Nearly 150,000 people were deported from the Baltic states to Siberia during the occupations. More than 30,000 of them are from Estonia, more than 59,000 from Latvia and more than 49,000 from Lithuania. The aim was to neutralise the active and potential opponents of Soviet power and their family members, thereby neutralising the national elite who could provide and organise resistance.
The deportations were organised by the occupation authorities – employees of the USSR and the local People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) in cooperation with local assistants. People were forced to leave their homes and were transported in animal wagons. Their property was confiscated. Deportation was not preceded by a trial. With regard to the number of deportees, it should be borne in mind that most of the deportees were women, children and old men, for whom an individual conviction was never handed down. The men, as well as a few women in prominent positions, were separated from their families immediately after their arrest and sent to prison camps, where they were later convicted by a special decision of the NKVD, a tribunal or even a local oblast court. Most of the so-called June deportees died as early as 1941 or 1942; many were sentenced to death and shot, the rest were taken to prison for ten years. The conditions in the prison camps were extremely inhumane during the war; most of those sent to prison camps died in the first or second year of imprisonment.
The places of deportation were mostly in hard-to-reach places in areas with harsh climates, far from larger cities. Living conditions were inhumane, there was a lack of proper shelter and medical care and a great shortage of basic foodstuffs, clothing and footwear.
Only a few cases were liberated from Siberia fairly soon after deportation. Hundreds of thousands of people deported from all over the then Soviet Union to Siberia hoped to return home after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. The release began in stages and by category. In March 1953, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR passed a decree granting amnesty, which was used to release those imprisoned for up to five years for political reasons. This amnesty did not extend to those repressed in June 1941.
The first major decisions to release deportees from special housing were made in 1954. Back in 1953, the Ministry of the Interior of the USSR was of the opinion that persons under the age of 16 should be given permanent residence and registered in accordance with the general conditions. A year later, however, the decision on the children became lenient. On 16 July 1954, the Ministry of the Interior of the USSR issued Order No. 00597, which was in accordance with Regulation No. 1439-649 of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 5 July 1954. According to the order, children born after 31 December 1937 were allowed to return home.
The breakthrough in the liberation from Siberia came in 1956, though even then it was not liberated automatically. First, the deportee or one of their relatives had to write a request for release. The last release decisions were made in 1965.
Property was not returned to the deportees. The return of
property became possible only after the end of the occupation and the
restoration of the independence of the Baltic states.