What sources on security services’ history could foreign researchers find in Estonia?

Dr. Ivo Juurvee

The paper deals with sources to be found in Estonia for study of intelligence services. Although there is plenty of material Estonian, knowledge of this language is close to non-existent abroad, therefore, the emphasis on archival sources in Russian and some in German. English materials available for the period since regaining independence in 1991. (After writing the book „100 Years of Intelligence and Counterintelligence in Estonia“ on order of the Government Office for the 100th anniversary of the Republic, the author is acquainted with the topic.)

Estonian Law on Archives (article 10) states „Access to all materials held at the National Archives is free“ – that seems to stipulate research, unfortunately the same article continues – „unless there are limitations deriving from the Law on Public Data, Law on Protection of Private Information, Law on Protection of Classified Information, and other laws.“ Paper outlines obstacles for research due to such regulation and possibilities to overcome them.

From the first period of independence (1918-1940) the material is voluminous, counterintelligence matters are dealt with mainly in the files of Higher Military Court and provide insight to the work of Estonian services. However, there are also materials of the OGPU residency in Tallinn procured by Estonian services in the first half on 1990ies that are in Russian. There are also ca 1900 encrypted messages exchanged between Soviet Embassy in Tallinn and Moscow in 1923-1940. So far, the decryption efforts have not been successful. Access to all this material is unrestricted and it is a unique case when materials of the Soviet residency, Comintern and local counterintelligence are to be found in the same place.

From the period of occupations (1940-1991) the most interesting source are the investigation files of Soviet Security Service covering material until 1990. This Russian material provides insight to the activities of Estonian services prior to WWII (the captured officers were interrogated), intelligence activities in Estonian during the WWII, counterintelligence at the beginning of Cold War (including Soviet view on SIS operation JUNGLE and CIA operation REDSOX) and repression of dissidents during the last decades of Soviet rule in Estonia. Other KGB material after 1960 are rare, however, earlier contain interesting materials including some annual reports. Number of German materials on WWII is limited.

Materials after 1991 are classified, however, the services are opening up more and more. At least partially it is caused by vibrant counterintelligence activities – since 1996 number of Russian diplomats PNG-d is 13 (including one after Salisbury incident) and since 2008 there are 10 persons convicted for spying for Russia (two of them have been exchanged in spy swaps) and one has defected to Russia. Internal Security Service has published annual reviews since 1999, the Foreign Intelligence Service since 2016 and head of the Intelligence Centre of the Defence Forces has published an article in the Defence Forces Yearbook since 2014 – all are available also in English. Some researchers (including foreigner Edward Lucas) have been successful in fixing interviews with former and current officers.

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Dr. Ivo Juurvee

is the Head of Security & Resilience Programme and Research Fellow at the International Centre for Defence and Security since 2017. Previously he has been a practitioner in the field of security for more than 13 years. Amongst other positions in Estonian public service, he has been an adviser at the National Security and Defence Coordination Unit of the Estonian Government Office and head of the Internal Security Institute of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences. Ivo has also taught security related topics at the University of Tartu, the NATO School at Oberammergau and on the EU Border Guard Agency FRONTEX master’s programme on border management. He has worked as an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Ivo’s professional and academic areas of interest have been information warfare and the intelligence services. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Tartu (2013) for his thesis on INFOSEC in pre-war Estonia and an MA from the Central European University, Budapest (2003). Ivo has published two books, is an accomplished academic and his publications have won several awards.

Tina Andersen