Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom


The Kistler-Ritso Foundation established an Occupation Museum of the recent past in Estonia with the aim to study the developmental processes of the period 1940-1991, as well as to collect and exhibit relevant materials, both objects and documents. Its homepage is part of a so-called virtual museum, and is the basis of an interactive exhibition to be set in the museum.

The museum deals with a period about which there is incomplete information, characterised by totalitarian power and mass repression, and there is a plan to create a memorial complex, to remember those who did not return to their homeland.

Its task is to document the catastrophes and cataclysms that took place in the last fifty years, and to find detailed proof about the past based on facts and analysis. The museum has a special interest in the process of formation of the generation that re-established Estonia’s independence in 1991, and want to study the obstacles they had to overcome. This task includes the social and political processes regarding Russians, Germans, Jews, Swedes and other minorities under the totalitarian regime of the second half of the XX century.

A team started to collect objects, documents and articles for the exposition and to create a program of scientific study in 1999. At the same time, the Kistler-Ritso Foundation contacted private and state institutions. Since then, working contacts have been set up with the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of the Crimes Against Humanity, the Estonian State Commission on Examination of the Policies of Repression, MEMENTO and the Research Centre of the Soviet Era in Estonia ( S-Centre), as well as a co-operation project with the Russian MEMORIAL.

Two events, organised by the Kistler-Ritso Foundation, took place in January 1999, and these can be considered preliminary work towards filling in the above-mentioned gaps. A discussion on the theme «The Possibilities of the Periodisation of the Recent Past of Estonia» was held by representatives of different disciplines and a conference was staged, entitled «The Source-Critical Problems of the Recent Past of Estonia». The Scheme of Periodisation of the Recent Past in Estonia was born. In May, a short seminar took place, called «The Possibilities of Using Info-Technology in Studies of History», during which the homepage of the Kistler-Ritso Foundation of Estonia was introduced. A documentary film project, dealing with this period, has been started. An eight-part documentary « Occupations in the Recent Past in Estonia» was produced. There is also a plan to show the film in the museum exposition and provide access to it via the internet. The project is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

The current collection is growing, ans trivial objects (the equipment of a cell of Patarei prison) can be found in the collection as well as relatively unique objects (an album thrown over the barbed wire of Klooga death camp in 1944). Published materials on this theme have been assembled into a single electronic database, which, at the moment, includes several publications by ORURK, MEMENTO and other organisations.

The physical home of the Occupation Museum was opened in June 27, 2003. The project was  built after an international architectural competition, declared in October 2000, with the aim to find the best solution for the lot which had been obtained at the corner of Kaarli Boulevard and Toompea Street. The final date for entries was 15 January 2001, and the jury of experts made its choice known on 2 February 2001. A booklet was published, to familiarize the public with the winning designs. Cornerstone to the building was laid on October 22nd of 2002, construction was completed in June 2003. Opening ceremony took place on June 27th (speeches) and museum opened for public on July 1st.

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