Pay No Attention to the Spies on the 23rd Floor
The radio room on the top floor of the Hotel Viru in Tallinn, Estonia hasn’t been touched since the last KGB agent to leave turned out the lights in 1991. A sign stenciled on the door outside reads “Zdes’ Nichevo Nyet”: There Is Nothing Here.
The floor inside is yellowed linoleum. A cheap orange typewriter still has a sheet of paper in it; sheets filled with typed notes spill off the table and onto the floor. The dial of a light-blue telephone on the particleboard desk has been smashed. There’s a discarded gas mask on the desk and an olive-green cot in the corner. The ashtray is full of cigarette butts, stubbed out by nervous fingers more than 20 years ago. Mysterious schematics labeled in Cyrillic hang on the wall, next to steel racks of ruined radio equipment.
The Hotel Viru’s unmarked top floor, just above the restaurant, belonged to the Soviet secret police. At the height of the Cold War, this room was manned by KGB agents busy listening in on hotel guests. The air here is thick with untold stories. Today, an unlikely museum to Estonia’s Soviet past tries to tell some of them. Continue reading at Smithsonian.com.
Photo by Andrew Curry