Although not tracing my travels chronologically, this venue in Tallinn felt appropriate to follow the tales from Reading Prison.
The house at Pagari 1 stands on the corner of Pagari and Pikk streets and was originally built for residential purposes to which it has now returned, consisting of 42 luxury flats. In 1918, the building became a government building for the Republic of Estonia and was home to its war ministry until 1940. It then became the headquarters of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Estonia – later to become the KGB.
Pagari 1 has cells in in its cellar, in which interrogation subjects were held and tortured before being shot or sent to Gulags in Siberia. The cells have now been turned into a museum and memorial to those who were held there while resisting the Soviet rule in Estonia.
The story of Ageeda Paavel reminded me of the story of the Scholl siblings who distributed anti-Nazi leaflets in educational establishments in Germany.
How many people were held in any of the cells at a time was unclear, possibly up to 18. One of the re-creations implied many people were sleeping in one, another was very empty. The doors of the cells are displayed in one with video screens mounted in the viewing slots, showing testimony from detainees who survived the Gulags. Another was set up for an interrogation, playing a recording of the questions and answers which were also projected onto the walls in Estonian with an English translation.
There is a tiny broom-cupboard sized room at the back which was used for holding detainees in isolation. It isn’t large enough to sit properly, let alone lie down in.
In 1991, on gaining independence from the crumbling USSR the cellar became disused until opening as this memorial museum in July 2017.
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