The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory
The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory and its predecessor have since 1998 been investigating international crimes and human rights abuses committed by totalitarian regimes in Estonia, as well as the ideologies that have given rise to such regimes. With its research results and awareness-raising activities, the Institute helps to take a stance against such regimes also in the 21st century.
Meelis Maripuu (PhD)
Member of Board
Sandra Vokk (MSc)
Member of Board
Meelis Saueauk (PhD)
Peeter Kaasik (PhD)
Olev Liivik (PhD)
Kogu Me Lugu Manager
Public and Partner Relations Manager
Members of the Council
Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, Chairman of the Council
Estonian Institute of Human Rights, CEO
Lawyer, Professor of International Law at the University of Tartu, Co-Founder of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory
Journalist, Communication Consultant
Historian, Professor of Estonian Contemporary History at the University of Tartu, Co-Founder of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory
Founder of the Institute:
Toomas Hendrik Ilves
President of the Republic of Estonia in 2006–2016
Enrique Barón Crespo (Spain)
Researcher of law and economics, and former President of the European Parliament from 1989-1992
Timothy Garton Ash (United Kingdom)
Professor of European Studies at Oxford University, Leading Researcher of Isaiah Berlin Lectorate of St. Anthony College of Oxford University and Senior Rerseacher of Hoover’s Institute of Stanford University
Kristian Gerner (Sweden)
Professor Emeritus of Lund University, historian
Paavo Keisalo (Finland)
Retired diplomat, acting assistant of Minister Max Jakobson in 1999–2009, while he was discharging the functions of the Head of Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity
Nicholas Lane (United States of America)
Former Vice President of American Jewish Committee and Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Relations, member of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity in 1999–2009
Lasse Lehtinen (Finland)
Writer, member of the European Parliament in 2004–2009
Markus Meckel (Germany)
Religious scientist and politician, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the former German Democratic Republic from April to August 1990, member of the German Bundestag in 1990–2009 former freedom fighter, and the first and final democratic
Norman M. Naimark (United States of America)
Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor in East European Studies at Standford University
Yakov M. Rabkin (Canada)
Professor of History at Montreal University
Pavel Žáček (Czech Republic)
Social scientist, Director of the Institute for the Investigation of Totalitarian Regimes 2008-2010
The establishment of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory was initiated by the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in 2008. The Institute was established by Leon Glikman, Rein Kilk, Jaan Manitski, Tiit Sepp, Hannes Tamjärv and Indrek Teder. The aim of the Institute was set to give the Estonian citizens a comprehensive and objective overview of the state of human rights in Estonia during the Soviet occupation.
In its structure, the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory was similar to the Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity (Inimsusvastaste kuritegude Uurimise Eesti Rahvusvaheline Komisjon (IKUERK), also known as the Max Jakobson Commission), founded by President Lennart Meri in 1998, which investigated the crimes against humanity committed in Estonia during the German and Soviet occupations based on the definitions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory surpasses the frames set upon the research of the Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity and also collects data about such human rights violations committed during the Soviet occupation that are not crimes against humanity by legal definition. For this reason, The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory selected the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 as the legal basis for its historical research.
The Institute has researched life during the Soviet time in detail and also supported collecting memories to define precisely and without ideological prejudices how and to which extent human rights were violated in Estonia. It is also the responsibility of the Institute to help Estonian citizens develop a better understanding of what they themselves or their parents and grandparents had to endure during the Soviet occupation.
Merger with the Unitas Foundation
In 2017, the Institute merged with the Unitas Foundation into a new organization that combines academic research concerning anti-human regimes (previously the responsibility of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory) with awareness-raising (previously the responsibility of the Unitas Foundation). The new organization continues with the name The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory.
The Unitas Foundation (formerly named as Foundation for Investigation of Communist Crimes) was established in 2008 by Mart Laar, Meelis Niinepuu and Damian von Stauffenberg. The goal of the foundation was set to acknowledge the hostility of communist regimes and ideology and to achieve an international condemnation of their crimes.
During its operating years (2008-2017), the Unitas Foundation focused on:
1) Education and awareness-raising (training of teachers, youth workers and young people; developing informative and teaching materials and methods concerning recent history and human rights; organizing study programs about history and human rights intended for young people; organizing conferences and public discussions; supporting research work by providing scholarships to students and researchers);
2) Reinforcing international cooperation networks (the foundation took part in the networks that connect public and private organizations in Europe; promoted the cooperation between teachers, historians, public and private organizations in the Baltic Sea region; collaborated with organizations and academic institutions in the US and Canada);
3) Organizing commemorative events (the foundation organized public events and provided public information for commemorating the victims of Communism and Nazism).
The new foundation continues with the name The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory and the activities of both previous foundations.
The founders of the new foundation are Estonian Institute of Historical Memory Foundation and Unitas Foundation.
The foundation is a member institution of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience.
The Max Jakobson Commission
President of the Republic of Estonia Lennart Meri announced the formation of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity (also known as the Max Jakobson Commission) in the autumn of 1998. Lennart Meri also invited the persons who would subsequently become members of the Commission to join the Commission. The first session of the Commission was held in January 1999. The Commission set as its objective the investigation of crimes against humanity committed in Estonia and/or against citizens of the Republic of Estonia, which were committed from the occupation of Estonia in June of 1940 onward. The Commission proceeded in its work from the definitions of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court passed in 1998. The Max Jakobson Commission was not a judicial body. The objective of the Commission’s historical investigation work was to ascertain what crimes have been committed and their historical background.
The Commission published three reports:
- The German Occupation in Estonia 1941–1944 (published in 2001)
- The Soviet Occupation in Estonia 1940–1941 (published in 2004)
- The Soviet Occupation in Estonia from 1944 onward (published in 2008)
The research studies that formed the basis for the Commission’s reports have been published in the form of two books:
- Estonia 1940–1945. Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity (Tallinn 2006)
- Estonia since 1944. Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity (Tallinn 2009)
The Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity completed its work and terminated its activity at the meeting held in December of 2008.
The Estonian Memory Institute, which has adopted the UN General Declaration of Human Rights as the basis of its work, is continuing the work of the Max Jakobson Commission in researching the Soviet era in Estonian history.
The reports of the Max Jakobson Commission have been published on this website in English, Russian and Estonian. To buy books published by the Commission, please send an e-mail to the Estonian Memory Institute e-mail address or telephone the main telephone number of the Estonian Memory Institute.
Homepage of the Max Jakobson Commission can be found here.
Logo of the Institute
The logo of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory can be downloaded here.