Early lifeBorn in Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...
, studied Jacob Westholm´s Grammar school, Kross attended the University of Tartu
University of Tartu
The University of Tartu is a classical university in the city of Tartu, Estonia. University of Tartu is the national university of Estonia; it is the biggest and highest-ranked university in Estonia...
(1938–1945) and graduated from its School of Law. He taught there as a lecturer until 1946, and again as Professor of Artes Liberales in 1998.
Kross was first arrested by the Germans
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...
for six months in 1944, and then by the Soviet
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
occupation authorities in 1946, who deported him to a Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...
camp in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...
. Upon his return from Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...
to Estonia in 1954 he became a professional writer.
RecognitionKross is by far the most translated and nationally and internationally best-known Estonian writer. He was nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...
, and was named a People's Writer
People's Writer was a title granted by the Republics of the Soviet Union and the Autonomous Republics of the Soviet Union to its distinguished writers.It was a title similar to that of People's Artist of the Soviet Union for literary achievements....
of the Estonian SSR (1985); he received the State Prize of the Estonian SSR
State Prizes of the Soviet Republics
The State Prizes of the Soviet Republics were each republic counterpart to the USSR State Prize. Each republic granted several different prizes, generally named after writers or artists from the republic, as well as a blanket Komsomol prize for young artists....
(1977). He also held several honorary doctorates and international decorations, including the highest Estonian order and one of the highest German orders.
In 1990 Kross won the Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...
Golden Flame Prize.
StyleKross' novels and short stories are almost universally historical; indeed, he is often credited with a significant rejuvenation of the genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...
of the historical novel
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...
. Most of his works take place in Estonia and deal, usually, with the relationship of Estonians and Baltic German
The Baltic Germans were mostly ethnically German inhabitants of the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, which today form the countries of Estonia and Latvia. The Baltic German population never made up more than 10% of the total. They formed the social, commercial, political and cultural élite in...
s and Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....
. Very often, Kross' description of the historical struggle of the Estonians against the Baltic Germans is actually a metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...
for the contemporary struggle against the Soviet occupation
Occupation of Baltic Republics
The occupation of the Baltic states refers to the military occupation of the three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union under the auspices of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 14 June 1940 followed by their incorporation into the USSR as constituent republics, unrecognised...
. However, Kross' acclaim internationally (and nationally even after the regaining of Estonian independence) show that his novels also deal with topics beyond such concerns; rather, they deal with questions of mixed identities, loyalty, and belonging.
Generally, The Czar's Madman
The Czar's Madman
The Czar's Madman is a 1978 novel by Estonian writer Jaan Kross.-Plot introduction:This historical novel is about a Livonian nobleman, Timotheus von Bock, who has married a peasant girl named Eeva to prove everyone that good men are equal before nature, God and ideals...
has been considered Kross' best novel; it is also the most translated one. Also well-translated is Professor Martens' Departure
Professor Martens' Departure
Professor Martens' Departure is a 1984 historical novel set in czarist Russia by Estonian writer Jaan Kross.-Plot summary:Friedrich Fromhold Martens, born in Pärnu, Estonia on 27 August 1845, was a renowned expert in international law. He attended the University of St. Petersburg where he later...
, which because of its subject matter (academics, expertise, and national loyalty) is very popular in academe and an important "professorial novel". The earlier Excavations, dealing with the thaw
The Khrushchev Thaw refers to the period from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, when repression and censorship in the Soviet Union were partially reversed and millions of Soviet political prisoners were released from Gulag labor camps, due to Nikita Khrushchev's policies of de-Stalinization and...
period after Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...
's death as well as with the Danish
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...
conquest of Estonia in the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...
, and today considered by several critics as his finest, has not been translated into English
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...
yet; it is however available in German
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....
DeathJaan Kross died in Tallinn, at the age of 87, on 27 December 2007. He was survived by his wife Ellen Niit and four children. The President of Estonia
President of Estonia
The President of the Republic is the head of state of the Republic of Estonia.Estonia is a parliamentary republic, therefore President is mainly a symbolic figure and holds no executive power. The President has to suspend his membership in any political party for his term in office...
, Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the fourth and current President of Estonia. He is a former diplomat and journalist, was the leader of the Social Democratic Party in the 1990s and later a member of the European Parliament...
, praised Kross "as a preserver of the Estonian language and culture."
Kross is buried at the Rahumäe cemetery
Rahumäe cemetery is a cemetery located at Rahumäe in Nõmme District, Tallinn, Estonia. This municipal cemetery was established in 1903 on 29 hectares of land to meet the needs of the growing population of Tallinn. A number of congregations are present including a Jewish section established in 1909...
- "He was one of those who kept fresh the spirits of the people and made us ready to take the opportunity of restoring Estonia's independence." — Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Works by Jaan Kross
- Kolme katku vahelKolme katku vahelKolme katku vahel is a novel by Estonian author Jaan Kross. It was first published in 1970. Main character of the historical novel is Balthasar Russow , one of the most important Livonian and Estonian chroniclers...
(Between Three Plagues), 1970
- Keisri hull (The Czar's MadmanThe Czar's MadmanThe Czar's Madman is a 1978 novel by Estonian writer Jaan Kross.-Plot introduction:This historical novel is about a Livonian nobleman, Timotheus von Bock, who has married a peasant girl named Eeva to prove everyone that good men are equal before nature, God and ideals...
- Professor Martensi ärasõit (Professor Martens' DepartureProfessor Martens' DepartureProfessor Martens' Departure is a 1984 historical novel set in czarist Russia by Estonian writer Jaan Kross.-Plot summary:Friedrich Fromhold Martens, born in Pärnu, Estonia on 27 August 1845, was a renowned expert in international law. He attended the University of St. Petersburg where he later...
- Vastutuulelaev (The Wind Ship/Sailing Against the Wind), 1987
- Wikmani poisidWikmani poisidWikmani poisid is a semi-autobiographical novel by Estonian writer Jaan Kross, published in 1988. A TV-series based on the novel was produced in 1994....
(The Wikman Boys), 1988
- Väljakaevamised (Excavations), 1990
- Tabamatus (Elusiveness), 1993
- Mesmeri ring (Mesmer's Circle), 1995
- Vandenõu (The Conspiracy and Other Stories), 1995
- Tahtamaa, 2001
- Paigallend (Treading AirTreading AirTreading Air is Jaan Kross' thirteenth novel. He tells the story of the generation of Estonians with which he grew up...
- Kallid kaasteelised (Dear Co-travellers), 2003
- Omaeluloolisus ja alltekst (Autobiographism and Subtext), 2003