Born 10 May 1928, Saaremaa
President of the Republic of Estonia
Website from time in office: The President of the Republic of Estonia 2001-2006
Arnold Rüütel was born on 10 May 1928 on the island of Saaremaa.
After graduating from agricultural college, Arnold Rüütel served as the senior agronomist in the Agricultural Department of the Executive Committee of the Saaremaa Soviet of Working People’s Deputies from 1949-1950. He later worked as a teacher at the Tartu School of Agricultural Mechanisation, from 1955-1957.
Arnold Rüütel was appointed to the testing centre of the Scientific Research Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science in 1957, initially as its senior zootechnician, but ultimately being promoted to the position of director. From 1963-1969 he served as the director of the state’s showcase collective farm in Tartu, earning a degree in agronomy from the Estonian Agricultural Academy during his second year in the position.
In 1969, Arnold Rüütel was elected rector of the Estonian Agricultural Academy, at which he not only fulfilled the everyday obligations of the head of the institute but also actively involved himself in scientific work.
Arnold Rüütel held a number of high-ranking positions in politics from 1977 onwards: first he served within the state’s political structures, then as part of its executive and legislative bodies. He was elected chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Estonian SSR in 1983.
Arnold Rüütel played an important part in the drafting of Estonia’s Declaration of Sovereignty and in its adoption on 16 November 1988, which essentially triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union. He became known around the world as a defender of Estonian sovereignty against the might of the central government in Moscow.
In March 1990, Arnold Rüütel was elected by the people to the Supreme Council of the Estonian SSR, whose members then installed him as their chairman at their first session. With his involvement, what was then the highest legitimate authority in the country adopted a decision on ‘the national status of Estonia’. This decision declared the state power of the USSR unlawful in Estonia from the moment of its establishment and triggered a transition period leading to the restoration of the Estonian republic. Arnold Rüütel served as the chairman of the Supreme Council until October 1992.
On 12 May 1990, the Baltic Council was established on Arnold Rüütel’s initiative. From the point of view of the fight for independence, the council would go on to play an important role in the formation of a united front between the three Baltic States. On 20 August 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia adopted a decision on the national independence of Estonia, and less than a month later, on 17 September, the Republic of Estonia was accepted as a fully fledged member of the United Nations. The pitched but bloodless battle for independence in Estonia had borne fruit. Arnold Rüütel led the country throughout these years and was a key figure in uniting people and political forces to achieve their shared objective.
Alongside his role as statesman, Arnold Rüütel continued with his studies and research, earning himself a doctorate in agriculture in 1991. He is an honorary doctor of a number of institutions (Bentley College in the United States, the University of Helsinki in Finland, the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Kazakhstan and the Szent István University of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Hungary among them), a professor emeritus of the Estonian Agricultural University and an honorary member of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine. He has authored more than 100 scientific articles published in Estonia and abroad. He addressed the UN General Assembly as the Estonian head of state in 1991. He also spoke at the UN Climate Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which ushered in a new era in nature conservation around the globe.
From 1991-1992, Arnold Rüütel was a member of the Constitutional Assembly, which was charged with the task of drafting a new constitution for the Republic of Estonia. He stood in the presidential elections of 1992, earning the backing of 43% of the electorate. With a record number of votes he was then elected to the Riigikogu in 1995, of which he was in turn elected Vice-President. He served as the chairman of the centre-right Country People’s Party, which boasted one of the highest number of members of any Estonian political party, from 1994-2000. The party changed its name to the People’s Union of Estonia in 1999.
In 1995, Arnold Rüütel was elected as the head of the Baltic Assembly delegation to the Riigikogu and as the chairman of the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly for a term of four years.
In parallel with his life in politics, Arnold Rüütel is recognised for the public role he has played over the years. From 1981-1988 he was the chairman of the Estonian Nature Society, while from 1989-2002 he was the chairman of the Forselius Society, promoting education. In 1993 he founded the Institute for National Development and Cooperation, which set itself the objective of studying Estonia’s primary development factors. That same year he became the president of the Estonian organisation of Green Cross International. The aim of the organisation within Estonia is to rid the country of contaminants and pollutants left over from the Soviet army and to deal with their consequences, and to maintain Estonia as a clean and environmentally friendly place for future generations. From that time until he was elected president, Arnold Rüütel also served as the chairman of the ‘Keep the Estonian Sea Tidy’ movement, which takes it upon itself to keep the country’s more than 3500 km of coastline clean and to construct new and restore existing harbours for small craft.
Arnold Rüütel’s wife Ingrid is a doctor of humanities, an internationally renowned folklorist and the president of the Baltica folklore association. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.
Arnold Rüütel was elected President of the Republic of Estonia by the electoral college on 21 September 2001 and sworn in on 8 October 2001.
MEMBERSHIP OF UNIONS & ASSOCIATIONS
1981-1988 | Chairman of the Estonian Nature Society (honorary member since 1989)
1989-2002 | Chairman of the Forselius Society (honorary chairman since 2002)
1993-2001 | President of the Estonian organisation of Green Cross International
1993-2002 | Chairman of the ‘Keep the Estonian Sea Tidy’ movement (honorary chairman since 2002)
1994 | Member of the 20th of August Club
1999 | Member of the NGO Konstantin Päts Museum
2002 | Honorary member of the Estonian Academic Agricultural Society
2002 | Honorary member of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
2002 | Member of the Association of Friends of Tallinn Botanic Garden
RECOGNITION & DECORATIONS
1991 | Honorary doctor of Bentley College (USA)
1991 | Honorary doctor of the Estonian Agricultural University
1993 | Professor emeritus of the Estonian Agricultural University
2002 | Honorary member of the Estonian Academic Agricultural Society
2002 | Honorary doctor of the University of Helsinki (Finland)
2002 | Honorary doctor of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine
2002 | Decoration of Rotary International
2002 | Order of the International Military Sports Council
2002 | Andres Bello memorial medal
2002 | Honorary doctor of the University of Naples Federico II (Italy)
2002 | Academic and honorary member of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences (Ukraine)
2003 | Decoration of the White Cross, 1st class of the Defence League
2004 | Honorary doctor of the Szent István University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Hungary)
2004 | Honorary doctor of the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University (Kazakhstan)
2004 | Honorary doctor of Yerevan State University (Armenia)
2005 | Badge of honour of Rotary International
2005 | Honorary doctor of the Latvian University of Life Sciences and Technologies
2006 | Decoration of Jõgeva County
2006 | Title of International Engineering Educator Honoris Causa of the International Society for Engineering Education
2001 | Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
2001 | Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose with Chain (Finland)
2002 | Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle of the Republic of Poland
2002 | Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav
2002 | Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic, Grand Cross
2003 | Grand Cross of the Order of Adolphe of Nassau of Luxembourg
2003 | Order of Prince Henry with Chain (Portugal)
2003 | National Order of Merit of the Republic of Malta
2003 | National Order of Merit of Romania with Chain
2003 | Grand Cross of the Order of Stara Planina (Bulgaria)
2003 | Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh of the Russian Orthodox Church
2004 | Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III of Cyprus
2004 | Grand Cross of the Order of the Italian Republic
2004 | Order of the Falcon of the Republic of Iceland
2004 | Order of Vytautas the Great of the Republic of Lithuania
2005 | Order of the White Double Cross of the Slovak Republic
2005 | Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Three Stars (Latvia)