Poet, publisher, essayist and national thinker Hando Runnel was presented with the Contribution to Estonian National Identity award on Sunday at a ceremony dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Estonia's national university.
Hando Runnel has passionately and effectively promoted the Estonian ethnic and national identity, a press release from the University of Tartu said.
Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser said the decision of the award committee was unanimous. "Granting the Contribution to Estonian National Identity award to Hando Runnel is a telling summary of the first century of Estonia's national university," he said. "By giving this award, the national university confirms that Estonian people and the Estonian language, culture and thought are free. Hando Runnel by his example and with his special contribution helps us remember that the measure of a nation is its people's internal dignity and values."
Runnel's creative work centres on the poet's relationship with his homeland and people, and with the great problems of life and society.
At the decisive moments of restoration of independence in Estonia, he was one of the ideologists of freedom, the university said. He put Estonia and Estonians and the idea of our existence into words, determining the future of Estonia by these words. During difficult times of oppression, his well-known songs and poems helped to keep up people's belief in the survival of Estonianness and hope for independence.
Runnel has also influenced and directed national-mindedness as the first invited professor of liberal arts of the University of Tartu and as the refounder of the magazine Akadeemia. At the peak of the new national awakening he was one of the leaders working towards the reopening of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Tartu: he was convinced that a universitas must definitely comprise a school of theology and that the faculty which was closed by the Soviet authorities in 1940 had to be reopened.
A productive essayist, publicist and critic, Runnel in his writings draws attention to the challenges and sore spots of society, and to values we all should strive for, keep, hold dear and appreciate in order to ensure high level of intellectuality and cultural identity.
Hando Runnel has received the Order of the National Coat of Arms, 4th class, and the Order of the White Star, 2nd class. He is a laureate of numerous literary awards. Hando Runnel is an Honorary Citizen of Tartu and a holder of the Grand Star of Tartu award.
The University of Tartu has issued the award for Contribution to Estonian National Identity 16 times.
Editor: Helen Wright