, the Soviet and German occupation forces repressed and forced into exile more than one-fifth of Estonia’s population. 

In memory of the victims of these crimes and whereas
– the crimes of Germany’s national socialist regime have been denounced at an authoritative international level, but the equivalent crimes of the Soviet Union’s communist regime have not been condemned,
– based on a secret pact signed with Hitler’s Germany, the Soviet Union perpetrated aggression against the Republic of Estonia on 16-17 June 1940, occupied and annexed Estonia, violating international law, including the 2 February 1920 peace treaty signed between Estonia and Russia and the 3 July 1933 London Convention for the Definition of Aggression,
– the Soviet Union’s communist occupation regime destroyed the constitutional order, state institutions and civic societies and organizations of the Republic of Estonia,
– as a result of the aggression, the Soviet Union’s occupation forces committed genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes on the territory of the occupied and annexed Republic of Estonia, illegally expropriated property and deliberately destroyed Estonian national culture, including monuments and printed matter, transformed, for the purpose of Russification, the demographics of Estonia by way of the massive resettlement of Soviet citizens in Estonia in order to destroy the Estonian nation, Estonian Parliament thus does declare as criminal the Soviet communist regime and the bodies that exercised the will of the regime, such as the NKVD, NKGB, KGB and others, and the tribunals, special meetings, formed by these institutions, along with the destruction battalions and national defence battalions and their actions.

The Parliament stresses that the liability for the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the repressive bodies of the Soviet Union lies with the Soviet Union Communist Party and its affiliate the Communist Party of Estonia. 

Recognizing the criminality of the institutions and organizations of the Soviet Union’s communist occupation regime that committed the aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, the Parliament stresses that this does not mean the collective liability of the members and staff of these organizations. Personal liability for the crimes of the regime shall not be determined solely by an individual’s membership in the aforementioned bodies and organizations but rather by a specific act on which everyone must pass separate ethical judgment. The decision regarding a person’s role in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes can be made by a court.
The crimes of the occupation regime in Estonia were solely part of the inhumane actions of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century world. There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity. The danger of such crimes recurring has not disappeared. Regimes based on extremist ideologies will continue to pose a threat to world peace and the unfettered development of peoples for as long as their criminal nature has not been fully investigated and denounced.

9th Parliament, 7th session. Draft law 784AE
18June 2002, Tuesday, 12:31, Tunne Kelam presiding over the sitting
Open vote. Present: 89 Absent: 12
In favour: 74,opposed 1; Votes: 75, did not vote: 14

Commentary by Tunne Kelam MEP

Estonian Parliament’s 18 June 2002 declaration on the crimes of the occupation regime in Estonia

This document adopted by the highest representative body of Estonian citizens seemed like a faraway dream just 25 years ago.

Estonian independence had to be restored first; only then could a definitive pronouncement be made on the nature of the occupation forces that had held Estonia captive for half a century. Yet even then, the decision was not made right away. Only 11 years after independence was restored, did the third Parliament elected since 1992 get down to drafting the declaration.

The first initiative from Pro Patria Union MPs was introduced in 2001, but the parliamentary factions did not manage to reach agreement and the endeavour foundered. It was a delicate business to distinguish between the two levels of Soviet repression general institutional repression and specific acts by specific people. The fact that so many Estonians had been members of the Communist Party, which bore responsibility for the crimes against humanity, led to a syndrome of collective doubt and fear. Only at the initiative of Andres Herkel was a positive outcome reached in spring 2002.

Looking back, we can be satisfied with that result. All of the repressive bodies of the occupation regime were declared criminal and the communist party held liable for their crimes. As for the actions of individuals within those bodies and the Party, only a court can rule on this. The parliamentary declaration was passed by a three-fourths majority vote.

As time went on, an unexpected problem arose: how to spread the word, both in Estonia and abroad, that such a seminal statement had been adopted. The document is not something that is well-known in everyday life not in schools or government offices. It is not known or talked about in the Foreign Ministry’s relations with our partners.

Actually, the parliamentary decision should be posted in a large format on the walls of every school in the country. It should be just as standard as the portrait of the president in a director’s office.
In a situation where efforts have been made in Estonia’s immediate neighbourhood to restore the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union, and where Kremlin propaganda tries to rehabilitate the reputation of the communist dictatorship, this statement from Estonia’s highest legislative body should serve as a beacon, its light helping us to distinguish the legitimate from the coercive, the truth from falsehood. This document is the basis for our values and views at home and abroad.