Today's opposition of the Estonian and Russian secret services originates in the second decade of the last century. After the Estonian Republic declared its independence in February, 1918 its armed forces under command of Major-General Johan Laidoner (1884-1953) have been created. The Second department of the Estonian Joint Staff (J2) has received intelligence and counterintelligence functions. Laidoner, the former deputy chief of the investigation department in the staff of the Western front of the Russian tsarist army, paid special attention to the activity of the department. Not in the last instance it was the successful work of the J2 that provided a victory of the young Estonian army over the Bolshevik army of Russia not only in the own Estonian territory, but also in territory of the neighboring Latvia. As a result, in February, 1920 Moscow has been compelled to sign The Tartu Peace Treaty, that for the time being put an end to its claims for an establishment of the Bolshevik power in Estonia.
Upon the end of the war with the Soviet Russia, in April, 1920, the Security Police (Kaitsepolitseiamet - KAPO) – the second, civil intelligence authority of the Estonian Republic (the regular police executed some of its functions since November, 1918) has been created. The initiator of the creation of the organization was Alexander Hellat, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Estonia (1881-1943), known also as a talented lawyer and a diplomat. Captain Helmut Veem (1894-1941) became the first head of the KAPO. In 1925 the Security Police has been renamed into Political Police (Poliitiline politsei – PolPol). The functions of the organization included counterintelligence and intelligence activity, and also the struggle against the small communist underground in Estonia.
In the 1920’s and the 1930’s the Soviet Union’s intelligence considered the Baltic countries, including Estonia, simultaneously as a potential military opponent, and as jumping-off place for the intervention into other European countries. Still in 1919, in Petrograd (St.-Petersburg), a special intelligence centre of the Bolshevik armies was created with a purpose to organize intelligence activity in the territory of Estonia. In January, 1920 this centre had made a special "Scheme of the organization of intelligence in Estland", and just in a half a year it already reported on successful creation of two large district resident groups in Tallinn and Tartu and six more groups of a smaller, regional scale. Judging from the Russian sources, the resident group in Tallinn has appeared the most successful, it was headed by an experienced Bolshevik, who operated under the nickname of "Fedorov". He allegedly managed to get some valuable sources in the Estonian War Ministry and the Estonian counterintelligence office.
However the strip of success for the Russian military intelligence on the Estonian direction lasted not for long. As Russians themselves have been claiming, in Estonia – differently from the neighboring Finland, Latvia and Lithuania – it was necessary to work in the particularly complex conditions. The excellent activity of the local counterintelligence has left practically no chances to the Russians. As a result, the resident groups created early in the 1920’s have been found out and liquidated in 1924-1925. By the end of 1925 on the Estonian ground there were only five deeply secretive agents of the Bolshevik military intelligence. In the further this organization has not managed to improve its positions in Estonia. In 1933 it received the strongest strike by the arrest in Germany of its liaison Julius Trossin, thus breaking the communication with the resident groups in a number of European countries, including Estonia. The last Russian researches of the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940 testify that during this period the Soviet military intelligence had no trustworthy information about the Estonian armed forces and defense infrastructure.
At present it is complex enough to tell how successful there was the activity in Estonia of the civil intelligence service of the Soviet Russia, NKVD (People's Commissariat of Interior), in the period up to 1940. The published materials prove that in the 1930’s a "legal resident office" with its employees using diplomatic covering had continuously operated in Tallinn. It was engaged, basically, in gathering and processing of the open political information and recruitment of agents in the environment of local residents of a German origin. The first documentary evidence witness a large success of the People's Commissariat of Interior only till June, 1940 when the Soviet armies already were in territory of Estonia, and only a month was left up to its violent Sovetisation. Then the head of the NKVD resident group in Tallinn Ermakov reported to his bosses in Moscow on obtaining a valuable source of information in the local counterintelligence and receiving important intelligence information form him.
In parallel to the work of the Soviet intelligence bodies in the territory of Estonia during the described period the Soviet counterintelligence conducted an active struggle against activity of the Estonian agents in the territory of the Soviet Union. According to the statement of experts from the People's Commissariat of Interior, Estonia and Latvia had conducted the most active intelligence work against the USSR among the Baltic States. Thus the basic accent was put on gathering of the military information in border areas, however, more serious infiltration operations in the Soviet military and intelligence structures also took place. It is worth noting, that already during this period the degree of the activity of the Soviet counterintelligence description of the Estonian threat was proportional to the defeats of Russian spies in Estonia. More professionally the Estonian counterspies operated, more terrible characteristics of the Estonian foe Estonian intelligence got in the reports of the NKVD – it had to justify its own defeats in the opinion of the high big bosses. As a result, in the 1920’s—1930’s the struggle against intelligence of the small Estonia, and also of Latvia and Lithuania has turned for the NKVD one of the priority directions of its activity. Charges in cooperation with the Estonian intelligence became rather popular for carrying out of reprisals of the second half of the 1930’s. So, only in 1937-1938 there were 6607 persons subjected to repressions charged with the "work for the Estonian intelligence". It was in the second half of 1940 when the NKVD got an opportunity to revenge the Estonian opponents for the moral humiliation suffered from the failures on the intelligence front. After the Soviet occupation of Estonia the total round-up of former employees of the Estonian intelligence structures begun. So, in April 1941 the first chief of the Security Police of Estonia Helmuut Veem has been shot. Aleksander Hellatu who has created the organization happened to be "more lucky" – he has presumably died two and a half years later, in November of 1943, in the Soviet camp for prisoners in Kemerovo.
Scarecrow for the FSB
Ghosts of the Russian secret servicemen' old grievances against their Estonian colleagues rose from the grave in the 1990s, after the USSR collapse and gaining of independence by Estonia. Scoffs that were at first heard from Moscow calmed down very quickly. Estonian Counterintelligence (Kaitsepolitseiamet – KAPO) and Ministry of Defense Information Service (Riigi Teabeamet) proved to be very professional and efficient bodies of western model. The response to that was a whole series of invited papers and programs in Russian mass media, drawing the image of Estonian intelligence monster. However, even these publications were shined through by latent respect and envy towards Estonian intelligence servicemen. In different periods of time they were ascribed the capture of top secret Russian military maps and recruitment of the FSB officer Igor Vyalkov. As for the latter, he was arrested in 2002, and accused of providing the Estonians with information concerning three Russian secret servicemen, a lot of data concerning operative activity of the Federal Border Guard (which was attached to FSB in 2003), information on means and methods of work of the Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), details concerning interaction with foreign border guards and secret services, as well as data concerning individuals who, while living in Estonia, were confidentially cooperating with the Soviet KGB. FSB made an effort to present Vyalkov's disclosure as an important professional success. However, in confidential conversation, the former serviceman of the Russian counterintelligence confessed that "this was a big buckeye for the bureau". High-ranking officers in Lubianka (FSB headquarters in Moscow) were furious about the fact that some "greenhorns" in the Estonian intelligence had been hoaxing them – the old professionals – during several years.
In parallel to this, the situation known from the 1920s – 1930s, when the Russian intelligence's activity was disclosed in the territory of Estonia, repeated itself. Local counterintelligence, supported by the government, demonstrated toughness that could hardly be expected of such a young body in such a small country. Just to compare, neighboring Finland till now prefers not to tease "the Russian bear", and in the official reports of Finnish counterintelligence the Russian intelligence is called "foreign", with no specifications. Estonians, on the contrary, are not afraid of video-taping drunk Russian servicemen in the streets of Tallinn, with further demonstration of these disgraceful shots on the local TV, mentioning the "protagonists'" profession. That was done in September 2003 with a high-ranking SVR (Russian Foreign Intelligence) officer Nikolai Shcherbakov, who was working under a cover of the Russian embassy's First Secretary. Prior to that, Shcherbakov's real occupation was revealed in KAPO's annual report. As a result, he was bound to return to his native country before the end of his term.
Before Shcherbakov, Estonian capital city was disreputably abandoned by another SVR serviceman, Sergei Andreev (April 1996), and by two GRU servicemen, Vladimir Telegin and Yury Yatsenko (August 2000). In March 2004, SVR quarters in Tallinn received yet another painful blow: Russian embassy's First Secretary, Major Evgeny Golubkin and embassy's councilor, KGB veteran, Lieutenant General Anatoli Klimkin were simultaneously knocked out of Estonia. Finally, the last blow on the Russian Foreign Intelligence was the public disclosure of its resident in Tallinn, Anatoli Dyshkant. His name was mentioned in the open part of the KAPO annual report, published earlier this month (May 2006). According to the Estonian counterintelligence, last year Dyshkant officially occupied the post of the Russian embassy's Councilor, while actually being engaged in carrying out "prophylactic conversations" with representatives of the local Russian-speaking political parties and movements.
One can expect that reaction of the Russian intelligence and counterintelligence on failures of the last years in Estonia won't be much different from what was observed in the 1930s, and from what can be observed now with regard to the Polish intelligence. Being unable to show the Directorate and the public that there are big operative achievements, FSB will continue feeding them with most incredible stories about the "Estonian intelligence monster" and its spies, allegedly acting in the territory of Russia. Behind the scenes of this propaganda campaign, the efforts of recruiting Estonian citizens will continue, and the means of this recruiting, according to KAPO, can be very tough – up to uncovered blackmail and physical violence.
Russian regional intelligence activity :
Russian Intelligence Makes Use of Estonian Orthodox Church (17.05.06)
Estonian KAPO beefs up activity against Russian espionage (14.05.06)
Polish Nightmares of the Russian Counterintelligence (09.05.06)
Spying Myths of the Russian - Polish Confrontation (08.05.06)
The Kremlin Crosses out Candidates for UN SG Post (10.04.06)
Purging Eastern Europe of Evil – Lustration from KGB Continues (15.11.05)
Russian Espionage Activity Against Estonia Continues (08.08.05)
Seventh Baltic Economic Forum (29.05.05)
Intelligence Activity of the Russian Secret Services in Baltic Countries (23.04.05)
Chronicle of Russian Espionage in the Baltic Countries (20.04.05)