Jaan Kaplinski

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Jaan Kaplinski performing during Tallinn Literature Festival

Jaan Kaplinski (born January 22, 1941 in Tartu[1]) is an Estonian poet, philosopher, and culture critic. Kaplinski is known for his independent mind, focus on global issues and support for left-wing/liberal thinking. He has been influenced by Eastern philosophical schools (taoism and especially buddhism).[1][2]

Kaplinski studied Romance language and linguistics at Tartu University, graduating as a French philologist in 1964,[2][3] and has worked as a translator, editor, and sociologist,[4] and ecologist at the Tallinn Botanic Garden. He has been named as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[5]


Jaan Kaplinski has published numerous collections of poems, prose, and essays. He has translated writings from French, English, Spanish, Chinese, including the Tao Te Ching, and Swedish, the work of Tomas Tranströmer.

Kaplinski's own work has been translated into English, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Icelandic, Hungarian, Japanese, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Hebrew, Bulgarian, and Czech. His essays deal with environmental problems, philosophy of language, classical Chinese poems, philosophy, buddhism, and Estonian nationalism.

Jaan Kaplinski was one of the authors and initiators of the so-called Letter of 40 intellectuals (Neljakümne kiri) action. A letter signed by well-known Estonian intellectuals protesting against the behavior of the authorities in Soviet-annexed Estonia was sent to the main newspapers of the time. Although not openly dissident, the letter was never published in the press at that time and those who signed were repressed using administrative measures.

His semi-autobiographical novel The Same River is published by Peter Owen in English translation by Susan Wilson.


Kaplinski was a member of Riigikogu (the Estonian parliament) from 1992 to 1995.[1] He was originally a candidate on the Centre Party list, but soon became an independent representative. Since 2004 he has been a member of the Estonian Social Democratic Party. In the 2005, the local government elections he ran in Tartu and was ESDP's first candidate in their list. Jaan Kaplinski was elected as the second Social Democrat candidate (Estonia is using open list system in local elections), collecting 1,045 votes.[6] Jaan Kaplinski was one of those intellectuals who supported Toomas Hendrik Ilves' candidature.

Personal life[edit]

Jaan Kaplinski's mother was Estonian and his father Polish. His father Jerzy Kaplinski (lecturer in the Tartu University[2]) was arrested by the NKVD and perished in a Soviet labour camp during the war.[1] Jaan Kaplinski has a daughter Maarja from the marriage to his first wife Küllike. He has four sons, including Lauris Kaplinski and the composer Märt-Matis Lill. Jaan's second wife Tiia Toomet is also a writer.


Main-belt asteroid 29528 Kaplinski is named after Jaan Kaplinski.


  • The East West Border...
  • The Wandering Border (Copper Canyon Press, 1987) (translated by the author with Sam Hamill and Riina Tamm)
  • Evening Brings Everything Back (Bloodaxe, 2004)


  1. ^ a b c d "Jaan Kaplinski - writer". Estonian Foreign Ministry. Retrieved 11 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Jaan Kaplinski". Scottish Poetry Library. Retrieved 11 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "Jaan Kaplinski". Arc Publications. Retrieved 11 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Käärik, Henn (2010-04-01). "Henn Käärik: mõtisklusi sotsioloogias". Tartu Postimees (in Estonian) (Postimees). Retrieved 11 May 2010. 
  5. ^ http://www.dn.se/arkiv/kultur/var-hamnar-pricken-i-ar-litteraturpristagaren-utses-i-dag
  6. ^ [1]

External links[edit]