Article adapted from "Estonia National Tour," prepared by Jüri Allik and Toomas Niit, 2008 in Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. J. (Eds.). (2009). Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource (Edition 2009) [CD-ROM]. International Journal of Psychology, 44 (Suppl. 1).
The University of Tartu was founded under the name Academia (Universitas) Dorpatensis in 1632 by the decree of the Swedish King Gustavus II Adolphus. Since psychological problems of that time played a prominent role in philosophical disputations, this year can also be regarded as the beginning of psychology in Estonia. After a considerable break, the university was reopened in 1802 and from this time psychology has been taught almost regularly as a university course.
In 1886 the founder of modern psychiatry, Emil Kraepelin, arrived at Tartu and was appointed as head of the Department of Psychiatry. His studies on the role of caffeine on the speed of mental processes meant also the origin of experimental psychology in Tartu. The experimental spirit of psychology established by him was followed by Vladimir Chizh who received his training in the Wundt laboratory.
Psychology in the independent Estonian Republic (1918-1940) did not attain any remarkable international recognition.
After becoming the national university, The University of Tartu founded a chair of psychology, which was occupied by Konstantin Ramul until the 1970s. His achievement was to keep the university course in psychology alive and to publish popular articles. The most remarkable publication in psychology of that time was Intelligence of Estonian Children written by Juhan Tork (1940). This was a nationwide study of children's mental aptitudes.
The occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union also had consequences on the situation in psychology. Thousands of Estonians were rescued by emigration, among them such well-known psychologists as Endel Tulving, Theodor Künnapas, Vello Sermat, and Jaak Panksepp. Psychology lacked the status of an independent field of knowledge in Soviet science. In general, it was a mixture of ideological citations and Pavlov's teaching about conditional reflexes canonized by the joint sessions of the academies of sciences. Subscriptions to all psychology journals and new books were stopped.
From the late 1950s the situation in Soviet psychology started to improve, although ideological pressure and struggle never stopped. At that time some of L. Vygotsky's studies were published and the first psychological journals started to appear. The number of universities and institutions that were allowed to grant scientific degrees was very limited. Personal, national or political reasons prevented several psychology academics from gaining a scientific degree. The fondness for general speculative argumentation produced the inability to discover and describe new empirical facts and regularities.
Although organizationally Estonian psychology was connected with Soviet psychology, intellectually it remained relatively autonomous. The tradition of regarding experimental and empirical knowledge as the fundamental basis of psychology in general survived. In 1968 psychology was reestablished as the main specialty in the University of Tartu. Most currently active psychologists came to science in the 1970s. Around 950 psychologists have graduated from the Tartu psychology department since 1971. In 1993, the second full-time undergraduate psychology program was started at the Tallinn Pedagogical University (TPU) and has now around one hundred graduates. Both departments have run Master's and Doctoral programs since 1991, which were internationally accredited in October 2000.
The most developed area of research in Estonia during the 1970s and 1980s was visual perception. The long tradition of psychophysical investigations made in the University of Tartu is concerned with the perception of stochastic patterns and the perception of motion. The future perspectives are concerned with psychophysiological investigation. From other areas can be named psychoacoustics, selective attention, environmental psychology, cross-cultural and personality studies, developmental psychology and psychopharmacology. The small size of Estonia makes it very appealing for population studies. Its unique cultural and historical experience makes it a proper place for testing certain psychological theories in cross-cultural studies. From the applied areas, personnel selection and organizational psychology, as well as different kinds of psychotherapy, have received wider attention during recent years.
At the present moment, the training of psychologists and the educational system in the University of Tartu and TPU is not very different from other European universities. Even in a situation of almost complete isolation from the outside world during the Soviet times, Estonian psychology was able to preserve its closeness to world psychology. The active community of Estonian therapists is already integrated into the system of international cooperation and long term training programs. All working psychologists have passed at least five years of university studies. The entry-level academic degree required of psychologists is the master's. Since 1991 the system of higher education has changed in Estonia, and now a four year Bachelor's degree, two year Master's program and four year Doctoral program are offered to psychology students both in Tallinn and Tartu. Therapists and clinical psychologists start with special training courses and under supervision. Most of the psychologists are employed in the public sector or in private companies. Psychologists are very much used as supervisors and consultants, but they also work at different government ministries, police, TV stations, etc. Specialized commissions together with the Union of Estonian Psychologists are going to control the adequate use of psychological instruments, certify, and license psychologists. The aim of the Union of Estonian Psychologists is to gain a Psychologists' Law to protect and authorize psychologists and to join the European Diploma in Psychology proposed by EFPA.
The UEP follows generally the Ethical Codes of Scandinavian Psychologists, although its own Ten Commandments for Psychologists were formalized in the early 1990s. The Honorary Court of the UEP consists of three members.
Akadeemia, 1989- , 12/year
Trames, 1997- , 4/year
Rakenduspsühholoogia, (Applied Psychology), irregular
Updated December 2008