A valuable historical source has been donated to the Republic of Estonia depicting its fateful years: the diary of Auditor General Karl Soonpää (1939–1940)

Toomas Mattson | 7/4/2014 | 4:00 PM

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TALLINN, 4 July 2014 Maie Lippand and Heljo Alari, daughters of the pre-Second World War Auditor General of the Republic of Estonia Karl Soonpää who reside in the United States of America, have donated to Estonia their father’s diary that reflects on life, the overall mood in the country and especially the issues discussed at length in the course of government meetings during our country’s fateful and decisive years of 1939 and 1940.

Today Karl Soonpää’s daughter Maie Lippand (85) handed the diary over to the representative of the Estonian History Museum acting on behalf of the state. In her handover speech she noted how emotional that moment was for her because her father had personally made the diary entries. On the day coinciding with US independence celebrations Maie Lippand emphasised that her life in America has been good and she raised four children, two sons and two daughters, all of whom are Estonians. She has four grandsons who also speak Estonian and show interest in the history of Estonia. At the diary handover ceremony in Estonia Maie Lippand was accompanied by her children and grandchildren from the US. The diary was gratefully received by Sirje Karis, Director of the Estonian History Museum, who formalised the necessary document of receipt and registered the important item in the museum collection, remarking that “the National Audit Office will have no cause to criticise our property registration practice”.

In his speech Auditor General Alar Karis asserted the invariably personal and genuine nature of diaries because in them people are frank, describing both their own doubts and suspicions and those of other people, thus often also exposing naïvety. Alar Karis thanked the daughters of Karl Soonpää for trusting the Estonian state and the History Museum in particular to take good care of the diary as the museum’s task as a memory institution is to preserve everything connected with our republic.

Toomas Kiho, Editor-in-Chief of Akadeemia magazine, read out excerpts from Karl Soonpää’s diary. Akadeemia magazine was in fact the first to publish the diary in the second half of 1990.

Publisher Sirje Endre who in 2009 marked the 90th anniversary of the National Audit Office by publishing the book Faatum. Eesti tee hävingule. Riigikontrolör Karl Soonpää päevik Eesti Vabariigi saatuseaastatest 1939–1940. Molotovi-Ribbentropi pakti tagamaad. Dokumente ja materjale (Faatum. Estonia’s road to destruction. Auditor General Karl Soonpää’s diary kept during the fateful years of the Republic of Estonia, 1939–1940. Background of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Documents and materials) spoke about the symbolic meaning of the handover of the diary to Estonia at the time of the Song and Dance Festival. She remarked that despite ours being just a small country, the history of Estonia is extensive, and she then stressed the need to relate this history to the young generation of today, so youngsters could comprehend connections between historical facts and tap into the common national memory. Sirje Endre reiterated that we cannot protect our freedom if we do not know the story of achieving and losing that freedom.

The ceremony of the handover of Auditor General Karl Soonpää’s diary was attended by representatives of the National Audit Office and the History Museum, Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder, former Auditor General Mihkel Oviir, President Arnold Rüütel, University of Toronto’s Professor Emeritus Olev Träss, Chairperson of the Estonian Students Society Karli Kütaru, President of the Estonian Board of Auditors Kaido Vetevoog, literary figure Mart Orav, Deputy Director-General of the Security Police Board Martin Arpo and representatives of several state agencies and organisations, as well as Karl Soonpää’s relatives from Estonia and the US.

About Karl Soonpää’s diary:
Auditor General Karl Soonpää kept his diary from 13 September 1939 to 22 June 1940, writing down issues discussed at government meetings and his personal observations of life in Estonia. Included in the diary binder are also Soonpää’s notes on the Estonian War of Independence.

After Karl Soonpää’s demise 70 years ago, in the summer of 1944, his wife Antonie with three children fled Estonia, ending up in the United States of America.

Karl Soonpää’s diary was preserved by his relatives who had remained in Estonia. It was first published in Akadeemia magazine in the second half of 1990.

In 2009 the National Audit Office in cooperation with the SE&JS Publishing House published the book Faatum. Eesti tee hävingule. Riigikontrolör Karl Soonpää päevik Eesti Vabariigi saatuseaastatest 1939–1940. Molotovi-Ribbentropi pakti tagamaad. Dokumente ja materjale (Faatum. Estonia’s road to destruction. Auditor General Karl Soonpää’s diary kept during the fateful years of the Republic of Estonia, 1939–1940. Background of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Documents and materials) to commemorate Karl Soonpää and mark the 90th anniversary of the National Audit Office. The book was compiled by Küllo Arjakas who also penned diary comments, Andres Tali was the designer and Toomas Mattson provided the illustrations.

Among the things readers will learn from Karl Soonpää’s diary:

• what President Konstantin Päts, Prime Minister Jüri Uluots, General Johan Laidoner and other statesmen serving in the Government of the Republic of Estonia actually said in 1939 and 1940 about the situation in the country and its prospects;
• who was that high-ranking Estonian politician who, after the conclusion of the treaty on the establishment of Soviet military bases in the Republic of Estonia, wanted to reduce the national defence expenditure without delay and to incite the masses in order to gain popular approval of those bases;
• which documents Primer Minister Kaarel Eenpalu had ordered to be burned in the autumn of 1939 and why;
• how and why the 22nd anniversary of the Soviet October Revolution was celebrated on the 7th of November, 1939, in the still independent Republic of Estonia;
• how the Estonian state earned illegal money by participating in European arms smuggling;
• who among Estonian politicians sent a personal telegram to Joseph Stalin on his birthday;
• what the leaders of Estonia thought about relaxing the censorship restrictions imposed after the coup of 1934, the so-called Era of Silence, and allowing political parties to become active again.

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service, National Audit Office
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