Reconstructed partisan bunker. From the Cold War exhibition.
ESTONIAN WAR MUSEUM, Viimsi
Mõisa tee 1, 74001 Viimsi, Harju County
The Estonian War Museum offers guided tours. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
From the reconstructed partisan bunker
From the reconstructed partisan bunker
From the Cold Ware exhibition.
From the Cold War exhibition.
The Museum of the War of Independence was first established on 19 January 1919, by the order of the Commander-in-Chief Major General Johan Laidoner. The War of Independence had been raging for less than two months, and the existence of the Republic of Estonia and the fate of Tartu – which had been liberated just a few days earlier – was far from decided.
In 1919, combat photographer Private Taavet Poska, of the 6th infantry regiment, was appointed as the organizer of the museum. In November 1921, he was assigned to the post of deputy purser of the museum. Taavet Poska later served as director of the museum until 1940, by which time the collection of the museum consisted of 10,000 items – a few thousand of which were part of the permanent exhibition. The permanent exhibition was comprised of different items – a large number of weapons, war trophies (e.g. flags confiscated from Red Army contingents), mannequins dressed in uniforms dating from the War of Independence, war maps, the interior of the office of the Commander-in-Chief during the war, – and many other items.
Following the occupation of Estonia by the Red Army in the summer of 1940, the War Museum was forced to move out of the rooms at 5 Vene Street. The museum’s assets were initially taken to Kopli, to the so-called Red Barracks. Afterwards, all usable equipment was given to the Red Army and the rest of the items were taken to Russia, where a great number were simply destroyed.
The New Beginning and the Present Day
Following the restoration of Estonia’s independence and the withdrawal of the Russian Army, the fate of Viimsi Manor, which had served as General Laidoner’s summer home, became uncertain. Until the beginning of the 1990s, the manor served as the home of the radio intelligence contingent of the USSR’s Baltic Fleet, which had left its “markings” on the building. On 15 September 1993, the Viimsi Rural Municipality Council decided to create the Viimsi Rural Municipality Museum, which began to collect information and items connected to Johan Laidoner.
On 26 February 2001, the Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum was established by the order of the Minister of Defence. The restoration of the Estonian War Museum started from scratch because nothing had survived from its pre-war collection. The work, which had begun during the time of the rural municipality museum, was continued. Fortunately, many Estonians had been courageous and cool-headed enough to preserve objects, archives, and other items for decades – sometimes literally underground or inside a furnace – that are now a very valuable part of Estonia’s military history.
Today, the EWM serves as the collector, preserver, researcher and exhibitor of Estonia’s military history and culture. The EWM is tasked with the continuous collection and preservation of the history of Estonian´s Defence Forces. It distributes information related to military history to both the members of the defence forces and the national defence teachers at schools, as well as to students and the general public. It is also the task of the EWM to publish both scientific and popular science books on the topic of military history and to cooperate with other museums and research centres, both in Estonia and abroad.
Plans for the Future
The current home of the museum at Viimsi Manor does not allow to display the largest of items – e.g tanks, cannons, armoured cars, planes, naval vessels, etc –, which are a key part of any war museum. Exhibiting the entire collection – beginning with the Viking period and the ancient war for independence, and ending with the present day international missions of the Estonian Defence Forces – would require a territory greater than that offered by Viimsi Manor.
One of the sites currently considered as a possible future location is the Patarei Seafortress. In cooperation with the Estonian Maritime Museum and other interested organisations, from both the private and third sectors, there are plans to turn the area into a world-class theme park covering military, maritime and technical history.