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Honorary citizens of Tallinn

Honorary citizens of Tallinn

I Firstly, it should be noted that the term honorary citizen was used to refer to social standing. According to the law enacted in Russia in 1832, honorary citizens formed a specific class (soslovije) - a privileged group among burghers. (The Russian population was divided into four estates: nobility, clergy, burghers and peasants).

As such the title of honorary citizen was not linked to a specific city and municipal governments had no authority to grant this title. Persons eligible for the title of honorary citizen under the law would file a corresponding request to the Russian Senate in Saint Petersburg. Once the request was reviewed and approved, they were issued a certificate of honorary citizen by the relevant department of the Senate.

The role of municipal governments, including the Tallinn Town Council and later the Tallinn City Government, was most likely limited to keeping account of honorary citizens living on the city territory. The documents of Tallinn Town Council include references to a ledger where the names of honorary citizens were to be entered. However, no such ledger has been found in the Town Hall records that are currently kept in the City Archives.

The estate of honorary citizen came with privileges: they were exempted from the direct government tax - the so-called poll tax - as well as conscription and corporal punishment.

The title of honorary citizen was either personal or hereditary. In the latter case, it extended to the children of the title holder.

The materials available in the City Archives allow concluding that there have been many individuals classified as honorary citizens “by estate” - probably hundreds. Estates and the related privileges were abolished in Estonia in 1920.

II Honorary citizen as an honorary title awarded by the city government to specific individuals as a sign of respect to acknowledge their special services to the city appeared in Tallinn in the middle of the 19th century.

There are no known specific criteria for awarding this title in Tallinn during the period before 1940.

Even though the following list of honorary citizens of Tallinn is probably incomplete, it seems that awarding the title of honorary citizen of Tallinn as a sign of respect was relatively rare.

1853 Woldemar Karl Friedrich Reinhold von Patkul,
member of military, Commandant of Tallinn 1828-1854

1865 Friedrich Georg von Bunge,
lawyer and historian, compiler of Baltic Private Law Code, Burgomaster of Tallinn 1844-1856

1870 Alexander Johann Karl Magnus von der Pahlen,
Head of Estonian Knighthood 1862-1868, organiser of the construction of the Baltic railway (Saint Petersburg-Tallinn line)

1882 Philipp Jakob Karell,
Estonian doctor from Tallinn, physician of the family of the Russian Czar 1849-1879

1899 Sergei Witte,
Russian statesman, Minister of Finance 1892-1903, Chairman of the Council of Ministers 1903-1906

1912 Ivan Grigorovich,
Russian Naval Minister, Admiral

1921 Herbert Hoover,
U.S. statesman, President 1929-1933; Head of U.S. Food Administration 1917-1919 and Head of American Relief Administration 1919-1923

1929 Gustav V,
King of Sweden

1935 Konstantin Päts,
Estonian statesman, a lead figure in Tallinn City Government at the start of the 20th century


III “For the purpose of acknowledging special services to Tallinn with respect to the revolutionary movement, fight for the Soviet government, outstanding results in economic and cultural development” the Tallinn Council of Worker’s Representatives in 1972 introduced the honorary title Honorary Citizen of Tallinn following a proposal from its Executive Committee.

Subsequently, the following individuals were awarded the title:

Aleksander Hendrikson,
1945-1961 Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Tallinn Council of Worker’s Representatives

Ivan Fedjuninski,
member of the Soviet military, Army General

Kristjan Kärber,
builder and Hero of Socialist Labour

Lembit Pärn,
member of the Soviet military, Lieutenant General; 1942-1945 Commander of Estonian Rifle Corps, 1945-1949 ESSR Minister and Commissioner for Armed Forces

Alfred Valdov,
metalworker and Hero of Socialist Labour

Vassili Võrk,
member of the Soviet military, Colonel; led the advance party of the Estonian Rifle Corps during the conquest of Tallinn in 1944

Albert Repson,
Soviet war hero; engineer, factory manager in Kunda and Tallinn in the 1950s and 1960s

Gustav Ernesaks,
choirmaster and composer

Ludvig Vammus,
builder and Hero of Socialist Labour

Vladimir Kassatonov,
member of the Soviet military, Fleet Admiral

Hans Liblik,
metalworker and Hero of Socialist Labour

Hendrik Allik,
veteran of the Estonian Communist Party, statesman of the ESSR

Georg Sommer,
veteran of the Estonian Communist Party, Soviet functionary


Urmas Oolup
Director of City Archives (1999-2008)

Last modified 21.02.2024