During the Soviet period Estonia, like the other national republics of the USSR, lacked a foreign policy of her own. While foreign ministries did exist, they had just a symbolic function: staffed by only five or six people, they were allowed minimal cultural and trade contacts with the Western countries and limited inter-communist party ties within the Soviet bloc. They had to report to the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs on every move they made and served, first and foremost, as cover organizations for the KGB. Designing more substantive foreign policies in the Baltic Republics actually began before they gained independence in 1991. In 1989–1990, the emerging political parties voiced their first visions of the future of the Baltic States, which, generally speaking, boiled down to becoming sovereign democratic states, striving for friendly relations with all countries of the world. By that time, under the pressures of perestroika and glasnost, the Soviet authorities had been compelled to loosen their grip on the foreign contacts of the union republics. Those contacts, however, could not be called yet a foreign policy. They could, rather, be identified as isolated moves in the arena of international politics.