In the heart of the Old Town at Pagari 1 lies the former KGB headquarters in Tallinn. The building has long been a symbol of the former Soviet oppression in Estonia. For thousands of Estonians, the course of suffering began from this place.
The building became a house of horrors from October 1940, when the sub-office of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union in Estonia moved into this premises. The terror had begun already in June 1940 – when Estonia became occupied – with the imprisonment of the ideological enemies of the communist regime. Estonian politicians, state officials, businessmen, intellectuals, military officers, veterans of the War of Independence along with other public figures were imprisoned and interrogated. Those subject to interrogation were tortured and then brought before a tribunal that either sentenced them to death or to prison camp for a lengthy term. Also sentencing to a prison camp meant mostly excruciating death in a Gulag camp.
In 1941, cells were built in the cellar of the building. The bricked-up basement windows were intended to mute the sounds of the interrogations and torturing. Although the detention centre was used only until 1950, the action taken between the walls lives in the memories to this day and the cells have remained as symbols of communist terror. The prison cells at Pagari Street stand as silent and intimate witnesses, telling the stories of atrocious violations of human rights and the crimes of inhumane regimes.