Canadian-Estonian donates more than €2 million to University of Tartu

University of Tartu.
University of Tartu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A Canadian-Estonian left a donation of more than €2 million to the University of Tartu's Institute of Estonian Language after her death. The money will be used for research and to create a scholarship fund.

Members of staff at the institute could not believe the letter they opened last May.

The institute's Liina Lindström told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" the letter seemed like a joke or spam email, but it was worth looking into as it had been sent by a laywer.

The money was left to the university by Kadri Rõuk, a teacher in Canada. She died last year aged 84 with no family or children to pass her inheritance to.

Kadri's parents were Nikolai and Gerda Rõuk who studied at the University of Tartu before fleeing to Germany in 1944. They later settled in Calgary, Canada and Nikolai became the co-founder and president of the local Estonian Society.

Lindström said a donation such as this is fairly common in North America, but much less so in Estonia. It may not even have been an extraordinary event for Kadri to bequeath the money to the university.

Virve Vihman, co-professor of psychology at the University of Tartu and head of the development of the institute, said she had some idea of why Rõuk may have made the decision as she has a similar family history.

"I know very well the feeling that the Estonian language was in danger behind the Iron Curtain and so passing on the Estonian language really felt like a mission. But that Kadri Rõuk decided to leave us such an amount is really unprecedented."

Almost a third of the money will be used to found the Kadri, Nikolai and Gerda Rõuk Scholarship Fund which will help students studying Estonian and Finno-Ugric languages.

"We will set up our own research fund to cover the various studies that would otherwise have been difficult to fund, and we will also set up a mobility fund to be able to attend conferences. These opportunities would otherwise be very limited. And we are also thinking about how to make our rooms more comfortable and prettier," she said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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