Decorations of Auditor General Karl Soonpää returned to his homeland from USA

Toomas Mattson | 1/9/2018 | 8:50 PM

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TALLINN, 9 January 2018 – On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, the decorations of Karl Soonpää, the longest-serving Auditor General in Estonia’s history (1929-1940), have been 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.

The collection was donated to Estonia by Soonpää’s daughters Maie Lippand and Heljo Alari, who live in the United States. Presented to the Estonian History Museum this evening, the decorations include the Order of the Estonian Red Cross; the Order of the War of Independence; the Order of the New Constitution, First Class with diploma; the star, cross and ribbon of the Order of the Cross of the Eagle; and the Order of the Submarine Fleet Foundation.

The decorations have survived thanks to Soonpää’s widow Antonie, who took the collection with her when she fled the encroaching Red Army with her three children in 1944. First in the refugee camp in Germany and later in the USA, the decorations were carefully kept in memory of a husband and father, and of times when Estonia was still free and independent.

In addition to the donated collection, a rare historic artefact has also made its way to Estonia (see attachment), kept by Antonie Soonpää as a memento of a time when Estonia had not yet been occupied by the Soviet army: a menu from a formal dinner given in Kadriorg by President Konstantin Päts on 24 February 1939, celebrating the anniversary of Estonia’s independence. Antonie Soonpää attended the dinner with her husband, the Auditor General.

At a ceremony that took place at Maarjamäe Palace in Tallinn, Auditor General Alar Karis asked Karl Soonpää’s family living in Estonia and Kadri Agarmaa, the family’s representative, to convey his personal gratitude to Karl Soonpää’s daughters for believing in Estonia and for trusting the Estonian History Museum to keep their father’s decorations, as they also did with their father’s diary from 1939-1940. The Estonian History Museum’s mission as a memory institution is to document all things related to Estonia.

Hiljar Tammela, the administrator of decorations at the Estonian History Museum, presented the collection, making a point of highlighting the fact that it is a complete collection connected to a distinguished statesman.

Kadri Agarmaa, the daughter of Karl Soonpää’s nephew, spoke on behalf of the family, thanking the National Audit Office and the Estonian History Museum for keeping the memory of Soonpää alive. She also read out a letter from Soonpää’s daughters in California, which ended with the words “Long live a free Estonia!” Taking charge of the decorations was Sirje Karis, the director of the Estonian History Museum, who thanked the Soonpää family, signed a document guaranteeing the safekeeping of the decorations and promised to take great care of the collection.

The ceremony was attended by Karl Soonpää’s family in Estonia, employees of the National Audit Office and representatives of the State Budget Control Select Committee of the Riigikogu, led by the committee’s chairman Aivar Sõerd, who took the opportunity to congratulate the National Audit Office on its 99th anniversary.

Photos from today’s event in the white summer hall of Maarjamäe Palace (© Vahur Lõhmus/Estonian History Museum) – free for use:

download here (zip):

1) Auditor General Karl Soonpää’s decorations

2) Auditor General Karl Soonpää’s decorations with diplomas

3) Auditor General Karl Soonpää’s family representative Kadri Agarmaa, the daughter of Soonpää’s nephew, with Sirje Karis, the director of the Estonian History Museum

4) Auditor General Alar Karis being congratulated by Aivar Sõerd, the chairman of the State Budget Control Select Committee of the Riigikogu, on the 99th anniversary of the National Audit Office

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Karl Soonpää (Soonberg until 1939) (1895-1944) was the Auditor General of Estonia from 1929-1940. He had previously served as the Minister of Agriculture in August Rei’s government and as the Minister of Labour and Welfare in Jaan Tõnisson’s government. He was elected a member of the Riigikogu in 1926.

Auditor General Karl Soonpää kept a diary from 13 September 1939 to 22 June 1940 to which he added snippets of the government’s sessions and other notes regarding Estonian life. The diary is an important historical source concerning these fateful times in Estonia.

After Soonpää was killed in June 1944 by Soviet diversionists, his wife Antonie fled Estonia with her three children, eventually making it to the United States.


Toomas Mattson
Public Relations Manager, National Audit Office
+372 640 0777
+372 51 34 900
[email protected]
[email protected]

  • Posted: 1/9/2018 8:50 PM
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