Vares and his wife Emilie, 1931
Johannes Vares (12 January 1890 [O.S. 31 December 1889] – 29 November 1946), commonly known as Johannes Vares Barbarus, was an Estonian poet, medical doctor, and politician.
Vares was born in Kiisa Heimtali Parish (now in Pärsti Parish), Viljandi County, and educated at Pärnu Gymnasium. He later studied medicine at the University of Kiev, in present-day Ukraine.
Vares served as a military physician in World War I, and after that as a military physician for the Estonian army during the Estonian Liberation War (1918–1920), he was awarded the Estonian Cross of Liberty for the participation, but Vares denied the offer.
Vares later worked as a doctor in Pärnu, and became a well known Estonian poet as well as radical socialist, using the pen name Johannes Barbarus.
When Soviet troops occupied Estonia in June 1940, Andrei Zhdanov forced President Konstantin Päts to appoint Vares as prime minister of a communist-dominated puppet government. Päts resigned in July, and Vares took over most presidential duties under the title of "Prime Minister in duties of the President," thus giving a stamp of legality to the final stages of Estonia's annexation by the Soviet Union. When the annexation became final on 6 August, Vares remained nominal head of state as chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Estonia. He became a Central Committee member of the restructured Estonian Communist (Bolshevik) Party on 12 September 1940.
Following the German invasion of Estonia in 1941, Vares fled to Russia, where he lived in exile from 1941 to 1944, until the Soviets reconquered Estonia.
On 20 April 1944, the Electoral Committee of the Republic of Estonia (the institution specified in the Constitution for electing the Acting President of the Republic) held a clandestine meeting in Tallinn. The participants included Jüri Uluots, the last Prime Minister of Estonia before the Soviet occupation, the substitute for Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Johan Holberg, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Otto Pukk, the second deputy vice-chairman of the National Council Alfred Maurer, and State judge Mihkel Klaassen. The Committee declared Päts' appointment of Vares as Prime Minister had been illegal. Accordingly, it held that Uluots had assumed the President's duties from 21 June 1940 onwards.
Since the end of the Soviet Union, Estonia has maintained that all laws passed by the Vares government were void, since the upper house of Parliament had been dissolved soon after the Soviet occupation and was never reconvened. The 1938 constitution required that all laws pass both chambers before being promulgated. This included the electoral law under which the blatantly rigged elections of 14–15 July were conducted. It was this election that produced the so-called "People's Riigikogu" which declared Estonia a Soviet republic and "requested" to join the Soviet Union.
After returning to Estonia, Vares came under investigation by the Soviet NKVD for his activities in the Estonian War of Independence. He committed suicide in Presidential Palace in Tallinn, in November 1946.