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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Estonia grapples with Soviet past
By Vicky Morgan
BBC, Tallinn

Just beyond the spires of the medieval Estonian capital of Tallinn, a drab Soviet building conceals a dark reminder of a murky Soviet past.

Indrek Jürjo
Indrek Jürjo finds it strange to deal with his family's file

Indrek Jürjo dusts down the KGB file detailing his family's supposed crimes and their punishment - deportation to Siberia.

"Of course I know the story but it is always strange to see the file," he said.

As a historian working with Estonia's national archives, he spends every day browsing through these records but admits it feels odd to read those of his own relatives.

They were kulaks, a class of peasant who managed to live better than most, and so were accused of being bourgeois and nationalist.

While the Soviet Union was still going strong, there was no chance that the orchestrators of repression would ever be brought to justice.

In Estonia though, not everyone has escaped the law. Tallinn's desire to distance itself from the USSR meant that it has made its 30,000 former top-secret files accessible to everyone.

One former KGB officer has been jailed and five others convicted of crimes they committed more than 50 years ago.

Power fears

But now the opposition fears that former KGB employees could run for positions of power and is campaigning for all candidates to be carefully screened.

Indrek leads the way through a reinforced door into the second chamber, which houses all the records on secret activities and agents.

Here you can read agent reports, mission statements by the secret police and observations on ordinary people. This is where a lot of the evidence against would-be politicians could come from.

Members of the public can read these files and those of the arrestees, for each of whom a KGB file was opened.

Even Lennart Meri, the first Estonian president after independence, has a file here.

Mr Meri is generally reckoned to be a driving force behind Estonia's impressive departure from communism.

His KGB past is that of a victim - he was deported to Siberia with his family when he was 12 and made to peel potatoes in a Red Army factory.

But on a more sinister note, it is alleged that the Russian Patriarch, Alexei II, has a file here. He was allegedly recruited as Agent Drozdov.

Although all the Estonian files up until 1960 are available for scrutiny, later files were whipped away to Moscow's Lubyanka in the twilight of communism.

So until Russia opens up to offer the same kind of access, other alleged former KGB agents may still make it into the Estonian parliament.

Russia boosts secret police
12 Mar 03  |  Europe
Estonia woos the computer age
01 May 03  |  Technology
Country profile: Estonia
08 Apr 03  |  Country profiles

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