Ever had the feeling that you were being spied on? If you visited Estonia before 1991 it is almost guaranteed that you were.
Estonia’s largest hotel, The Sokos Hotel Viru in Tallin, has 23 floors.
However, the creaky old elevator only goes as far as the 22nd. During the Soviet era the top floor was completely reserved for the KGB and from here the agency bugged 60 of the hotel’s rooms.
They ran a surveillance operation that was pretty advanced for its time; putting audio bugs into everything they could think of. This included the plates in the dining room as well as the walls of the rooms where visitors from overseas stayed.
Teams of 3 or 4 agents worked round the clock, recording, monitoring, photographing and reporting on absolutely everything the guests did. The KGB drilled many hundreds of holes in walls to take photographs and employed hotel staff as informants, paying them to keep tabs on the visitors comings and goings. Even the elevator attendants were instructed to keep records of visitor movements.
After 20 or so years of recording everything that went on in the premier hotel in Estonia’s capital the KGB left in a bit of a hurry following the fall of communism in 1991.
They left behind treasures such as the listening room where the bugging and recording equipment is still set up as it was in the 1980s.
Alarmingly for hotel guests who visit the ‘KGB museum’ on the top floor, all the equipment still seems to work, although guides assure the guests that no recording happens these days.
For anyone with an interest in soviet history and espionage the Sokos Hotel Viru remains THE hotel to stay in when visiting Estonia.