Päts’s and Laidoner’s coup, the beginning of the Silent Era.

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12. March 1934

In March 12, few days before, according to the new constitution, the elections of the new parliament and Head of State were supposed to be held, Konstantin Päts, the current Head of State, staged a bloodless military coup. The Vaps movement organizations were closed and the movement itself was eradicated. Initially, 500 Vaps movement members were arrested, of whom only 70 remained in jail by June. Martial law was declared and the government took special precautions. The leader of the defence forces was Johan Laidoner who was given large authority. On March 15, in his speech to the parliament, Päts claimed that the Estonian people were blinded and distempered by propaganda and were unable carry out the responsibilities of hte highest power. Therefore, the government has to take that power for a while. Initially, this was approved by other parties, because they too had feared the Vaps movement's rise to power.

By fall 1934, the state of things had changed. The government had fortified its authoritarian power even more: several municipalities were dismissed, the freedom of print had been limited, and the elections had been postponed. The primary promoter of the authoritarian system was Karl Einbund (Kaarel Eenpalu from 1935), Home Secretary and substitute of the Prime Minister. On September 7, 1934, martial law was extended by a year. On October 2, Einbund dismissed the parliament after which it went into „silent state". It was not officially eradicated, but it either was it assembled any more. In 1935, all actions by political organizations were prohibited and a new union was created: the Pro Patria Union, which was not exactly a political party, but assembled all the people loyal to the current power and promoted the current government. All opposing were silenced and people were banished out of the country and some even deported, for an example, to Kihnu island.

In the end of 1935, the released members of the Vaps movement made final try to change the situation in Estonia. They presented a new project of constitutional change, which would have ended the martial law and restored the democratic order. But the government claimed, that during the martial law, only the Head of State held the right to hold a referendum. This meant that there was no legal way to affect those in power. This is why the Vaps movement tried to organize a military coup, which would have meant that the leading politicians would been arrested and the power would have gone to the Provisional Government and the National Congress, consisting mostly of Vaps members. This plan was, however, discovered by Päts's government and the leaders of the Vaps movement were arrested. It is also possible that there was no real coup planned, and it was all a political staging to remove the dangerous opposition. This meant that the Päts's authoritarian power had finally been secured.

Source: Eesti ajalugu. VI, Vabadussõjast taasiseseisvumiseni. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2005, lk-d 92-97.


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