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Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomeWorld MapEstoniaThe KGB Hotel in Tallinn: Someone's Always Watching

The KGB Hotel in Tallinn: Someone’s Always Watching

KGB Hotel is part of the Iraq Homecoming Trip Report.


My visit to the Hotel Viru was the most interesting hotel experience I have had since I stayed in the Hollywood Tower Hotel in Orlando, Florida (see The Hollywood Tower Hotel Orlando, a Terrifying Experience).

a building with glass windows
Looks like a typical entrance to a hotel.
a red mat on the ground outside of a building
Welcome mat.

Checking In

The front desk was manned by a gentleman who introduced himself by stating that his code name is Pavo. He also claimed that it was his real name.

a man standing in front of a sign
‘Pavo’

I was told to go to floor 22 and wait with ‘exemplary patience.’ I would be given a tour of the facilities that would last 59 minutes. a close up of a elevator a number on a wall

Pavo met us on the 22nd floor. He said he would share a secret. Although the hotel has 23 floors, the elevator only went to 22. Referring to the 23rd floor, he said, “It’s not recommended to go there.” Pavo went on to explain how the hotel was the best hotel in all of Tallinn when it opened 50 years ago on May 5th, 1972. Everyone famous stayed at the hotel including Neil Armstrong, Elizabeth Taylor, and other VIP’s. Back then, citizens of the Soviet Union could not travel to capitalist countries and access to Western goods was very limited. The rare place where these goods existed was in Tallinn thanks to a black market facilitated by those coming to the hotel.

a bulletin board with pictures on it

In a stealth move, Pavo showed us the doorway to the 23rd floor and welcomed us upstairs. He noted that behind the gray wall there was a technical room which housed a copy machine. On the copy machine was a meter which counted the number of copies employees made to make sure no one was copying unauthorized books. a man walking up a staircase

TPOL’s Trivia: 42 miles to Helsinki, a bit too close for comfort for Soviet officials.

TPOL’s Trivia: The KGB’s headquarters was not at the Hotel Viru. It was in the old town next to St. August’s church.

Attention to Detail

No detail was overlooked in this hotel. On each floor there was a babooshka who documented when I left and when I returned. This was done for my own safety.

a red table with a telephone and a chair in a room
Babooshka in the photo frame.

If you’re in need of toilet paper, no need to call the Wherever, Whenever number. Just complain aloud and in only a few minutes someone will knock on your door.

Not all the rooms were bugged. They had about 60 rooms that had microphones in the room for suspicious citizens. Who was suspicious? They looked at the occupation. Politicians, guides who could speak foreign languages, priests, journalists- TPOL.a poster with pictures of people and a tall building

In the dining room, they bugged the bread plates. The signal went to the ceiling. The restaurant’s office was on the 2nd floor. It was used for spying.a table with a white tablecloth and red chairs

In the bar, they put the bug in the ashtray.

Women of low social responsibility were invited to the hotel.  They had to cooperate with the KGB.

a book with writing on it and a pen on a table
What do you think they mean by tips?

During the hiring process, a typical interview question was, “Do you have relatives abroad?” God help those that did. The interview became much longer.

a mannequin in a uniform next to a table with papers
I’m here for my interview.

a room with a white brick wall and a white brick wall with a white brick wall and a white brick wall with a white brick wall and a white brick wall with a white brick wall and a

a view of a city from a high rise building
Balcony from the office.

Today, there are only 92 employees. When it opened there were 1000 employees. There was a dentist and shoemaker on site. There were also bell boys who took great care to learn every detail about their guests.

To keep employees from snooping around, the KGB used to set booby traps. An employee may find a ‘lost’ purse. If the employee opened it to satisfy his own curiosity, he would be sprayed with red paint that would not come off easily. This is a new twist on the saying – caught red-handed.a plate and a pink case on a glass table

KGB

During the old times, there were a dozen or so KGB officers who used to watch the guests. Interestingly, the employees coexisted. Each knew of the other and went about his or her business accordingly. For example, this door says ‘nevermind, nothing,’ a friendly reminder to employees that there’s nothing to see here.a white door with a logo on ita door with a mirror in the middle of a rooma room with a desk and a mannequin in uniform a table with a pile of objects on it

a wooden desk with a metal tag on it
The desk says property of KGB, not really a secret who was here.

Translated KGB means ‘committee for state safety.’ At its peak in the 80s, the KGB had 200,000 agents. In the spring of 1991 the KGB left the hotel. Interestingly enough, they did it before the collapse of the Soviet Union which occurred in December 1991. a display case with pictures and text

A Room on the High Floor

When it opened, the Hotel Viru was the tallest building in Tallinn.

The KGB said that the view was strategic. From the top floor, they could see the city center and see the elite. On the other side, there was the sea and the port, a strategic object. For this reason, they kept the top floor closed. They were afraid that someone would infiltrate the place and map out the city. That’s why coming to the floor was ‘not recommended.’a glass window with a view of the ocean and a city a city with many tall buildings a city with a body of water

Overall

Having seen too much, I decided that I was better off staying at the Park Inn. There, on account of my status, I would be safe from any attempts to gather компромат.

a street with a building and a train on it a large building with windows

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Why do Stasi agents make great cab drivers? Because you don’t have to give them your home address since they already know where you live.

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