Soviet Estonia, taking an unprecedented step in a Kremlin campaign to rid the country of Stalin's legacy, is forming a commission to study compensation for victims of the dictator's bloody purges and forced land collectivization, the official Tass news agency said Saturday.
The move amounts to a reaffirmation of nationalism in the Baltic republic, a victim of the longtime dictator and his successors since the Soviet Union swallowed up the once-independent nation in 1940.The commission would be the first of its kind set up specifically to examine the question of government compensation to purge victims and the tens of thousands of landowners stripped of their holdings when Josef Stalin ordered an end to private farms in the Baltic Republics in 1947.
Although Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has appointed a commission to politically rehabilitate the more prominent victims of Stalin's purges, the Kremlin has stopped short of taking up the question of compensation for his victims.
In forming the commission, the Estonian government announced it has annulled four resolutions adopted in August 1947 and March 1949 that justified the confiscation of private property for state farms and the deportation of "kulaks," or rich peasants, who resisted the takeover.
The announcement is the latest gesture in the Kremlin-sanctioned campaign to discredit Stalin's rule and the command-and-administer system of government he established between 1924 and his death in 1953.
Following the Soviet takeover of the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1940, Stalin ordered the immediate deportation of more than 60,000 Estonian nationalists to Siberia, according to Estonian historians.
Between 1944 and 1949, an estimated 600,000 residents of the three states were deported to labor camps in Siberia for reasons ranging from suspicion of Nazi collaboration to refusing to hand over property to the state.
The exact number of Estonians sent to camps in the immediate postwar years is not known but is believed to number more than 150,000.
Resistance to collectivization was strongest in Estonia, where despite prison and labor camp sentences, intimidation, physical coercion and mass deportation, at least 30 percent of farm land remained in private hands two years after the collectivization program was mandated in 1947.
Those who suffered worst were the kulaks who owned and worked their own land. In Estonia they were labeled "economic saboteurs" and shipped off to Siberia where many died.
It is the families of these "kulaks" and other victims of Stalin's autocratic rule that will be eligible for compensation.