Piret Toomet (1970) calls herself a post-Siberia baby. Until 1991, Estonia formed part of the Soviet Union. Toomet’s father had been in a prison camp for years and came back traumatised. He never talked about his experience of incarceration, preferring to tend to his garden. He could exert some control over his vegetables, and he took pride in a good harvest. Besides, in this way there was always food on the table during harsh winters. Toomet says that cultivating a vegetable patch and conserving vegetables is still considered a part of Estonian identity. Nearly thirty years after the fall of communism, she makes sure that her cellar is stocked with jars of jam and vegetable preserves every winter, like it’s part of her DNA.
Estonia as part of the Soviet Union
In 1939, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin signed the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, incorporating Estonia in the Soviet Union after the Second World War. As early as 1941 the Soviets deported 10 000 people to the Gulag. The deportations continued into the 1950s. The 1980s saw a cautious resistance to the occupation. In 1989, two million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians formed a 600 km line traversing two borders by holding hands. It was one of the most unusual protests ever. In 1991 the Soviet Union dissolved and Estonia declared independence.
Russians who had lived in Estonia since the occupation were denied citizenship. They could only obtain an Estonian passport by learning the language and declaring allegiance to the country. Only citizens can run for office in Estonia. Today, most of the Russian Estonians have been naturalised and the Russian language has become accepted.