Treaty of Tartu (Russian–Estonian)

Signing the Treaty of Tartu. Adolf Joffe (Soviet Russia, left).

Tartu Peace Treaty (Estonian: Tartu rahu, literally "Tartu peace") or Treaty of Tartu was a peace treaty between Estonia and Soviet Russia signed on February 2, 1920 ending the Estonian War of Independence. The terms of the treaty stated that "Russia unreservedly recognises" the independence of Republic of Estonia de jure and renounced in perpetuity all rights to the territory of Estonia. Ratifications of the treaty were exchanged in Moscow on March 30, 1920. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on July 12, 1922.[1]

Estonia before the treaty

Estonia had been a province of Imperial Russia since 1710, and had been subject to some sort of foreign hegemony since the 13th century.[2] With the outbreak of World War I, the Russian Empire fell into revolution and civil war. As a part of this larger conflict, the Estonians declared independence from Russia and won their freedom during the Estonian War of Independence. As a symbol of Estonian independence, Yuryev/Dorpat was officially given back its Estonian name, Tartu. The new Communist Russian government acknowledged Estonia's freedom in the 1920 Treaty of Tartu.[3]

Treaty provisions

The treaty established the border between Estonia and Russia, affirmed the right of Estonian people to return to Estonia and Russian people to return to Russia and required that Estonian movable property evacuated to Russia in World War I be returned to Estonia. Russia also agreed to absolve all debt from Tsarist times and to pay Estonia 15 million gold rubles, a proportional share from gold reserves of former Russian Empire. Additionally Russia agreed to grant concessions to exploit one million hectares of Russian forest land and to build a railway line from the Estonian border to Moscow. In return, Estonia undertook to allow the RSFSR to build a free port at Tallinn or some other harbour and to erect a power station on the Narva River.[4]


The treaty was signed by Jaan Poska on the Estonian side and Adolf Joffe for Soviet Russia, as well as by other representatives of both parties.


The Tartu Peace Treaty has been regarded as the birth certificate of the Republic of Estonia because it was the very first de jure recognition of the state.[5] The treaty was also of utmost importance to the diplomatically isolated Soviet Russia, with Lenin expressing satisfaction with the treaty as "an incomparable victory over Western imperialism".[4] Some members of the Entente opposed the treaty with the intention to keep Soviet Russia in international isolation.


After signing, Soviet Russia did not fulfill several points of the treaty, e.g. the museological collections of the University of Tartu have not been returned to this day from Voronezh[6] and the migration of Estonians was obstructed.[7] Later Estonia was invaded, occupied and annexed by the U.S.S.R. during World War II, as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement.

See also

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  1. League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 11, pp. 30-71.
  2. Remembering the Tartu Peace Treaty.
  3. Introduction to Tartu
  4. 1 2 Georg von Rauch, The Baltic States: The Years of Independence 1917-1940, Hurst & Co, 1974, p73
  5. Frucht, Richard (2005). Eastern Europe. ABC-CLIO. p. 76. ISBN 1-57607-800-0.
  7. Ülo Kaevats et al. 1996. Eesti Entsüklopeedia 9. Tallinn: Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, ISBN 5-89900-047-3
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