The KGB museum in Tallinn

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Posted on Fri, Nov 07 2014 16:56:33

The KGB museum is on the 23rd "secret" floor of the Estonian Hotel Viru; in Soviet times it housed the special equipment for wiretapping of foreign tourists who stayed in Viru - one of the best hotels in the USSR. The KGB Museum is a shrine of the stories about two worlds – one world, which existed mainly on paper, where all the citizens were happy and friends with each other, and lived without any troubles, being led by the wise and the only party; and the other, real world, which was inherently much more diverse and complicated. 

Sokos Hotel Viru is located in Tallinn's center, at the gates of the medieval old town. This building was the first skyscraper in the country and became one of the symbols of Estonian capital. The hotel was built in 1972 due to the fact that the Soviet Union decided to develop the tourist industry, and to build suitable hotels for the foreign tourists. However, the hotels had to be suitable for the KGB as well. The 22nd floor of the hotel had a restaurant with a wonderful panoramic view of the old town and the sea, so both locals and visitors liked to spend time there.  Above it, there was the secret 23rd floor, of which no one knew, since even the elevator buttons ended with floor 22. 

The 23rd floor had special equipment for listening to the conversations of the foreign tourists – out of 400 rooms in the hotel, 60 were wiretapped. Usually, the guests in these 60 rooms were foreign journalists, tour guides, businessmen and Estonians that live abroad. The place was the headquarters of the intelligence services, and, since the biggest number of tourists would stop in Tallinn on the way from Finland or Moscow, there was a constant radio connection between them and the secret floor number 23.

Of course some people whose rooms were wiretapped would get suspicious, because they would be given the same room in the hotel over and over again – and there were some journalists and guides that tried to play tricks on the listeners behind the walls. There are many interesting stories one can listen to in the museum nowadays.

The owners of the museum preserved the place exactly as is – it occupies only two rooms and corridors, where you can see KGB employees' workstations.  There are racks with electronic equipment for secretly surveilling the visitors of the hotel. On the tables there  tape recorders, typewriters, Soviet era telephones and a variety of documents.

Gallery: The KGB museum in Tallinn

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