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Estonian Legal Culture on the Threshold to the 21st Century

  • Peeter Järvelaid


The Republic of Estonia is one of those European countries for which the year 1918 meant a deep and radical change in the development of their states. During the last decade, these states – Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic (the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic in 1918), Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – have all become Member States of or applicant countries to the European Union. On 28 July 1922, the Republic of Estonia was de jure recognized by the Government of the United States. This was an important act, since soon afterwards, on 22 September 1922, Estonia became a member of the League of Nations. Estonia had thus become a subject of international law.



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1 About the development of the Estonian culture and state see: Kirby, David, Northern Europe in the early modern period: the Baltic world 1492–1772. 2nd impr. London, New York, 1993; Kirby, David, The Baltic world 1772–1993: Europe's northern periphery in an age of change. London, New York, 1995; Kirby, David, Hinkkanen, Merja-Liisa, The Baltic and the North seas. London, 2000; Raun, Toivo U., Estonia and the Estonians. 2nd ed. Stanford, 1991; Järvelaid, Peeter. The changing law in Estonia. In: Estnische Strafrechtsreform: Quellen und Perspektiven. Tartu, , 1996, pp. 153164.

2 One of the first introductions in English concerning the Republic of Estonia was: Rutter, Owen, The new Baltic States and their future: an account of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. London, 1925.

3 Meissner, Boris, Die Sowjetunion, die baltischen Staaten und das Völkerrecht. Köln, 1956.

4 See also: Legal sources and bibliography of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). Ed. by Klesment, J. et al. New York, 1963; Rink-Parming, Marju, Parming, Tõnu, A bibliography of English-language sources on Estonia: periodicals, bibliographies, pamphlets, and books. New-York, 1974; Ilmar Arens, A bibliography of works published by Estonian scholars in exile: jurisprudence, political science, sociology, economy 1942–1976. Stockholm, 1977; The Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (World bibliographical series, vol. 161). Comp. by Smith, I. A. and Grunts, M. V.. Oxford, Santa Barbara, Denver, 1993.

5 The Baltic path to independence: an international reader of selected articles. Ed. by Sprudzs, A.. Buffalo, New-York, 1994; The independence of the Baltic states: origins, causes and consequences: a comparison of the crucial years 1918–1919 and 1990–1991. Ed. by Demm, E., Nöel, R. and Urban, W.. Chicago, 1996.

6 For information about the development of Old Livonia's older legal system in the context of European legal history, see: Wolf, Armin, Gesetzgebung in Europa 1100–1500: zur Entstehung der Territorialstaaten. 2. überarb. und erw. Aufl. München, 1996, S. 307312.

7 Restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia: selection of legal acts (1988–1991). Comp. by Kiris, A.. Tallinn, 1991.

8 Põhiseadus ja Põhiseaduse Assamblee [The Constitution and Constitutional Assembly]: a collection. Tallinn, , 1997. About the background of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia (1992), see also: Taasvabanenud Eesti põhiseaduse eellugu [Background of the Constitution of the restored Estonian Republic]. Tartu, , 1997.

9 There is no doubt that Germany – which after World War II radically abolished the penal law legislation of the Nazi era – has developed its penal law with utmost care, following the principle of ensuring the basic rights of its citizens.

10 In 1990–1999, great changes took place on the market of legal periodicals. In 1990, the bulletin Nõukogude Öigus [The Soviet Law], which had been published in Estonian and Russian since 1967 was reorganised into the legal journal Eesti Jurist [Lawyer, Estonian]. In 1993, a new journal Juridica was established in Tartu. In 1993–1994, both of the journals were published, but as of 1995, Juridica is the only legal periodical in Estonia. It also contains summaries on the articles in English.

12 See infra Bibliographia Iuridica Estonica by Ruttu, Maia and Kaskla, Giina, pp. 86121, and at∼maia/NIMESTIK.html.

13 See: Maurer, Küllike, Sources of legal information in the Baltic States, In: “Central- och Östeuropas juridiska informationskällor: rapport från det tredje nordiska juridiska biblioteksmötet i Helsingfors” (1995) pp. 3558.

15 Estonian Legislation in Translation: Legal Acts of Estonia. Tallinn, Estonian Legal Translation Centre, 1996–2000. Since 2001 only the digital version is available.

16 Bibliographia Iuridica Estonica = Eesti Õigusbibliograafia = Legal Literature of Estonia = Estnische Rechtsbibliographie. Tallinn, National Library of Estonia, 1994–. (∼maia/NIMESTIK.html.)

17 See: Järvelaid, Peeter. Bibliographia Iuridica Estonica. Eesti õigusbibliograafia. Legal Literature of Estonia. Estnische Rechtsbibliographie. In: Lakimies, vol. 97 (2000), pp. 473475.

* Professor, Chairman of the Department of History of Law and Comparative Law, University Nord, Tallinn (Estonia).


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