Once upon a time, there was a town called Sillamäe in northeastern Estonia. Thanks to Stalin many people didn’t know the existence of this secret city.

Almost as far to the east,  you can get in Europe, there is a town called Sillamäe. The city has been a very important industrial city, but hardly anyone knew about it from the year 1947 until the fall of communism.

Before 1947 the city was dominated by commerce, tourism, and the shale-fired thermal power plant. In 1945 during World War II the town was almost completely wiped due to bombings. And now, at this moment the history of Sillamäe could stop. But this wasn’t the case.

Stalin got an idea

For a long time, it was known that the area around Sillamäe had rich resources of oil shale. From the oil shale is possible to extract uranium oxide to uranium enrichment. At this time, atomic power was a trending issue. Especially interested in nuclear devices was the war industry. The United States had shown two years earlier what two nuclear explosive devices were capable of in Japan.


The local beach.

Stalin decided herewith, because of the potential to enrich uranium, that Sillamae would be closed to the outside world. Soviet authorities started on Stalin’s orders a facility for uranium enrichment. The workers were mostly prisoners of war.

Kick out the Estonians!

In connection with the construction began authorities to purge the city of Estonians. Estonian was not desirable. The city was populated by people without any ties or memories of the city and who did not oppose changes. This would be a model city that supplied the Soviet Union with uranium.

In 1947 Sillamäe had about 3,000 inhabitants – in 1950 the population was 10,000. Almost all of these were immigrants from Russians. Estonians were displaced.Sillamae-estonia-3

The city ceased to exist

Soviets launched an intensive work to obliterate the city from geography. Access for non-trusted people was forbidden. The city’s name was removed from the maps and records.

Sillamäe’s new name became “Post Box No. 22”.The uranium facility was given a less imaginative name, “Industrial No. 7”. The local shale oil was gradually replaced by the uranium ore from former Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Hungary. As a result, 25 percent of the Soviet Union’s uranium production came from Sillamäe.

Lighter restrictions

In 1957, a few years after Stalin’s death, Sillamäe got town privileges. Some prohibitions were lifted. Inhabitants now had the possibility to meet their relatives. But uranium production would continue until the Berlin Wall fell, and Sillamäe remained a closed city for most. The Estonians who were moved by force never came back.Sillamae-estonia-4

Ethnic Russians still belong to the majority, and according to figures from the year, 2000 corresponded to 85.8% of the population are Russians. Estonians accounted for only 4.2%.


Today, anyone can visit the city. The first thing that we notice is the broad avenues and stately white houses. It would, after all, be an atomic city with splendor. 2008 was the clean-up of pollution from uranium enrichment finished.

During the years Soviet had dumped the waste at the shore.

What the future may lead to is difficult to predict. Sillamäe has a wonderful and long beach.Sillamae-estonia-5

In the same time the population decrease. The unemployment is extensive but the harbor is the region’s fifth largest.