Born in Tartu in 1941, Jaan Kaplinski studied Romanic languages and linguistics at Tartu University and graduated as French philologist in 1964. He is a poet, essayist, critic and translator from French, English, Spanish, Chinese and Swedish, esp. of the work of Nobel prize winner Tomas Tranströmer.
Jaan Kaplinski was one of the authors and initiators of the letter signed by well-known Estonian intellectuals protesting against the authorities in Soviet-Estonia in 1980. He was a member of the independent Estonian parliament from 1992 - 1995.