VABAMU recounts the recent history of Estonia, showing the resistance and perseverance of the Estonian people through 50 years of Soviet occupation,

the regaining of freedom and ascent to a successful European democracy.


Vision, mission


Vabamu is freedom’s home, encouraging people to value freedom, inspiring them to cherish and strengthen it.



VABAMU educates, engages and inspires Estonians and visitors to

  • reflect on recent history,
  • sense the fragility of freedom, and
  • promote liberty and justice.





During WWII our small nation was caught in the fight between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, resulting in the death, deportation and forced mobilization of 230 000 Estonians and the emigration

of 70 000-80 000 others as refugees. In order to remember the past and educate people about the recent history of Estonia, Olga

Kistler-Ritso, an Estonian doctor who was forced to flee to the USA,

donated more than 2.7 million dollars to build a Museum of Occupations in Estonia in 2003.  VABAMU is born out of the

Museum of Occupations. VABAMU will tell the stories of resistance and perseverance of Estonians who kept their national identity alive through 50 years of Soviet oppression, maintaining hope of freedom.




More visitors

More visitors from Estonia

Double the exhibit space

More younger visitors


Telling the story


Display of valuable artifacts





660 m2

1,120 m2

In order to keep our history alive, we have to bring more visitors and reach younger generations of Estonians and non-Estonians alike.


Vabamu presents our recent history in a way that will reach a modern audience - through personal stories, interactive exhibits and use of technology.


Today, much of the 40,000 artifact collection is hidden from the view of the visitor due to lack of exhibit space.


Vabamu will show how life was in Estonia during Nazi and Soviet occupations. The stories featured in the new museum will also celebrate Estonia’s freedom and inspire visitors to protect our democracy.

In 2015 

The Museum of Occupations


In 2018



How you can help

Freedom and democracy are fragile, and require constant vigilance - we must work together every day to ensure that Estonians never again have to endure the horrors of occupation.  


We invite you to help us realize this dream and make a gift to future generations – help build Vabamu!  The stakeholders are all the people of Estonia and our friends, young and old, citizens, expats, native Estonian speakers, minorities and immigrants. We all have a common interest in educating future generations and increasing the visibility of Estonia throughout the world.


Vabamu is a place where you and your family will feel welcomed. 


Vabamu opens doors in 2018 and will be a gift to Estonia and its people for the country’s 100th anniversary!




Honorary Fundraising Committee

Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Toomas Hendrik Ilves is an Estonian politician who served as the fourth President of Estonia from 2006 to 2016. During his presidency Toomas Hendrik Ilves was appointed to serve in several high positions in the field of ICT in the European Union. 

Just like the many lives and stories featured at VABAMU, President Ilves’ parents were also Estonian refugees who fled WWII. President Ilves was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He graduated from Columbia University in New York City and received his Master's degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. 1984 he moved to Europe, to work at the office of Radio Free Europe in Munich, Germany. From 1993 to 1996 Toomas Hendrik Ilves served in Washington as the Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States of America and Canada.

From 1996 to 1998, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. After a brief period as Chairman of the North Atlantic Institute in 1998, he was again appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, serving until 2002. From 2002 to 2004, Mr. Ilves was a Member of the Estonian Parliament; in 2004 he was elected a Member of the European Parliament, where he was vice-president of the Foreign Affairs



Starting from July 2017, Mr. Ilves is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Mrs. Marina Kaljurand

Marina Kaljurand is an Estonian diplomat, who served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Estonia from 2015 to 2016. Prior to this appointment she served as the Foreign Ministry’s Undersecretary for Legal and Consular Affairs and before that, as the Undersecretary for Political Affairs. She was also the Estonian expert at the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cyber Security. 

Mrs. Kaljurand has served as the Ambassador of Estonia to the United States, Canada and Mexico; Kazakhstan; Russian Federation, and Israel. Marina Kaljurand has a Master’s degree in Law from the University of Tartu. She has also graduated from the Estonian School of Diplomacy and has an M.A. in international law and diplomacy from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


Starting from 2017, Mrs. Kaljurand is chairing The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.

Mr. Eerik Marmei

Eerik Marmei is an Estonian diplomat, who served as the Ambassador of Estonia to the United States from 2014 to 2016. Prior to his current appointment, he served as the ambassador to Poland and Romania. Mr. Marmei, who has been working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1993, began his career in the Political Department as the desk officer for the United States. He has also worked as the director of the Bureau for International Organizations and Security Policy, the Estonian Delegation to NATO and Estonian embassies in Washington and London. Starting from September 2017, Mr. Marmei is a research fellow at the International Centre for Defence and Security.

Mr. Taavet Hinrikus

Taavet Hinrikus is Co-founder and Chairman of TransferWise, the international money transfer platform created by Estonians. Mr. Hinrikus also serves as an Advisor at Ambient Sound Investments OÜ and RedMart Pte. Ltd. As Skype's first employee, he helped build a company that has changed hundreds of millions of lives. He is also a digital advisor for the Prime Minister of Estonia and an angel investor. 

Mr. Urmo Kübar

Urmo Kübar is a civil society leader in Estonia and a long-time CEO of Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations. In 2014-15 he was selected for the “Next Generation Leaders” program, run by the McCain Institute (Arizona State University). Currently, he is working on establishing a venture philanthropy foundation in Estonia, to support innovative nonprofits in scaling up their social impact. “For me, Vabamu, is a celebration of resistance and civic action that led to the restoration of our independence. The story has a great impact on my life and values, and I do my best to keep it inspiring for generations to come."

Supervisory Council

Sten Tamkivi

Sten is a startup founder currently serving as CPO of Topia, building global mobility management software to help companies work everywhere. Prior to co-founding Teleport he served at Skype as an early executive for over 8 years. Sten started his entrepreneurial career by founding the first digital media agency in Estonia at the age of 18 and has stayed on the forefront of internet, user experience design and software development scene. Sten values a tolerant, open and creative society, supports the startup movement, occasionally invests, pushes for better tech education and has advised President Ilves of Estonia on the above topics. He also holds a number of management and advisory board seats and blogs at



Sylvia Thompson

Sylvia has an active role as a leader of non-profit organizations.

She is the President of the Kistler-Ritso Foundation which focuses on educating the public regarding the occupation, resistance, freedom, and recovery of the Republic of Estonia. In addition to building and running the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn, Estonia, the Kistler-Ritso Foundation supported numerous Estonian and Baltic events, films and projects. In 2011, it gave an endowment to Stanford Libraries, making it possible for Stanford to hire a curator for Baltic studies and begin building its Baltic program.


“My mother’s intentions for the museum are best described by her words at the opening ceremony 13 years ago with President Lennart Meri: “Never again!” That means the museum must have social impact. My mother wanted the museum to be a protector of Estonian freedom, helping people realize that freedom is not free: we must not take it for granted, but rather work to protect it. My mother loved Estonia and most of all she loved freedom.”

Michael A. Keller

Michael Keller is a Vice Provost, Academic Council at Stanford University Libraries. Michael serves as a Vice-Chair of the Kistler-Risto Foundation. He has been the driving force behind the creation of Stanford’s Baltic program, and an active supporter of the development of the Museum of Occupations. Under Keller’s leadership and with donor support from Kistler-Ritso Foundation, Stanford Libraries has established a growing Baltic studies program, which includes resources on Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian, as well as on Finnish history, literature and culture.  

In 2015, Keller also became Estonian e-resident.


Merilin Piipuu – Managing Director

Sander Jürisson – Manager of Exhibits

Heili Kärg – Manager of Strategic Planning





Merju Künnapuu

Merju is the head of the Finance Department of the Estonian Ministry of Culture from 2014. The Ministry is creating all of the original policies. Thus, she has over the years participated in many of the significant investments, support programmes and development plans at the field. Just a wider interest in the culture and the opportunity to contribute to the development of it, is the reason why Merju has chosen to work within the Ministry of culture. She visits often museums and theaters and loves reading. Merju thinks that the culture is not only beautiful things, much more important is that through the culture we understand who we are, where we come from and what our life will be affected.



Founding Partner





Mirjam Krull

Manager of Fundraising

Merilin Piipuu

Managing Director

Make a donation VIA PAYPAL

Transfer money to


SA Kistler-Ritso Eesti

All donations are subject to the tax exempt laws according to country of residence (US and Estonia 100% tax deductible)



Kistler-Ritso Foundation

c/o Serena Boehmer


1750 112th Ave NE, Suite E200 

Bellevue, WA 98004