State Elder

​In the political system of the Republic of Estonia in 1920-1937, head of the government, who also fulfilled the representational functions of the head of state.

The leftist politicians who dominated the Estonian Constituent Assembly (1919-1920) opposed the concentration of power in the hands of one person. Therefore, the position of President was not created in the constitution adopted in 1920, and the tasks of the head of the state were divided among the parliament, the government and the head of the government (State Elder, Estonian riigivanem). In addition to the tasks of the prime minister, the State Elder fulfilled representational functions – representing Estonia at state visits, and accepting and signing the credentials of foreign ambassadors – but he had no opportunity to act as a balancing power between the government and the parliament. This was a unique solution in the world. Only the constitution adopted in 1933 made the State Elder the head of state: the State Elder, elected by the people, appointed the government, directed internal and foreign policies, entered into international agreements, had the right to dissolve the parliament before the prescribed time, etc. State Elder Konstantin Päts, who carried out a coup on 12 March 1934, took full advantage of all these rights. The institution of the State Elder was abolished in 1937. During 1921-1937, the position of State Elder was filled by 10 men, three of whom held the position several time.


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