The Estonian Public Broadcasting Portal, in cooperation with the National Audit Office, to publish, day-by-day, the diary of Karl Soonpää, Auditor General in the period of 1939–1940 - bringing to the reader the time and events that played a crucial role in the fate of the republic

Toomas Mattson | 9/14/2019 | 2:00 PM

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TALLINN, September 14, 2019 – To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the events that played a crucial role in the fate of Estonia in the period of 1939–1940, the Estonian Public Broadcasting Portal, in cooperation with the National Audit Office, will publish the daily entries from the diary of the then Auditor General Karl Soonpää (Soonberg).

Auditor General Karl Soonpää noted down the issues discussed at government sessions as well as his personal observations starting from September 14, 1939, when the Polish submarine Orzeł arrived at the Tallinn roadstead, until June 22, 1940, when the first session of the puppet government led by Johannes Vares was held. The diary entries give insights to the most important international conflicts, new wars and conquests, events in Estonia, family and home affairs, among other things the results of bridge games.

As Soonpää (1895–1944) made these notes for himself and could never have expected them to be published, they reflect his honest and straightforward thoughts.

Karl Soonpää was the highest state figure in pre-war Estonia, whose diary has reached its readers today. The Estonian Public Broadcasting Portal will publish the diary with kind permission from Soonpää’s family and in cooperation with the National Audit Office. Historian Küllo Arjakas has added his comments to the diary entries. Only a few remarks have been added to the diary text to facilitate understanding and these are given in square brackets. There are also translations of some Russian phrases added, except for some very crisp swear words. The diary is complemented by documents and photos received from the archives of Estonia, Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and Karl Soonpää’s family.

After Karl Soonpää's death in the summer of 1944, his wife, Antonie, fled from Estonia with three children and eventually ended up in the United States. Karl Soonpää's diary was kept in private ownership by his relatives who remained in Estonia, initially with the family of Karl Soonpää's sister Helmi Marie and later with her nephew Eero Agarmaa’s family. The text was first published without commentaries in the journal Akadeemia in the second half of 1990. The publication was edited by Mart Orav.

In 2009 the National Audit Office and the publishing house SE&JS led by Sirje Endre published the book “Faatum. Eesti tee hävingule. 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. Diary of Auditor General Karl Soonpää about the fate the Republic of Estonia from 1939-1940. Background of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Documents and materials) in memory of Soonpää and to mark the 90th anniversary of the National Audit Office. The book was put together and commented by historian Küllo Arjakas, designed by Andres Tali, edited by Toomas Mattson and Urve Pirso.

In 2014, Helvi Maie Lippand (90) and Heljo Laine Alari (94), Karl Soonpää’s daughters who are living in the United States, decided to donate their father's notes to the Estonian state - the original of Karl Soonpää's diary is now being kept in the Estonian History Museum. At the beginning of 2018, on eve of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, also the decorations of Karl Soonpää, the longest-serving Auditor General in Estonia’s history (1929-1940), were returned to his homeland from the United States of America. The decorations include the Cross of Liberty that was awarded to Soonpää for his personal courage in serving as a lieutenant in the War of Independence. These too are now kept in the collection of the Estonian History Museum.

Karl Soonpää's diary reveals, among other things,

  • what President Konstantin Päts, Prime Minister Jüri Uluots, General Johan Laidoner and other statesmen actually talked about the situation and fate of Estonia in the government in 1939 and 1940;
  • what documents and why Prime Minister Kaarel Eenpalu ordered to have destroyed in the autumn of 1939;
  • how on the 7th November 1939, the 22nd anniversary of the October Revolution was celebrated in the Republic of Estonia;
  • how the Republic of Estonia made black money by participating in arms trafficking in Europe;
  • which Estonian politician sent a personal telegram to Joseph Stalin on his birthday;
  • what Estonian leaders thought about relaxing the rules of the silent era and re-allowing the activity of political parties.

Photo for free download and use: Portrait photo of Karl Soonpää

Caption: Auditor General Karl Soonpää in the second half of the 1930s. Source: Estonian History Museum

Photo for free download and use: Karl Soonpää’s family photo .

Caption: Auditor General Karl Soonpää (Soonberg) family photo from the early 1930s: from the left Antonie Soonpää, next to her the youngest family member, son Henn, Karl Soonpää, younger daughter Helvi Maie and older daughter Heljo Laine. Source: THE ARCHIVE OF KADRI AGARMAA.

Photo for free download and use: Pages from Karl Soonpää's diary 1939-1940.

Caption: Pages from Karl Soonpää's diary donated by his daughters, living in the USA, to the Estonian History Museum. Source: National Audit Office

Links for free use and reference

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Yours sincerely

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communications of the National Audit Office of Estonia
+372 640 0777
+372 513 4900
[email protected]

  • Posted: 9/14/2019 2:00 PM
  • Last Update: 9/18/2019 12:40 PM
  • Last Review: 9/18/2019 12:40 PM

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