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 Cross of Liberty (Estonia) 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 until August 1940, when Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union. He became a Central Committee member of the restructured Estonian Communist (Bolshevik) Party on 12 September 1940, and remained nominal head of state as chairman of the Supreme Soviet of 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 that the Soviet-era appointment of Vares as Prime Minister had been illegal and that Uluots had assumed the President's duties from 21 June 1940 onwards.
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 Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, in November, 1946.
| Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR
- Pettibone, Charles D. (2014). THE ORGANIZATION AND ORDER OF BATTLE OF MILITARIES IN WORLD WAR II. VOLUME IX - THE OVERRUN & NEUTRAL NATIONS OF EUROPE AND LATIN AMERICAN ALLIES. Trafford Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 1490733876.
- L. Mälksoo, Professor Uluots, the Estonian Government in Exile and the Continuity of the Republic of Estonia in International Law, Nordic Journal of International Law, Volume 69, Number 3 / March, 2000
- Duevel, Christian (28 June 1971). "Estonian Party Journal Reverts to "Un-Marxist" Terminology on Stalin's "Personality Cult"". Open Society Archives. Retrieved 19 April 2009.[permanent dead link]
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