The Estonian Writers’ Union (EWU), a professional association of writers, literary translators, and critics, was founded in Tallinn on October 8, 1922. It had 33 members at the time, which increased to over 50 by the year 1940. During Estonia’s first period of independence, the EWU was chaired by Friedebert Tuglas, Eduard Hubel (Mait Metsanurk), Karl Ast (Rumor), Henrik Visnapuu, and August Jakobson.
After Estonia’s annexation and occupation by the Soviet Union, the organization’s leadership and name changed multiple times: from 1958–1991 it was known as the Writers’ Union of the Estonian SSR. Several Estonian authors managed to flee Soviet persecution to the West, and an Estonian Writers’ Union Abroad was even founded in 1945 by Estonian refugees in Stockholm. Nevertheless, ideological isolation made official contact between the two unions impossible until an “informal” but high-level and successful meeting was held in Helsinki in 1989. Despite Soviet censorship at home and the hardships of immigrant life abroad, masterful Estonian authors continued to preserve and enrich their fascinatingly unique culture and written language throughout the long years of occupation.
The professional association of writers in Estonia reverted to its original name, the Estonian Writers’ Union, with the restoration of national independence in 1991. It was chaired by Mati Sirkel from 1995–2004, by Jan Kaus from 2004–2007, and by Karl Martin Sinijärv from 2007–2016. Since April 2016, the EWU has been headed by Tiit Aleksejev.
The Estonian Writers’ Union had an official chapter in Stockholm until 2018 and has a vibrant section in Tartu (chaired by Berk Vaher), as well as a Translators’ Section (chaired by Ilona Martson) and a Youth Section (chaired by Maiken Tiits). As of April 13, 2023, the EWU had a membership of 344 writers, literary translators, critics, and researchers in Estonia and scattered across the world. The EWU has been a member of the European Writers’ Council since 1992.