Imbi Paju



Imbi Paju (b. 3. VI 1959) is a journalist, writer and film director.

She was born in Jõgevamaa county, was educated at Mustvee, Viljandi Secondary School of Culture, the Tartu School of Music, the Estonian Institute of the Humanities and the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Helsinki. She has sung in the choirs of the Vanemuine Theatre and of Estonian Radio and Television, has collaborated on several periodical publications and for television.

She is primarily known for raising awareness about and dealing with the crimes of communism, from the viewpoint of memory and trauma theory. In 2005 she made an award-winning documentary film Tõrjutud mälestused (‘Suppressed Memories’), and thereafter a book of the same name, initially in Finnish (2006) and then in Estonian (2007). Relying on her mother’s and aunt’s personal experiences, plumbing the suppressed memories of arrest and the Siberian prison camps, she opens up a deep personal psychological trauma, which also influences succeeding generations and enables wider generalizations than merely one family’s history. The book has been translated into many languages and has also been incorporated into school programmes to elucidate the crimes of Communism.

The world before and during the Second World War, particularly the violence toward women, is treated by putting Finnish and Estonian women’s organisations (girl scouts etc) in the foreground in Soome lahe õed (Sisters of the Gulf of Finland), initially a documentary film (2009), later in book form. The work came out in Estonian in 2012.

The repressions of the Soviet era are also the subject of a collection which appeared on the occasion of the anniversary of the deportations, initially in Finnish (2009), which appeared in Estonian in 2010: Kõige taga on hirm. Kuidas Eesti kaotas oma ajaloo ja kuidas see saadakse tagasi (‘Fear is Behind Everything. How Estonia Lost Its History and How It Is Getting It Back’). The collection was compiled with Sofi Oksanen. The work was chosen by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat as the best non-fiction book of 2009.

In 1999 Imbi Paju initiated an annual literary event, the Võtikvere Book Village. For creating it, and for promoting local life, she was awarded the medal of the White Star in 2001. In 2007 she was granted the Order of the White Star, class V, for promoting local life and for her film and journalistic work. She has also been awarded the Silver Cross of Jõgevamaa county (2008), the Culture Prize of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009), the Concord Award (2011), the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Lion in Finland, first class, and the Heli and Arnold Susi Mission Prize of the Estonian Ministry of Justice for courageous writing (2019).

A. K. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Tõrjutud mälestused. Tallinn: Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, 2007, 287 lk. [2. trükk: 2019.]
Soome lahe õed: vaadates teiste valu. Tallinn: Eesti Päevaleht, Hea Lugu, 2012, 247 lk.