Visit the KGB Museum – The Viru Hotel where the Russians bugged 60 rooms.

By Paul Pinkerton
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Visit the KGB Museum – The Viru Hotel where the Russians bugged 60 rooms.

Paul Pinkerton
 
The former KGB listening and monitoring room Hotel Viru.
The former KGB listening and monitoring room Hotel Viru.
 
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Some hotels have spa’s; some have fitness centers but what about a KGB museum?

Spy camera to photograph through tiny holes in hotel walls.
Spy camera to photograph through tiny holes in hotel walls.

In the days when the Soviets were in the Baltic states, they were well known for keeping an eye on any visiting Westerners.

However, in Estonia’s capital of Tallinn, they could not only keep and eye on them but hear everything they were doing too!

 

KGB plans to show where the bugs were placed.
KGB plans to show where the bugs were placed.

In the Viru Hotel was run by ‘Intourist’ probably for the KGB who had decided to bug 60 rooms with microphones and observation holes in order to do just that to many of the visiting Westerners. There were probably more bugs at the hotel than bed bugs!

 

This mass monitoring was probably done in hotels all over the Russian controlled eastern block in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, but due to a twist of fate, the control and monitoring room was discovered after the country became independent after 1991.

On its 23rd floor the hotel manager uncovered a mystery room, and inside he found an electronic listening control room as it was left when the Russian military hurriedly left the country.

 

KGB Commanders office at Hotel Viru.
KGB Commanders office at Hotel Viru.

It remained like that for several years until the new management in the hotel decided to turn the secret rooms into a museum in 2012.

The urgent departure of the KGB officers meant that the equipment, files, papers and some of the gadgets were all left behind.

 

The Hotel Viru with its KGB Museum on the 23rd floor
The Hotel Viru with its KGB Museum on the 23rd floor

Costing around $10.50 / €10 you can sign up for a tour of the KGB Museum Tallinn by contacting the reception at the hotel and tours take around one hour; many tours are in English but also some are in Finnish too.

KGB Museum Tallinn

You will be able to visit the former surveillance rooms and offices used by the KGB. See and handle some of the gadgets used by them to monitor what they perceived as spies too. Many were normal business people, but the KGB would set up pretty girls to try to entrap visitors and then extract money from them with blackmail, learn industrial or any military secrets too.

Bugged cuff links and tiny transmitter KGB Museum Tallinn
Bugged cuff links and tiny transmitter KGB Museum Tallinn

Not only were 60 rooms fitted with bugs but the KGB even had tiny electronic microphones fitted into plates, ashtrays and a set of cufflinks so they could listen to conversations being had over meals in the restaurant on its 22nd floor.

Today the Viru Hotel is very popular with visitors to Tallinn and well worth knowing as on the tour you will have a wonderful vantage point to take some great photographs of the city from its 23rd floor.

The floor that when the KGB ran the place according to them, the hotel never had a 23rd floor!

http://www.viru.ee/en/

http://www.visitestonia.com/

Neil Taylor’s Bradt Travel Guide on Estonia is full of more information about the country.

 

Original Article – Thanks to Geoff Moore :: Travel photographer, writer and blogger Geoff Moore has been a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers for 10 years and has traveled the world for over 30 years.

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