Every summer on the occasion of the anniversary of Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the president invites personalities of Estonian culture, politics, and intellectual life to the garden of the Kadriorg residence.
Since President Toomas Hendrik Ilves introduced the new tradition in 2007, an annual reception has been held at the Rose Garden in Kadriorg.
Part of the annual reception is an award ceremony. The president gives away a small piece of a boulder on Tallinn’s Toompea hill, placed to commemorate the events of Aug. 20, 1991, to someone who played an important role in the restoration of Estonia’s independence.
This year, President Kersti Kaljulaid awarded the piece to poet and publisher Hando Runnel. During the period of the Soviet occupation, Runnel “possessed a magical power that prepared us for new opportunities,” President Kaljulaid said. “He helped us preserve hope. He helped us, together with others, to recognise the moment, and to be present when the dreams he expressed were made possible by independence.”
Runnel, born in 1938 in Liutsalu in Järva County, studied agronomy, but never finished. He became an editor of the important Estonian cultural magazine Looming, and founded Ilmamaa publishing in 1992. The same year he was appointed professor of free arts at the University of Tartu, and remains the only professor and academician in Estonia without a degree.
Runnel was a member of both the Estonian Congress and the Constitutional Assembly in the early 1990s.
Editor: Dario Cavegn