Estonia's presidents have awarded over 6,000 state decorations

Since 2016, President Kersti Kaljulaid has awarded a total of 657 state decorations. In total, the four presidents of Estonia to take office since the restoration of independence have awarded more than 6,000 state decorations between them.

This year Kaljulaid has awarded 152 state decorations and has only given more than this once before, in 2018, when she handed out 166 decorations during the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, which partly explains the recognition of a larger number of people.

In 2017, Kaljualid awarded 113 decorations, 112 in 2019 and last year 114 making a total of 656.

During the second term, President Lennart Meri awarded 1,594 decorations

The current system of state decorations and the procedure for awarding them were established by the 1996 law, according to which Estonia has six decorations: the Cross of Freedom, the Order of the National Coat of Arms, the Order of the White Star, the Order of the Eagle Cross, the Order of the Estonian Red Cross and the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana.

In 1995, decorations were awarded during foreign visits and from 1996, in connection with the anniversary of the republic's founding, February 24. The first chain of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana was awarded to the President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari on May 16, 1995 in connection with the state visit of President Lennart Meri to Finland.

President Lennart Meri (1929-2006) awarded the least number of decorations in one year - in 1996 he awarded only 35 decorations. As has been said, this was the year when, for the first time, decorations were awarded to its citizens on the eve of the anniversary of the republic, which means that the number of decorations given by Meri compared with other presidents should be based on his second term alone.

In that second term, Lennart Meri doled out a total of 1,594 state decorations. He gave almost half of these, - 795 - in 2001, which was his swansong year as president.

Rüütel awarded 2,417 and Ilves 495 state decorations in his second term

Arnold Rüütel, on the other hand, holds the record at 2,417 decorations.

Rüütel, now aged 92, awarded the most decorations of all of his years in office in 2006 - with 834.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves was president for two terms, in 2006-2011 and then 2011-2016. In the first two years of his first term, Ilves awarded a total of nearly 600 decorations to worthies. In the following years, each year between 1997 and 1999. Ilves distributed a total of 903 decorations during his first term and 495 decorations during his second term.

Ratas is the only recognized politician

This year, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), who was also the only politician recognized by the president this year, will receive the highest recognition from Kaljulaid despite the pair not always having had the smoothest of working relations. In this sense at least, Kaljulaid's signature is similar to Ilves'.

In awarding the 2nd Class Order of the National Coat of Arms to Ratas, President Kaljulaid continued a tradition under which all the prime ministers of Estonia since the country regained its independence have received the 2nd Class Order of the National Coat of Arms; the same also applies to speakers of the Riigikogu.

Altogether, the Order of the National Coat of Arms has five classes. The order is exclusively for Estonian citizens only, and is issued in recognition of services to the state, constituting the highest state decoration.

President Ilves distributed a total of four 2nd Class Orders of the National Coat of Arms, to former prime minister Andrus Ansip in 2015, former Speaker of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma, another former prime minister, Juhan Parts, and former Speaker of the Riigikogu Toomas Varek.

During his term, Rüütel awarded the Order of the National Coat of Arms, 2nd Class, to a total of 22 people, including former prime minister Siim Kallas and former speakers of the Riigikogu Toomas Savi and Ülo Nugis.

Under Meri, who was the head of state from 1992 to 2001, 25 people received the 2nd Class Order of the National Coat of Arms, including Andres Tarand, Mart Laar, Edgar Savisaar and Tiit Vähi, who had headed up the government.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright

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