Professor D.D. Grimm and the Constitutional Process in Interwar Estonia

Kovalev M.V.


The article describes the participation of David Davidovich Grimm (1864– 1941), a professor in the University of Tartu, in the constitutional process in interwar Estonia. Drawing on periodicals and archival documents, the author analyzes Grimm’s judicial and socio-political views as well as his personal and professional relations with Estonian lawyers and politicians (K. Päts, J. Uluots, A. Piip, etc.). Special attention is paid to Grimm’s criticism of the draft Constitution submitted to the referendum by the Union of participants of the Liberation war in 1934. In a number of articles and public addresses, the professor voiced his harsh criticism against it, being wary of the proclaimed concentration of power in the hands of one person, i.e. the head of state, and the decline in the role of Parliament. A number of Estonian public figures supported the position of D.D. Grimm, but the draft of the new Constitution was, nevertheless, endorsed through referendum. The participation of D.D. Grimm in the constitutional process continued after the coup d’état carried out by K. Päts in March 1934. In the fall of 1935, the Minister of Justice addressed D.D. Grimm with a proposal to take part in drafting the new Fundamental Law of the country, which was to create a bicameral parliament – the National Assembly (Rahvuskogu). In January 26, 1937 D.D. Grimm was appointed, as a representative of the Russian minority, a member of the upper house of Parliament, this being in recognition of his experience in the State Council of the Russian Empire. Grimm’s critical stand on the constitutional draft of 1934 largely stemmed from his aversion to the ideological principles of the Union of participants of the Liberation war, for he never shared their right-wing radicalism. The danger of their coming to power compelled him, along with many other Estonian intellectuals and politicians, to opt for a «strong hand» able to confront the threats coming from both the right and left.


D.D. Grimm; Estonia; Russian emigration; Russian ethnic minority; constitutional process; constitutional law, K. Päts.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2019.04.12

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