Looking at this inconspicuous building in Tartu, Estonia, it is difficult to believe that it was once a site of terror and oppression. From 1940-1954 thousands of Estonians were detained and tortured by the Russian KGB in tiny cells in the basement of “the Grey House”.
Upon entering the basement this 3 minute audio file is played on a loop. Fluency in the local language isn’t necessary to understand the story that is enacted:
During the period of Russian annexation thousands of Estonians passed through the Grey House on the way to labour camps in Siberia in an attempt by Russia to quash the Estonian resistance movement. This resulted in the deaths of 30,000 civilians either directly through execution or from the deprivations of life in a gulag.
Walking through the basement visitors can see plans by Russian authorities to deport Estonian politicians, teachers, clergy and skilled workers to Siberia. Artefacts from gulags, as well as a number of devices used to torture prisoners, can also be viewed.
Estonian history is not something that I am familiar with. However after visiting the Tartu KGB museum I now look into the faces of the local people and wonder what stories reside behind their stoic expressions.