22 September is the Resistance Day in Estonia, 21. September 2020

The Resistance Day is a public holiday on 22 September in Estonia for the appreciation and commemoration of all the people of Estonia that have resisted against occupying regimes either in words or deeds, and by doing so, protected the independence and liberty of Estonia. Many of them lost their lives, freedom or health during mass repressions.

Thousands of political prisoners, amongst whom were also the members and supporters of various
resistance organisations, were detained in Patarei prison in Tallinn during Soviet occupation.

Estonian Forest Brothers, the anti-Soviet resistance. Photo: Estonian National Archive.

The Resistance Day is also known as Otto Tief Government Day, as it honours the attempt by Otto Tief, the Acting Prime Minister of the last Estonian government, to restore Estonian independence in September 1944, when German troops were leaving and Soviet troops yet to arrive.

In June 1940, the Red Army had imposed the First Soviet Occupation in Estonia. It lasted until September 1941, when the German Army pressured the Red Army out of Estonia and imposed its own occupation regime.

The occupying Red Army took Tallinn on 22 September 1944, when the Germans were leaving Estonia, marking the beginning of a new active phase of the resistance movement. The Red Army entered the city and tore down the Estonian flag, which had been hoisted on the Tall Hermann Tower – the symbol of Estonian statehood – and replaced it with a red flag. The Second Soviet Occupation had begun. Thousands of Estonians found refuge in the forests, many of them started an armed resistance.  

The forming of Otto Tief’s government emphasised the fact that Estonia is an independent country that has been illegally reoccupied by the communist Soviet Union. The resistance continued in various forms until the restoration of Estonia’s independence in 1991.


​Red Army's soldiers on Tall Hermann tower in Tallinn hoisting the red flag.


On 22-26 September, an outdoor exhibition “The “Liberator” arrived”, compiled by the Estonian
Institute of Historical Memory in cooperation with the National Library, is open to everyone on Freedom Square in Tallinn. The exhibition tells the story of Red Army terror in reoccupied Estonia in 1944-1945 via historical documents and posters, against the backdrop of the Soviet liberator-myth. On 22 September 1944, Tallinn was occupied and devastated by the Red Army. The online version of the exhibition is available HERE.

Estonian Forest Brothers. Photo: Estonian National Archive.