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What has been most fascinating to me as I have visited all three Baltic countries is to reflect on their history.  There is a deep and rich history in these countries.  It is a history of paradoxes – religion and atheism, peace and violence, freedom and occupation.

Each country deals with its recent past (last 100 years or so) in their own unique way.

For Estonia, I found there conscious dealing with the past to be interesting.  They have a museum dedicated to the history of being occupied by the Soviet Union – it sits just outside old town Tallinn.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to go through it.  I’m sure it is well worth the time investment for anyone who does go though.

One part of Estonia’s past that I found a bit surprising was the old KGB building.  This is how it looks now.

KGB building, Tallinn, EstoniaIt’s not marked in any way.  The Estonians did not make the building into a museum.  In fact the old KGB building was gutted, rebuilt and turned into modern apartments.  The only reason I found it was because it was on a Like a Local tourist map.  Without the map, you wouldn’t even know it was the old KGB building.

Given what we know about the KGB and what probably went on inside the building, I’m not surprised the Estonians want to move on with life – especially since a large percentage of the population is Russian.  It’s a delicate balance the Estonians have to have.

Contrast this with another creed – Christianity.

St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn, EstoniaThis is St. Olaf’s church.  It has a long history, just like the church does.

St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn, EstoniaIt is believed to have been built in the 12th century. When you look at it, you can see its age from the wear and tear.

St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn, EstoniaIt was a Catholic church originally, then became Lutheran during the Reformation and is now Baptist since 1950 when the Lutheran church determined it had too many churches in the area – they sold it to the Baptists.  Unfortunately, it was locked when we were there – I can imagine the inside is incredible.

St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn, EstoniaBut the church tells another story too.  It represents a different history in Tallinn.

Estonia is now mostly an atheistic nation – I imagine decades of communism will do that to a country.  Yet the church buildings stand.  They look old, more like museums often.  One wonders how full they get for services.  One wonders what role the churches have in society.  This is a part of the challenge of the church in Estonia.  And a part of its visible history.

Both histories make up Estonia – both have painful parts to them.  Given the current level of tension in the region, I can only imagine what is going through the minds of Estonians these days.  I wonder if they are thinking of the past.  Or are they hoping for a brighter future?