Academic Granted Citizenship 72 Years After Applying ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

In an extreme case of better-late-than-never, Isidor Levin, a renowned folklorist and theology professor at the St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy, is being granted Estonian citizenship more than seven decades after he first applied for it.

The government announced on February 2 that it is awarding Levin citizenship for his special services to the state in preserving and promoting the culture of Estonia, reported

Levin, whose relationship with Estonia dates back to 1937 when he entered Tartu University, originally applied for citizenship in 1940.

That application was rendered moot, however, by the onset of World War II and the decades of occupation that followed. Efforts to give him citizenship, begun in 2007, were then set back by bureaucratic blunders.

"I'm embarrased that awarding this citizenship has taken so long," said Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who went on to explain how the nomination had fallen through the cracks as it bounced between the Office of the President and government agencies.

Levin's citizenship is granted based on the efforts he made during the Soviet era, by which time he had risen to become an internationally recognized folklorist, to support the study of Estonian culture and help Estonian researchers continue their work despite the conditions of occupation.

Levin donated his personal library to the University of Tartu just over a decade ago and in 2001 was awarded the Order of the White Star, 4th Class, by then-president Lennart Meri.   

Separate from his folklore interests and academic ties, the 92-year-old has another well-known connection to Estonia: During the Nazi occupation, Levin, who is Jewish, was famously hidden by his teacher, Uku Masing, who himself would become the nation's leading light in philosophy studies.

Steve Roman

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