The Sokos Viru Hotel in Tallinn, was a marvel in its day. Built in 1972, it was the first high-rise building in Estonia. Wanting a piece of the "millions" circulating in the tourist industry, The Soviet Union planned a modern hotel that would attract foreigners, especially from the West. They hired a Finnish company and it was built in 36 months (the Finns are known for quality work). It had every modern convenience that westerners were accustomed to and attracted many famous people as well. To keep it a "pearl", doormen were hired to keep the locals out so as not to give a false impression to would-be guests (you have to remember, this is during Soviet times).
The hotel claimed to have 22 floors. Looking at the hotel from the outside, one could easily count and see what they believed was a 23rd floor. When guests asked about the 23rd floor, they were told that it was only filled with technical equipment and would be of no interest to anyone or the existence of such a floor was flatly denied. Since this was part of the Soviet Union then, every floor had a floor guard who sat a desk on every floor. They took note of anyone coming and going on each floor, what time they left and what time they returned and with whom. These were usually married women with children. The Soviets knew that a married woman with children would not take off with a foreigner and skip the country, and therefore were considered a low risk. This was the most coveted job in the hotel. Floor guards had access to all the guests and could easily buy anything "western" from them (anything western was very coveted). However, a westerner could not leave the country carrying Rubles. Someone selling things to the floor guards for Rubles would have to find a way to use the currency before leaving and many would just end up giving them back to the floor guards. It was a very nice job to have.
Fast forward to August, 1991 when Estonia won back its independence. The Soviets began to move their operations and troops back to Russia. In 1994, when control of the hotel was no longer under Soviet rule, secret rooms were discovered on the 23rd floor. Found in these rooms were several electronic systems designed to listen and eavesdrop on unsuspecting guests. For many years it was suspected that Soviet KGB agents were operating out of the 23rd floor, and now they had the evidence to prove it. Apparently, they left in such a rush that they left much of the equipment behind, purposely damaged and broken. Upon further investigation, many listening devices were found in various places throughout the hotel. Certain tables at the restaurant had serving plates or ash trays that were "bugged". In the ceiling above, pipes were found with antenna wires running through them to capture conversations emitting from the plates below. These wires went straight to, you guessed it, the 23rd floor.
Although there was money to be made in the tourist industry, there was much more to be gained politically by having a "listening" ear.
|Thought I'd listen in too|
|Great views from the 23rd - looking Southeast|
|Looking Northwest over Old Town|