Dec 13, 2010

Linnart Mäll Remembered

Orientalist scholar, Estonian nationalist, and Chairman of the first UNPO General Assembly, Dr. Linnart Mäll has been remembered in a commemoration conference held in Tartu, Estonia.

Below is an article published by UNPO:

Over the course of many decades Dr. Linnart Mäll left an indelible mark on Estonia’s political and cultural life.  The conference convened in the academic heart of Estonia, Tartu, recognised his contribution to the freedom of Estonia from its occupation by the Soviet Union and the work he pursued to win rights for peoples across the world.  Remarks by leading Estonian statesmen and academics provided a testament to a life and work that will be difficult for others to emulate in the changing Estonia.

Dr. Mäll was a man who actively campaigned for the rights of Estonians and was barred from the University of Tartu for his anti-Soviet comments.  He never left his field however, and under his tutelage thousands of Estonian students were exposed to Dr. Mäll’s passion for the Orient and in particular Tibet and Buddhism.  His visits to these regions opened the eyes of many to new horizons and built a large following that would grow into the Mahāyāna Institute.

At the same time, Dr. Mäll was to play a leading role in the foundation of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) alongside key figures in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile such as Lodi Gyari and international jurist, Michael Van Walt Van Praag.  Together with representatives of Armenia, Crimean Tatars, Georgia, Latvia, and Tatarstan the decision was made in Estonia to form an organization that could campaign for the rights of peoples from across the world.  This organization brought together representatives who could see in their respective struggles common injustices, and by unifying wished to project their call for rights to an international community that was otherwise closed to them.

Dr. Mäll was consequently elected as the UNPO’s first Chairman of the organisation’s General Assembly, serving in that position until 1993.  After this time, he continued to play a key role in the organization, maintaining deep contact with nationalities within the shifting Russian republics and establishing the UNPO Tartu Coordination Office from which later grew the Institute of the Rights of Peoples in 2003. 

It was against this background that opening remarks by Sven Grünberg of the Institute of the Rights of Peoples, Martin Hallik, Vice-Principal of the University of Tartu, and Andrew Swan of the UNPO reminded the audience of Dr. Mäll’s immense contributions to their respective organisations. 

In the conference that followed, the impact of Dr. Mäll on the study of de facto states and the question of national self-determination was opened with a presentation by Dr. Märt Läänemets, Academic Secretary of the Estonian Oriental Society, on the role of Dr. Mäll in the foundation of the UNPO and the first discussions that took place in 1990.  Subsequent contributions by former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar MP and Dr. Eiki Berg of Tartu University expanded on the role and thinking of Dr. Mäll on the positive role of nationalism in building democratic societies and the question of de facto states in the international community.

The conference was closed by Andres Herkel MP, Vice-Chairman of the Pro-Patria and Pres Publica Union and one of the key organisers of the conference.   The presentations and the discussions surrounding them will provide the spur to further activities intended to support the work and living legacy of Dr. Linnart Mäll in the coming months and years.  The timing proving particularly poignant given that 2011 will see the UNPO mark its twentieth anniversary in The Hague will additional events planned around the world, including Estonia.



To download opening remarks by Andrew Swan, UNPO Program Manager (Brussels), please click here. (PDF Format, 124 kb)

*     *     *

Media Coverage

Institute of the Rights of People

Window on Eurasia


*     *     *

Conference Programme



Sven Grünberg (Institute of the Rights of Peoples)



Märt Läänemets (Tartu University) – Heritage of Linnart Mäll and His Contribution to Creation of UNPO

René Värk (Tartu University) – The Right to National Self-Determination in International Law

Eiki Berg (Tartu University) – De Facto States in the System of International Relations. Is this a Challenge to the Sovereignty Game?

Mart Laar (Estonian MP, former Estonian Prime-Minister) – The Role of Nationalism in Building of a Free and Democratic Society

Mart Helme (Ambassador) – Big Empires and Small Peoples Mart Rannut (Institute for Researches on Integration) – Dangers for Nations and Languages

Panel Discussion

Participation of guests from Buryatia, Udmurtia, Mari El, Ingermanlandia.

Moderators: Sven Grünberg (Director, Institute of the Rights of Peoples) and Tarmo Kulmar (Professor, Faculty of Theology, Tartu University).

Closing words

Andres Herkel (Estonian MP)




Institute of the Rights of Peoples

Center for Oriental Studies of Tartu University