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The Kistler-Ritso Estonian Foundation Goals and Objectives


 The Kistler-Ritso Foundation aims to establish an Occupation Museum of the recent past in Estonia, where the developmental processes during the period 1940-1991 can be studied and where relevant materials, both objects and documents, can be collected and exhibited. The museum will be a modern institution, which will use advanced technical means, both for exhibitions and for study. Its homepage is part of a so-called virtual museum, which will form the basis of an interactive exposition of the future museum.
The museum deals with a period about which we have incomplete information - an epoch characterised by totalitarian power and mass repression - and there is a plan to create a memorial complex, to remember those who did not return to their homeland.

It would be a tombstone for the thousands of countrymen buried in anonymous graves. Our dead will remain unburied until the memoirs of those that perished are immortalised.

Our task is to document the catastrophes and cataclysms, which took place during the last fifty years and to find detailed proof about the past based on facts and analysis. We are interested in how the generation which re-established Estonia's independence in 1991 was formed and want to learn which obstacles they had to overcome. We are interested in the life of Estonians, and also of Russians, Germans, Jews, Swedes and other minorities under the totalitarian regime of the second half of the XX century. We have
no reason to be ashamed of our history, rather the reverse. At the same time we should not forget our experiences and keep silent. On the contrary, we must prevent the dreadful offences from being forgotten.

We started to collect objects, documents and articles for the exposition and to create a program of scientific study in 1999. At the same time we also began making contact with private and state institutions, which, in a similar way, dealt with similar problems. Working contacts have been set up with the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of the Crimes Against Humanity, the Estonian State Commission on Examination of the Policies of Repression, MEMENTO and the Research Centre of the Soviet Era in Estonia ( S-Centre). We have also set up a co-operation project with the Russian MEMORIAL. A working contact is being
established with the GULAG Museum, established on the former site of the Perm-36 labour camp for political prisoners. Co-operation projects have been set up with the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the KARTA Centre in Warsaw.

In this context, the recent past is considered to be the period 1940-1991, although talking about the year 1940 we can't dismiss the year 1939, so the above-mentioned time frame is provisional to some extent. Our project, which is unique in the Baltic region, allows us to collect objects and documents, which symbolise the epoch and to gather memoirs from witnesses, that are still alive.
Unfortunately, the study of the recent past is in a relatively poor state. State institutions, which aim to carry out research into this period (the Institute of History and the History Museum) lack resources. But, we have to start collecting information now as time is working against us. The scientific study of the above-mentioned period is in its infancy, in fact, it could be said that the basis of the research (the methodology and periodisation) doesn't exist, or if it does, it is not very logical.

Council and Board.

Founder of  the Kistler-Ritso Foundation is  Dr. Olga Kistler-Ritso, MRS Sylvia Thompson servers as president of the foundation. In addition, the members of the council are Michael Keller, Mark Romman, Sesh Velamoor and Anne Ly Reimaa. In the Board of the Kistler-Ritso Estonian Foundation, in addition to Luukas Ilves, the chairman, there is Tunne Kelam, Marko Poolamets and Hannes Võrno. The scientific work of the Kistler-Ritso Foundation is co-ordinated by Dr. Enn Tarvel.

 Patron of the project was the President of the Republic of Estonia 1992-2001 Lennart Meri .




Work Plan.

According to Kistler-Ritso Foundation work plan, we have to begin assessing the present situation as regards research work into the recent past. After this we need to record the main study directions of the period (in co-operation with state institutions, which deal with history to prevent duplication) and we must start the systematic work of filling in the gaps in research. Two events, organised by the Kistler-Ritso Foundation, took place in January 1999, and these can be considered preliminary work towards filling in the above-mentioned gaps. A discussion on the theme «The Possibilities of the Periodisation of the Recent Past of Estonia» was held by representatives of different disciplines and a conference was staged, entitled «The Source-Critical Problems of the Recent Past of Estonia». The Scheme of Periodisation of the Recent Past in Estonia was born. In May, a short seminar took place, called «The Possibilities of Using Info-Technology in Studies of History», during which the homepage of the Kistler-Ritso Foundation of Estonia was introduced. A documentary film project, dealing with this period, has been started. An eight-part documentary « Occupations in the Recent Past in Estonia» will be produced and provided with subtitles in foreign languages. There is also a plan to show the film in the museum exposition and provide access to it via the internet. The project is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

Materials from the charting seminars, organised by the S-Centre from 1996-1997, were published for the conference of source-critics in a collection called «Rajaotsingud» («Path Searching»). The conference materials will be gathered into a collection, which will be published as a separate book in the second half of 1999.

We have also started to collect objects and materials. The press has been given information about the Foundation's activities and contacts have been set up with establishments and private persons. At present, the collection is small, but it is growing rapidly. Trivial objects (the equipment of a cell of Patarei prison) can be found in the collection as well as relatively unique objects (an album thrown over the barbed wire of Klooga death camp in 1944).

Published materials on this theme have been assembled into a single electronic database, which, at the moment, includes several publications by ORURK, MEMENTO and other organisations.

The Occupation Museum needed a permanent physical home. Unfortunately, Estonia has had little experience with building museums. Since this particular establishment deals with a very dramatic and important period of Estonia's history, a convenient and presentable location had to be found for the building. Next, an open and international architectural competition was declared in October 2000, to find the best solution for the lot which had been obtained at the corner of Kaarli Boulevard and Toompea Street. The final date for entries was 15 January 2001, and the jury of experts made its choice known on 2 February 2001. A booklet was published, to familiarize the public with the winning designs.

Cornerstone to the building was laid on October 22nd of 2002, construction was completed in June 2003. Opening ceremony took place on June 27th(speeches) and museum opened for public on July 1st.

Main Directions and Priorities of the Scientific Work.

The aim of our activities is to seek and find answers to essential questions about the recent history of Estonia: Who are our heroes? Who are our friends? Who are our enemies? The main directions are: to help determine an identity, to determine and consolidate a national consciousness and to teach our small nation the value of its independent statehood. Research work, which began in 1999, concentrated on exploring the nature of Soviet period institutions. The priorities of the research work can be listed as follows: 1. Problems of source-critics and methodology.
2. Role of the Communist Party of Estonia.
3. Repressive politics.
4. Agrarian politics.
5. Cultural politics.

In addition to the conference on source-critics, which took place at the beginning of 1999, a conference will be held in the second half of the year to deal with problems of methodology. Research work into the role of the Communist Party of Estonia began in 1999 in a bid to clarify the connection between the Communist Party and the repressive security organisations. It also aims to discover how and to what extent the authority and responsibilities of these institutions of power coincide. The research work is financed by long term-scholarships from KRES. The results are published in the form of articles and monographs. The aim of the data published abroad (in foreign language publications etc.) is to provide, in a universal and understandable way, a picture of our national catastrophe and the anti-human character of the Soviet national and economic policy. The research work is based on published historical sources, unpublished archive materials and on oral inheritance. The results of the work will be published in the form of
serious scientific papers, but, at the same time, they will be as interesting and readable as possible. In order to provide real historical information, the planned research work must have scientific, educational, national and political significance and, at the same time, improve the quality of our writings on history.


We need to collect a lot of the materials, which characterize the developmental processes of the period, to throw as much light as possible on the events that took place in Estonia from 1940-1991. Anyone in possession of any materials, objects or documents, can help. Please send any interesting information to the bureau address.

This unique project also accepts financial support. The Foundation has opened an account:
NORDEA pank/ Nordea Bank Finland Plc/Estonia Branch, Hobujaama 4, 15068 Tallinn


The postal address of the Kistler-Ritso Estonian Foundation is

Toompea 8, 10142 Tallinn
Telephone +372 66 80 250, Fax +372 66 80 251 , e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it