The signing of the Pact of Mutual Assistance between Estonia and the Soviet Union


In autumn 1939, when the war between Germany and Poland begun and turned into World War II, Estonia, with other Baltic states, declared its neutrality. But that did not mean much to the Soviet Union and Germany, that had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on August 23, 1939. With its secret protocol, Estonia was placed in the Soviet sphere of interest. In the end of September, the Soviet Union started to act, to gain control over the Baltic states. In case of Estonia, the escape of the interned Polish submarine „Orzel" on September 18 from Tallinn, gave a good excuse to demand for the establishment of military bases in its territory. On September 22, the Soviet Union demanded the right to build military bases on Estonian soil, because they claimed that the small country could not defend its neutrality and would destabilize the situation in the Baltic Sea. During the negotiations, Estonia was given pressurized and its air and sea borders were breached repeatedly. Also, it was claimed that a Soviet Union steamship, named „Metallist" was sunk in Estonian waters. Allegedly, the Soviet Union had a plan for military invasion. The Soviet Union nevertheless promised that by accpeting the treaty, Estonia would still keep its sovereignty.

The Estonian government decided to give in to the Soviet pressure and on September 28, the Pact of Mutual Assistance, which is commonly know as the Treaty of Bases, was signed. With that, Estonia allowed the Soviet Union to build military bases in Saaremaa, Hiiumaa and the city of Paldiski. Initially 25,000 members of the Red Army entered Estonia but later their numbers evidently grew. The march into Estonia began on October 18. Initially, Soviet Union did not interfere in Estonian domestic governing, and Estonia did everything not to give a reason to do so. Soviet Union was not criticized even when they invaded Finland and started the Winter War. Even before that, on October 12, the Estonian government had changed: to ease the internal tensions, the Prime Minster's place was taken by Jüri Uluots who involved some politicians that so far had opposed Päts in his cabinet. They tried to reach a national unanimity but did not make it to restoring the democracy.