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Jaan Kross (19 February 1920 – 27 December 2007)[1] was the most eminent modern Estonian writer.


Early life

Born in Tallinn, Estonia, studied Jacob Westholm´s Grammar school, Kross attended the University of Tartu (1938-1945) and graduated from its School of Law. He taught there as a lecturer until 1946, and again as Professor of Artes Liberales in 1998.

Kross was first arrested by the Germans for six months in 1944, and then by the Soviet occupation authorities in 1946, who deported him to a Gulag camp in Russia. Upon his return from Siberia to Estonia in 1954 he became a professional writer.




Kross is by far the most translated and nationally and internationally best-known Estonian writer. He was nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was named a People's Writer of the Estonian SSR (1985); he received the State Prize of the Estonian SSR (1977). He also held several honorary doctorates and international decorations, including the highest Estonian order and one of the highest German orders.

In 1990 Kross won the Amnesty International Golden Flame Prize. [2]


Kross' novels and short stories are almost universally historical; indeed, he is often credited with a significant rejuvenation of the genre of the historical novel. Most of his works take place in Estonia and deal, usually, with the relationship of Estonians and Baltic Germans and Russians. Very often, Kross' description of the historical struggle of the Estonians against the Baltic Germans is actually a metaphor for the contemporary struggle against the Soviet occupation. However, Kross' acclaim internationally (and nationally even after the regaining of Estonian independence) show that his novels also deal with topics beyond such concerns; rather, they deal with questions of mixed identities, loyalty, and belonging.

Generally, The Czar's Madman has been considered Kross' best novel; it is also the most translated one. Also well-translated is Professor Martens' Departure, which because of its subject matter (academics, expertise, and national loyalty) is very popular in academe and an important "professorial novel". The earlier Excavations, dealing with the thaw period after Stalin's death as well as with the Danish conquest of Estonia in the Middle Ages, and today considered by several critics as his finest, has not been translated into English yet; it is however available in German.


Jaan Kross died in Tallinn, at the age of 87, on 27 December 2007. He was survived by his wife Ellen Niit and four children. The President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, praised Kross "as a preserver of the Estonian language and culture." [2]

Kross is buried at the Rahumäe cemetery in Tallinn.[3]


  • "He was one of those who kept fresh the spirits of the people and made us ready to take the opportunity of restoring Estonia's independence." — Toomas Hendrik Ilves[2]

Works by Jaan Kross

  • Kolme katku vahel (Between Three Plagues, 1970)
  • Keisri hull (The Czar's Madman, 1978)
  • Professor Martensi ärasõit (Professor Martens' Departure, 1984)
  • Wikmani poisid (The Wikman Boys, 1988)
  • Väljakaevamised (Excavations, 1990)
  • Mesmeri ring (Mesmer's Circle, 1995)
  • Tahtamaa (2001)
  • Paigallend (Treading Air, 2002)
  • Kallid kaasteelised (Dear Co-travellers, 2003)
  • Omaeluloolisus ja alltekst (Autobiographism and Subtext, 2003)
  • Vandenõu (The Conspiracy and other stories)


External links


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