The exhibition area Communism is Prison, opened in the east wing of the Patarei Prison and created by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, drew an audience of over 36 000 visitors from all over the world since its opening on May 14th 2019. 158 tours were carried out in various languages, several special events were organized and five different travelling exhibitions were shown.

In its present state, the building of Patarei is strongly affected by weather conditions, due to which visits to the exhibition area are currently unavailable for the duration of the winter season. The exhibition will reopen on 2 May 2020.

According to the Institute’s Researcher-Curator Martin Andreller, the first season did not yet reach the maximum number of potential visitors. The completion of the exhibition and informing the public will continue with the aim of reaching at least 50 000 visitors next year.

“The current exhibition is part of the process of developing the permanent exhibition and testing various solutions in a complex historic building. The first season gave a clearer idea of what the visitors expect to see regarding the topic and how to execute this technically. We intend to develop the existing exhibition further by next season. A number of temporary themed exhibitions, both from Estonia and abroad, are planned as well. We keep our international audience in mind in our research, as the history of communism is a globally underexamined topic. It was evident based on the feedback given by visitors that we need to talk about this more,” said Andreller.

“The building of Patarei has considerable architectural value and great capacity to inform the public of the crimes of totalitarian regimes. It would not be possible to show such a vast exhibition, dedicated to the victims of communism, anywhere else in Estonia,“ the Researcher-Curator added.

The exhibition focuses on the crimes of communist regimes in Estonia and the world. The uniqueness of the exhibition area is the well-preserved authentic prison interior, where Soviet and Nazi regimes repressed thousands of people on political grounds. There are a number of stories as well as sound- and video installations exhibited regarding the victims of both regimes.

This exhibition is the first stage of the development of the International Museum for The Victims of Communism and the accompanying research centre, supported by Estonia and partners abroad. An idea competition was held in 2018 with the aim of finding the best solution to the planned museum. 13 projects were submitted by architects of 9 different countries.

This year, the exhibition won in the category of environment/exhibition design in the annual Estonian Design Awards. The design and the creative concept is developed by Velvet Agency, content by Estonian Institute of Historical Memory.

The creation and the management of the exhibition area would not have been possible without the support provided by the Government and the Ministry of Justice. Estonian Institute of Historical Memory would also like to thank State Real Estate Ltd and the heritage division of Tallinn City Planning Department, who have been valuable partners helping the building to be opened to visitors.


  • The exhibition had 36 645 visitors
  • 158 guided tours were carried out in various languages
  • In addition to the main exhibition, It was also possible to visit 5 different travelling exhibitions
  • 3 major events, 8 choreographic events and different thematic tours took place
  • The exhibition was visited by numerous journalists from abroad



Sergei Metlev

Estonian Institute of Historical Memory

Public and Partner Relations officer

+372 53 35 96 39