Miller, Voldemar

Voldemar Karl Miller was born on Saaremaa in 1911. He was an Estonian writer, librarian, archivist, and a local historian. In the 1930s, he studied History at the University of Tartu. In 1937, he started working at the Historical Archive of Estonia (now the National Archive), which he also led from 1944 to 1950. To escape from police arrest after the March Plenum in 1950 he volunteered to work in an oil shale mine in northeast Estonia where he remained for 2 years.

He devoted a great part of his life to librarianship, working both at the Library of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (1952–1977) and at the National Library (1978–1996). In the 1960s, he introduced the terms baltica and ’rare book’ and was designated as head of the newly established Baltica and Rare Books Department at the Library of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

He regarded the mother tongue as an important figure in the development of Estonian nationality and culture. Although officially forbidden, he managed to organize exhibitions and publish special editions for the celebrations of the Estonian Book Year in 1970 when 450 years had passed since the first known book was printed in Estonian. An important milestone was the historical overview Eesti raamat 1525–1975 (’Estonian Book 1525–1975’), which included a chapter on the interactions between the Estonian and the Baltic German cultures and the history of book publishing in both languages.

Voldemar Miller also had a passion for local history. He was an important figure in the local history research committee, which was founded in 1958. In 1963, he was one of the founders of the local history research club at Tallinn City Museum. At his initiative, Estonian Television launched the series Majad täis mälestusi (‘Houses Full of Memories’).

As an author, he achieved greater recognition for writing children’s literature. Miller published his first short stories in Täheke, a children’s magazine active to this day. His first children’s book was published in 1966. Very well-known was his short story collection Merehundijutud (’Tales of an Old Salt’, 1984, 1993).

Voldemar Miller devoted his life to the research of Estonian history, language, and written culture. He belonged to several societies and associations. In 1995, he became a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union. Voldemar Miller died in 2006.