Under the Shadow of the Fading Red Star

Soviet era Tallinn


Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, look more and more like a modern western world city each day with new skyscrapers rocketing up to ruin the skyline, trendy bars competing the customers, and new luxury boutiques selling rags to people who can’t afford them. It’s almost impossible to believe that it was less than 20 years ago that this city was under the Socialist rule and part of the mighty USSR. After Estonians regained their independence in 1991, the Tallinners have effectively erased the history of the occupant. The Lenin statues are junked now, but still quite a few reminders of that era excist. Cover Pictorial  went to take a closer look.


The front steps of the Linnahall

In front of the port of Tallinn stands a huge slab of concrete which resembles a WW2 V2-rocket launchpad. The V.I. Lenin Palace of Sports and Culture, as it was known in the old days (later renamed Linnahall), is a concert hall/ice rink in rather neglected condition. It was built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics when Tallinn hosted the sailing events, but after only 30 years of existence the building is ready to get razed down.


The overuse of concrete was typical for the Soviet-era architecture.


Patarei prison

The last prisoner left Patarei in 2004.

Only a few minutes walk from Linnahall is Patarei Prison Museum (2 Kalaranna). You can hardly call it a museum – it’s been left as it is. This former sea fortress, built in 1840, served as a Soviet-era prison and was notorious for its remarkably poor conditions. Here you can experience the horrors of the Soviet-era prison life at it’s worst; dark rooms, moisty walls, the funky smell of mold, and, to top all that, the excution room where the last death penalty was carried out in 1991.

Patarei prison

The execution room. The hanging pit on the floor is partially covered but still visible.

Patarei prison

The KGB Headquarters in the Old Town (1 Pagari) was the place that perceived enemies of the regime were interrogated and either shot or sent to Siberian work camps. The Estonian Ministry of the Interior moved on the premises after the Soviet rule ended.

KGB headquarters

The former KGB headquarters.

Soviet Navy Offices

The former Soviet Navy offices building (at the corner of Suur-Karja and Vana-Posti) still sports the old Red Star motif on it's roof.

Kino Soprus

Kino Soprus

The former Friendship Cinema, Kino Soprus (8 Vana-Posti), was built in 1955 in the traditional Soviet-era style, complete with columns and some Red Star motifs. It’s still in use as a movie theater. On the same square, right next to Soprus, stands the former Soviet Navy offices building.

Kino Soprus Red Star

The only building in Tallinn with a spire and star at the top can be found at Tartu Maantee, across the road next to Stockmann department store. Ironically this place is now a casino.Naval Officers Club

The Naval Officers Club (5 Mere Puiestee), was built in 1952 as a recreational club for Soviet officers. The interior sports propagandistic design elements. It is now home to the Russian Cultural Centre.

To round off the tour, take a visit to residential suburb of Lasnamäe, the workers paradise dormitory for 100.000 people. This predominantly Russian concrete jungle was built in the 1980s and it has more inhabitants than Estonia’s second-largest city, Tartu.

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