While tourists see only a peaceful scene today, locals strolling this street are reminded
of dark times under Moscow's rule. The KGB used the tower at St. Olav's Church to block
Finnish TV signals. The once-handsome building nearby at Pikk 59 (the second house after
the church, on the right) was, before 1991, the sinister local headquarters of the KGB.
“Creative interrogation methods” were used here. Locals well knew that the road of suf-
fering started here, as Tallinn's troublemakers were sent to Siberian gulags. The ministry
building was called the “tallest” building in town (because “when you're in the basement,
you can already see Siberia”). Notice the bricked-up windows at foot level and the plaque
(in Estonian only).
A few short blocks farther up Pikk (after the small park), the fine house of the Broth-
erhood of the Black Heads (on the left, at #26, with the extremely ornate doorway) dates
from 1440. For 500 years, until Hitler invited Estonian Germans back to their historical
fatherland in the 1930s, this was a German merchants' club.
Until the 19th century, many Estonians lived as serfs on the rural estates of the German
nobles who dominated the economy. In Tallinn, the German big shots were part of the Great
Guild, while the German little shots had to make do with the Brotherhood of the Black
Heads. This guild or business fraternity was limited to single German men. In Hanseatic
towns, when a fire or battle had to be fought, single men were deployed first, because they
had no family. Because single men were considered unattached to the community, they had
no opportunity for power in the Hanseatic social structure. When a Black Head member