Control over cultural life

​WWII and the re-establishment of the Soviet regime in 1944 split the so far integral Estonian culture into two parts: cultural lives in exile and at home. In exile, the creative freedom was much more extensive, but the number of consumers of Estonian-language culture was smaller and the probability of cultural assimilation into the country of residence was large. Estonian culture in Soviet Estonia had to resist forced Russification and restrictions to creative freedom; its ultimate success guaranteed the continuation of Estonian culture. At the same time, the Soviet regime allowed certain cultural contacts with exile Estonians, and tried to use these contacts for its own ends (e.g through the VEKSA organisation).

​The aim of the official cultural policies of Soviet Estonia was to introduce the kind of culture where the “socialist content” was fitted into a “national form”. Resulting from this, the new regime's attitude towards Estonian cultural heritage proceeded from the class principle. The whole intellectual sphere was, to a smaller or a larger extent, under ideological pressure, depending on the political conditions of the moment. But despite fluctuations between more liberal and more strict approach, censorship (Glavlit) did not ever disappear – its task was, together with constant checking on people's mentality, to bar the spread of free thinking in society.

​Religious life was under a heavy pressure as well. The state security forces (KGB) played an essential role in keeping the church and other aspects of spiritual life under control. The political and economic separation of Soviet Estonia from the rest of the world, accompanied by an extensive (but still not complete) information blackout from Western spiritual developments and directions had negative results. During the post-war decades, the regime treated cross-border cultural and science contacts in a negative way, as “grovelling in front of the West”. This meant a direct pressure to re-orientate towards Russian culture; this pressure was especially strong in the late 1940s and first half of the 1950s. But in spite of all efforts in Russification, Estonian-language education and culture persisted.

​A part of the Soviet cultural politics was the selective destruction of cultural heritage created by the preceding generations. During the post-war years, libraries were emptied of the “heritage of bourgeois society”; in the course of this activity, a considerable number of periodicals and books of fiction, published during the period of independent Estonia, were destroyed and most of the remaining copies were kept under restricted access. In addition to all this, the whole society was drowned in propaganda that was meant to subject the spiritual sphere of life to the control of the ruling regime.

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