“The Writers Union has not yet been able to unite all”

Addenda to the founding of the Estonian Soviet Writers Union from 1943 through 1946 

Keywords: Estonian Soviet Writers Union, Soviet Estonian literature, Sovietization of intellectual life, power struggle

A survey is given of how the Estonian Soviet Writers Union was created and developed as a Sovietized creative organization and how the final formation of its membership took place from 1943–1946. Special attention is paid to the Board meeting of the ES Writers Union (22.12.1945) and the general meeting of Soviet Estonian writers (30.12.1945) as key events of the process.

The membership formation of the Estonian Soviet Writers Union as a Soviet-minded creative association started in 1942 in Soviet rear, when four leading writers were accepted as members of the Union of Soviet Writers, which united writers from all over the Soviet Union. The founding conference of the Estonian Soviet Writers Union, which took place in Moscow in 1943, granted membership to nine writers, followed by four more the following year. Thus the new union exited the Soviet rear with 17 members. The writers who had remained in Estonia during the war were not immediately admitted to the organization after Soviet re-occupation of Estonia in 1944, but they were registered as candidates for membership. Only at the end of 1945 the merger of the two groups into a single membership with equal rights was completed. On December 30th, at the general meeting of Soviet Estonian writers, that membership elected full-staffed governing bodies of the union. This was the consummation of the process in progress since the very first year of Soviet power in Estonia (1940–1941) leading to a full Sovietization of the Estonian Soviet Writers Union.

Another important point in the agenda of the 30th December general meeting was the change of the chairman of the ES Writers Union: August Jakobson was replaced by Johannes Semper. This administrative change was orchestrated by Nigol Andresen, then responsible for the management of the whole Estonian culture, who blamed the previous board for a failure in effectively launching the union, the implementation of its ideological reform and its involvement in serving the new authorities. The new chairman Johannes Semper was rather a representative figure, while practical management of the union became the responsibility of its vice-chairman Mart Raud and its secretary Paul Viiding. The knotty personal relationships and rivalry did not make things easier for anybody. The settling of accounts and taking sides after A. Jakobson’s removal in December 1945 had lasting ramifications. The confrontation (both behind the scenes and public) lingered for many years significantly affecting personal destinies as well as further developments in Soviet Estonian literary life.


Tõnu Tannberg (b. 1961), PhD, University of Tartu, Institute of History and Archaeology, Professor of Estonian History (Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu),