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.