During the shadow of Communist Russia, Estonia was once home to a major contingent of KGB secret police. Now free, the Estonians are taking the opportunity to display Soviet hardware used by the KGB to monitor transmissions and eavesdrop.
The exhibition – called “Viru Hotel and the KGB” – remembers a time when the hotel was a hub for eavesdropping on foreigners.
The exhibition shows in a once-secret “radio room” where operatives relayed information from the hotel in Tallinn, Estonia to Helsinki, Finland across the Baltic Sea. From there, the intel would go to Moscow.
“All we have here now is the room as they left it one night in 1991 when Estonia was getting close to restoring its independence,” said Peep Ehasalu, spokesman for the Viru, now run by Finnish hotel chain Sokos.
In 1975, the radio room became a hotline for Soviet leaders between Moscow and Helsinki during the European Security and Disarmament Conference held in Helsinki. Again the room went into high use in 1980 when Tallinn was the venue for the yachting competition for the Olympic Games hosted by the Soviet Union.
“In the Soviet times I was not afraid of losing my job because of my professional skills, and jobs were available for everybody and no one was sacked even if they came to work drunk,” said Enn Palmets, the hotel’s technical manager, who has been at the Viru since it opened.
“There was a threat of getting dismissed because of telling the wrong kind of stories or talking to foreigners. In fact, everybody was forced to sign a document saying that they promise not to contact foreigners.”
One visitor, Tiia Raudma, who visited Estonia frequently in the 70s said that foreigners weren’t allowed to stay anywhere else.
“Everyone knew the Viru was bugged and that the KGB people sat on the second and third floors near the hard currency bar, so people would just be careful in what they said on the telephone or while in the hotel.”
(Via Moscow Times)