Defection of Estonian couple (without daughter) suggests Soviet repression

The defection of a young, middle-class Estonian couple to Sweden via Finland suggests that frustration with Russification and Soviet repression is deep-seated in the Soviet Baltic republic, according to Estonian emigre sources.

The defectors were Valdo Randpere, a lawyer and former official of the Estonian Ministry of Justice, and his wife Leila Miller, a popular singer.

At his first public appearance here since the announcement of his defection last week, Mr. Randpere said he had been planning to defect for about two years. He joined the Estonian Communist Party in March, 1983, and worked as an instructor in culture and propaganda for Komsomol, the Communist youth group, from October 1983 until his defection.

Some emigres said the latest defection was similar to the case of Aarne Vahtro, Estonia's head of theatre administration in the Ministry of Culture. He defected while visiting Paris in November, 1982. Mr. Vahtro said he had joined the Estonian Communist Party as a youth with idealistic aims of protecting Estonian national interests, but became increasingly frustrated when this wasn't possible.

Randpere told reporters that he didn't think there were any serious believing Communists in Estonia and suggested that most people joined the party to advance their careers.

The Estonian couple left behind a one-year-old girl, Kaisa, with relatives in the capital Tallinn. They have appealed for international pressure that she be sent to Sweden.

Some observers said they were disturbed by the couple's decision to defect without their child. Neither of the parents was known to face any direct threats of arrest in Estonia. But the couple likely was forced to leave the child in the Soviet Union since it is general government policy to keep one family member in the country when a Soviet travels abroad.

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