Estonia is one of several nations in Steel Division II.
Historical background[edit source]
One of several nations to emerge from the ashes of the collapsing Russian Empire, Estonia broke away from the Empire in 1917, straight into the fire of an independence war. Following the collapse of the short-lived communist rule under Jaan Anvelt, occupation by the German Empire, and a two-year conflict between the Estonian army and bolshevik forces culminating in the Treaty of Tartu. Finally, Estonia was proclaimed as a free republic in 1920. It enacted numerous reforms, most importantly the dismantling of ancient Baltic German estates and redistribution of the land to peasants and veterans. Estonia gradually trended towards authoritarianism, particularly in the wake of the Great Depression, ending in the 1934 coup d'etat, when Konstantin Päts turned the young republic into an autocracy, ruled by decree and martial law. The new head of state attempted to pursue an independent, neutral policy, while implementing numerous reforms inspired by fascist Italy's corporatism.
Neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union had any intention of respecting Estonian neutrality. After the invasion of Poland by both in 1939, Estonia was faced with Soviet demands for military bases. Päts complied, unknowingly setting the stage for the military occupation and annexation of Estonia in the following year. Just as France fell to the Nazis, the Soviets annexed the Baltic states. The terror that accompanied the incorporation of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic into the Union traumatized Estonians, so much that the occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany in July 1941 was seen as liberation at first. This ended when Estonia became a mere province of Reichskommissariat Ostland.
Estonia was ruthlessly exploited as a transportation hub and source of conscripts for Waffen-SS' foreign legions (eventually forming the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division), with views for incorporation as a protectorate in the undetermined future. All Estonian Jews who did not flee to the Soviet Union were murdered by the end of 1941, rooted out by Nazi Einsatzgruppen and Estonian collaborators. A network of 22 concentration camps was erected in occupied Estonia to exploit and destroy Jews captured by the Nazis in other parts of the Baltics and the nearby regions of the Soviet Union.
Estonia's two occupations were followed by a third, after the collapse of the Nazi war effort in the Soviet Union and gradual retreat westwards. Attempts to reestablish an independent republic failed, and Estonia came under Soviet control in late 1944. Although partisans continued to fight, with the death toll eventually reaching over 10 000, the Estonian Soviet Republic survived thanks to a combination of ruthlessness and deportation. The resulting trauma, aided bolstered by preferential treatment extended to ethnic Russians and a policy of russification, resulted in the Soviet Union being seen as an occupying power. In the end, the declaration of independence in 1990 was seen as an end of an illegal occupation, rather than transition from one form of government to another.