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Mart Laar

In office
March 25, 1999 – January 28, 2002
Preceded by Mart Siimann
Succeeded by Siim Kallas
In office
October 21, 1992 – November 8, 1994
Preceded by Tiit Vähi (acting)
Succeeded by Andres Tarand

Born April 22, 1960 (1960-04-22) (age 49)
Viljandi, Estonia
Political party Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica
Alma mater University of Tartu

Mart Laar (born April 22, 1960) is an Estonian statesman, historian and a founding member of the Foundation for the Investigation of Communist Crimes.[1] He was the Prime Minister of Estonia from 1992 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2002.[2]

Laar was born in Viljandi. He was a member of the conservative Pro Patria Union party, which in 2006 merged with the more technocratic Res Publica Party. In addition to being a politician, Laar has written several books on Estonian and Soviet history. He was also a history teacher in Tallinn, as well as the past president of Council of Historians of the Foundation of the Estonia Inheritance, the Society for the Preservation of Estonia History and the Estonian Students' Society. Laar graduated form Tartu University in 1983, and received his masters degree from the same university in 1995. Among his books is War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944–1956 a work about the Forest Brothers anti-Soviet resistance movement.

He was nominated as prime minister by the Riigikogu on 21 October 1992, launching what were perhaps the most thorough economic reforms in the post-Soviet space.[3]

In the 1994 no-confidence vote Laar lost the office due to several scandals after which some members of the coalition withdrew their support to the Prime minister.[4] The scandals included the aspects of an arms deal contract with Israel; disagreements about political allies in the opposition, and without consulting the Parliament: the sale of banknotes in the amount of 2.3 billion Soviet rubles[5], withdrawn from circulation during the Estonian monetary reform of 1992, to the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria by Laar's associates at an Estonian company, Maag.[6][7][8][9]

Five years later, in 1999, Laar returned to the post, with his main policy goals being to pull the economy out of a slump and lead the country toward the European Union. He remained in the post until he stepped down in 2002.

Many credit Laar for leading Estonia through lightning economic reforms that won Western praise and ultimately laid the groundwork for rapid economic growth and acceptance to European Union entry talks.[10] It is also believed that Laar's economic reforms led to the Baltic Tiger period starting for Estonia after 2000. But the reforms were tough, and Laar was hurt by scandal concerning the ruble deal and by a multimillion-dollar Israeli arms purchase.[11]


Political and economic reforms

Laar’s reforms are referred to as the most thorough in the region and are occasionally used as a model for other transitions. The contributions to the study of transitions made by the Estonian reforms are often categorized as mainly three: lustration, economic reforms and geopolitical reorientation.[12]


Economic reforms

Estonia benefited from hindsight, in that its transition came two years after the transitions in the other former Soviet satellites of Central Europe. Estonia was able to implement many of their lessons while seemingly avoiding pitfalls.[13] Three innovations to the study of economic transitions stand out:

Geopolitical reorientation

The geopolitical reorientation of Estonia was followed by changes in international economic relations. Estonia went from near total dependence on the Soviet Union for trade before 1991[16] to a large decoupling of trade with Russia by 2007, Russia being about 9% of its total trade (4th largest trade partner). Since 2004, Estonia is a full member of both the European Union and NATO. In 2007, the EU accounted for 70% of Estonia's exports and 78% of its imports, while the share of the CIS countries were accordingly 11% and 13%.[17]

Trade with countries of the former Soviet Union, mainly with Russia and including EU members Latvia and Lithuania, makes up about quarter of Estonian foreign trade.[17]


The results of the radical reforms have been recognized by Transparency International (which ranked Estonia the least corrupt country in the post-communist region), the Heritage Foundation / Wall Street Journal (whose index qualified Estonia as the most economically free in all of Europe), the United Nations Development Program (whose Human Development Index measured Estonia’s rapid rise in such quality-of-life parameters as education, health, income and environment), and the Cato Institute, which awarded Laar the Cato Institute's Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty in 2006.[18]

The Acton Institute awarded Dr. Laar their Faith & Freedom Award on October 24, 2007.

The World Bank's Doing Business project has several times recognized Estonia as the top reformer in improving the business environment. Estonia is currently ranked 17 (of 178 economies) on the ease of doing business index.

Mart Laar has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO).

Recent activities

Laar has been involved in assisting and counseling other democratic activists and reformers in the region and beyond, including in Yugoslavia (before 2000), Moldova, Ukraine (before 2004), Mexico (after its own transition in 2000) and Cuba (the Miami-Dade city council in Florida enacted a "Mart Laar Day" in 2003). Together with Václav Havel, Filip Dimitrov, Árpád Göncz, Petr Pithart, Vytautas Landsbergis, Patricio Aylwin and other transition leaders, he participates in the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba.

Laar is a member of the International Council of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

In 2003, Laar received the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award for his contributions to the development of the electronic systems in Estonia.

After the Rose Revolution in Georgia, Laar became advisor to President Saakashvili and assisted his government in carring out radical liberal reforms.

In September 2006, Laar announced that he will come out of political retirement to run for the candidacy for Prime Minister of the new Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica party.

In January 2007, it was announced that Mart Laar would become a Mont Pelerin Society member.

On 26 May 2007 he was elected a Chairman of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica.

Relationship with the media

In 1994, the Estonian Newspaper Association declared Laar the Year's Press Friend. This was the first time this award was given; since that, it has been a yearly occurrence.[19]

Interestingly, in 2001, Laar was given the complementary award and titled the Year's Press Enemy.[20]

Published works


  1. ^ The Wall street Journal; August 7, 2008; Page A13
  2. ^ Europe Review 2003/04: The Economic and Business Report By World of Information ISBN 0749440678
  3. ^ Magnus Feldmann, "Free Trade in the 1990s: Understanding Estonian Exceptionalism," Demokratizatsiya, Fall 2003
  4. ^ Hare, P. G; Judy Batt, Saul Estrin (1999). Reconstituting the Market. Routledge. p. 205. ISBN 9057023296.  
  5. ^ Smith, David James (2002). The Baltic States. Routledge. p. 91. ISBN 0415285801.  
  6. ^ Sebastian Smith, Allah's Mountains, Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2005, p.132, ISBN 1850439796
  7. ^ Baltic Voices: Estonia: the Constitutional Framework
  8. ^ The Baltic Course: "Estonian rubles traced to Chechnya"
  9. ^ (Estonian) Eesti Päevaleht 3 January 2005: "Kõvemad mehed kui Leedo: Marcel ja Tiit" by Marii Karell
  10. ^ (Spanish) and (English) Interview with Mart Laar Guatemala, September 2006
  11. ^ Archive of European Integration: THE BALTIC STATES: SECURITY AND DEFENCE AFTER INDEPENDENCE, June 1995
  12. ^ See "'Just Do It': Interview with Mart Laar," Demokratizatsiya, Fall 2003,
  13. ^ "The Baltic Tiger: how Estonia did it" Conference at Francisco Marroquin University. Guatemala, September 2006
  14. ^ Privatization in Developing Countries, John Nellis, SAIS Review, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2007.
  15. ^ Walking on Water: How to Do It, 27 August 2005
  16. ^ Romuald Misiunas, Rein Taagepera, The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940–1990, University of California Press, 1993, ISBN 0520082273
  17. ^ a b Last year the growth of exports and imports slowed down
  18. ^ Mart Laar's Biography at the Cato Institute.
  19. ^ (Estonian) Eesti Ajalehtede Liit 3 December 1998: Ajalehtede Liit valis viiendaks pressisőbraks president Meri
  20. ^ (Estonian) Eesti Ajalehtede Liit 6 December 2001: 2001. aasta pressisőbraks valiti Ingrid Rüütel

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Tiit Vähi
Prime Minister of Estonia
Succeeded by
Andres Tarand
Preceded by
Mart Siimann
Prime Minister of Estonia
Succeeded by
Siim Kallas


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