In memoriam Rutt Hinrikus 05.07.1946 – 10.29.2023

November 1, 2023

After a serious illness, Rutt Hinrikus, a recognized literary scholar, emeritus researcher of the Estonian Literary Museum and the grand old lady of collecting biographies of the Estonian people, passed away.

Rutt Hinrikus was born on May 7, 1946 in the family of Agu Põllu, a church pastor in Vigala, Lääne County. Her grandparents were well-known Estonian state and cultural figures Helmi and Peeter Põld. She graduated from the University of Tartu in 1970 as an Estonian philologist and Estonian language teacher. In 1972, she started working in the Estonian Cultural History Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum, then called the Manuscripts Department. From 1977 to 1993, she was the head of the manuscripts department; from 1993 to 1995, the acting director of the Literary Museum. She was one of the founders of the Karl Ristikivi Society and from 1995-1997 worked as the director of the Karl Ristikivi Museum, a branch of the Tartu City Museum. In 2002, she obtained a MA degree at the University of Tartu with the thesis “Estonian literature in the diaspora” and worked as a researcher in the Estonian Cultural History Archives at the Literary Museum until her retirement in 2021.

Rutt’s life’s work became collecting and researching Estonian literary and cultural historical sources, including the heritage of Estonians who fled to the West during World War II. The second pillar in Rutt’s life’s work was the creation of a collection of Estonian biographies. Her tireless work in collecting Estonian biographies began in 1996 and since then, thousands of biographies, including from Estonian communities abroad, have reached the Estonian Cultural History Archives through dozens of collection competitions. The Association of Estonian Life Stories was also created with her participation.

In 2000, Rutt’s work was recognized with the Order of the White Star III class medal of the President of the Republic of Estonia, and in 2016 she was declared an Honorary Citizen of the city of Tartu. In 2020, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Culture of the Republic of Estonia.

Rutt was a beloved and respected colleague whose erudition and dedication showed the way for many younger, like-minded people. The memory of Rutt will be carried forth in her books and writings, as well as the cast bronze footprint on Tartu’s Teerajajate Alley.