ABSTRACT

Thus began the period referred to in Estonia as the 'Era of Silence' (vaikiv ajastu).62 The closure of parliament was followed by the suspension and eventual prohibition of all political parties save Pats' newly-created Fatherland League (Isamaaliit) , a highly-centralised governmental party dedicated to building 'national unity'.63 The same role was assigned to the State Propaganda Service, which unleashed a campaign of censorship against the non-government press. jaan Tonisson, traditional guardian of the liberal 'spirit of Tartu' (Tartu Vaim), was at the centre of democratic opposition to the dictatorship during its early stages. Consequently, the government sequestered the assets of Postimees in July 1935, replacing Tonisson with the head of Isamaaliit, Tartu University Professor Juri Uluots.I'" The government also clamped down on opposition within the city's university by abolishing the existing student union and appointing the rector over the heads of faculty members. Opposition to the new regime was also apparent amongst the ranks of the labour movement, where strike activity reached unprecedented levels during 1935. Consequently, the government abolished the existing Central Council of Labour Unions and replaced it with an appointed body. This formed part of a fasciststyle corporatisation of the economy which built upon the earlier extension of state control during the depression. 1935 also saw the final settlement of accounts with the Veterans' League. In a series of courtmartial trials of Vapsid leaders during the Summer and autumn, the government was able to make its charges stick in fewer than forty cases. Those convicted received sentences ranging from a few months to six years. Artur Sirk, however, had already escaped from prison and fled to Finland in 1934. From exile he orchestrated plans for an armed uprising which were uncovered by Pats' security police in December 1935. On this occasion, the ringleaders received hefty prison terms. Sirk,

meanwhile, moved to Luxemburg, where he fell to his death from a hotel window in mysterious circumstances two years later.65