The Estonian Academy of Sciences

Founded in 1938

The Estonian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1938. Things were set in motion on 28 January of that year when the "Estonian Academy of Sciences Act" was proclaimed and enacted by Konstantin Päts, the President-Regent, the official translation of 'Riigihoidja', the Head of State and Head of Government of Estonia. On 13 April the President-Regent approved the first twelve Members of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. There were six in the Humanities Section, namely Edgar Kant, Oskar Loorits, Julius Mark, Hendrik Sepp, Gustav Suits and Jüri Uluots, and six in the Natural Sciences Section, namely the biologist Hugo Kaho (1885-1964), the chemist Paul Nikolai Kogermann (1891-1951), the medical scientist and military officer Aleksander Paldrok (1871-1944), the surgeon Ludvig Puusepp (1875-1942), the microbiologist Karl Schlossmann (1885-1969) and the astronomer and astrophysicist Ernst Öpik (1893-1985). Karl Schlossmann was nominated President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences by Konstantin Päts, the President-Regent.

On 19 December 1938 a Plenary Session of the Academy was held which agreed to register the Estonian Naturalists' Society and the Estonian Learned Society as being attached to the Estonian Academy of Sciences. A Plenary Session held on 22 February 1939 elected the Estonian President, Konstantin Päts, an honorary member. On 8 May a Plenary Session established the Society of Estonian Regional Studies as being part of the Academy. On 15 May, the botanist Teodor Lippmaa (1892-1943) who was President of the Estonian Naturalists' Society, was elected to the Natural Sciences Section of the Academy. A decision was taken on 27 October to publish an annual yearbook, the Annales Academiae Scientiarum Estonicae, with the first issue to appear in 1940.

In August 1939, Russia and Germany had signed a secret pact, the so-called Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, to divide Poland between them. Soviet troops invaded Poland on 17 September and by 29 September Poland was partitioned between Russia and Germany. The Ribbentrop-Molotov pact also gave Soviet forces the freedom to invade the Baltic States with German agreement not to oppose this, but the pact was not known at the time. In September-October 1939 the Soviets pressured the Baltic States to allow them to set up military bases there. The Soviets invaded Finland in November 1939 with the Baltic States remaining neutral but on 17 June 1940 the Red Army invaded the Baltic States, setting up a puppet government. For a month Konstantin Päts was forced to sign decrees, one of which was the "Estonian Academy of Sciences Liquidation Act" signed on 17 July which declared the Academy terminated from 20 July. Shortly after this, on 29 July, Konstantin Päts was arrested and eventually sent to Siberia where he later died.

Estonia became the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic governed by the Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. On 28 June 1945 these governing bodies decided to reinstate the Estonian Academy of Sciences but changed it into the 'Academy of Sciences of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic'. A committee of six were appointed to set up the reinstated Academy, headed by the historian and founding member of the Estonian Communist Party Hans Kruus (1891-1976). Kruus was at the time Estonian Foreign Minister. On 13 September 1945 he submitted to the Chairman of Council of People's Commissars a proposed structure of the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, a list of statutes for the Academy and a list of individuals who might be considered for membership of the learned councils of the Academy's institutes and those who might be invited to be members or corresponding members of the Academy. The Council of People's Commissars agreed to the Academy being set up in Tallinn on 23 January 1946 and, on 5 April of that year the proposed statutes, structure, full members and corresponding members were approved by the Council [1]:-
Academy's structure was to consist of Central Library and four scientific divisions, embracing altogether 15 research institutes, 2 research sectors, 5 museums and 3 scientific societies as follows: (1) Division of Physical-Mathematical and Engineering Sciences (Institute of Geology; Institute of Chemistry; Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Mechanics; Institute of Building and Architecture; Institute of Industrial Problems, Geological Museum); (2) Division of Biological and Agricultural Sciences (Institute of Biology; Institute of Agriculture; Institute of Cattle Breeding and Veterinary; Institute of Forestry; Institute of Zoology; Naturalists' Society); (3) Division of Medical Sciences (Institute of Experimental Medicine; Institute of Health and Occupational Diseases; Institute of Clinical Medicine); (4) Division of Social Sciences (Institute of History; Institute of Language and Literature; Institute of Economics; Sector of Law, Sector of Pedagogy; Museum of the Estonian People; State Literary Museum; Museum of History; Estonian Learned Society; Academic Mother Tongue Society).
The President of the Society was elected at a meeting on 6 April 1946, namely Hans Kruus who we mentioned above. A decision was taken in 1950, and approved by the General Assembly on 18 July of that year, to dismiss Hans Kruus from the office of President. He was removed as a full member of the Academy in 1951. The reason for Kruus being dismissed was that he fell from favour and was designated a "bourgeois nationalist." Johan Eichfeld was elected President on 13 September 1950. In 1956 the Council of People's Commissars reinstated Hans Kruus as a full member of the Academy.

In the second half of the 1980s the USSR began to relax its control on the Baltic States. The Popular Front emerged as an opposition party in April 1988 and within two months the first party secretary, Karl Vaino, who, like most of the high officials, was not a native Estonian, was dismissed. By the end of the year the Popular Front put pressure on his successor, Vaino Väljas, to push a resolution on sovereignty through the governing body. Despite strong protests from the Soviets, Estonian law took precedence over Soviet law. March 1990 elections saw a big majority for independence which was declared in August 1991 and was recognized by the Soviet Union in September of that year.

The Academy was one of the forces to head towards independence even before the March 1990 elections since, in June 1988, the General Assembly put a proposal to the Council of People's Commissars that their approval would no longer be required before the Academy could change its statutes. Since its founding in 1946, the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic had not been considered as a continuation of the Estonian Academy of Sciences which had been founded in 1938. On 29 June 1988, however, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic was a continuation of the Estonian Academy of Sciences and, as a consequence, had 1938 as its year of foundation. In April 1989 the General Assembly changed the name from 'Academy of Sciences of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic' back to the original 'Estonian Academy of Sciences'. At the same time the Academy changed its structure to that which it has today, namely four divisions (1) Division of Astronomy and Physics; (2) Division of Informatics and Engineering; (3) Division of Biology, Geology and Chemistry; (4) Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences. We note that in fact there had been a steady change of structure from 1946 up to this time, the details of which are given in [1].

The Academy is run by its General Assembly and its Board. The General Assembly is the highest directing body of the Academy which is formed by all full members of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. The General Assembly ordinarily meets twice a year. The Board is the collegial directing body of the Academy in between the General Assembly meetings. The Board includes the President, Vice Presidents, Secretary General, Heads of Divisions and non-executive members.

Medal of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

The Academy's most prestigious prize is the 'Medal of the Estonian Academy of Sciences'. This is awarded "for outstanding services in development of Estonian science or in helping forward its development, as well as for services in performance of tasks of the Estonian Academy of Sciences."

The present Academy has around 80 full members, and 20 foreign members.

In 2007 the mathematician Tarmo Soomere was elected to the Academy as an expert in informatics and engineering. He was born on 11 October 1957, attended Kohila Secondary School, the University of Tartu, and was awarded his candidate's degree in mathematics and physics by Moscow State University in 1984. He became a professor at Tallinn University of Technology in the School of Engineering in 2005. He also became head of the Wave Engineering Laboratory in the Department of Cybernetics at Tallinn University of Technology in 2009. In 2014 he became President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. Estonian Academy of Sciences website.

Last Updated September 2018