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Soviet Terror Made Sacrifice Second Nature for Baltics

Perched at Russia’s doorstep, the Baltic nations’ grim history with their neighbor has hardened attitudes toward the Kremlin

Estonian soldiers defend a dug-in position during a NATO exercise, in the Tapa central military training area in Estonia, April 14, 2022.
Estonian soldiers defend a dug-in position during a NATO exercise, in the Tapa central military training area in Estonia, April 14, 2022.

Photographer: Ben Birchall/PA Images/Getty Images/PA Images

When Kaja Kallas’s mother was six months old, she was forced into a Soviet cattle car and sent on a three-week journey to Siberia.

Tens of thousands of other deportees from the Baltic states never returned, but eight decades later, Kallas is prime minister of Estonia and the memories of occupation underpin her politics. Now she and her fellow leaders from the three small countries perched on Russia’s western frontier have made deep commitments to stand up to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of a fellow ex-Soviet republic.