A genuine nationalist or a laborious landlord?

Anneli Ammas
, reporter
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Photo: Margus Ansu

Standing ovations were the lot of EKRE head Mart Helme addressing the public in Tartu, as part of party's spring tour.

«Mart Helme for President!» sound audiences small and large, to the former diplomat with a country gentleman aura. 

He has a lot to say, and exactly what both simple people and those highly educated are nowadays willing to hear.

Obviously not too pleased with any question with an air of doubt towards his fluent and confident speech, but thankfully there are not many of such present.

Regarding the Presidential issue, he is sticking to modest line. And there is no hurry, as at Riigikogu Mart Helme could not be set up with the seven EKRE votes, and his chances lay in the broader post-Riigikogu electorate body. There – local government representatives added – his 21 votes are as good as secured.

Born in tragic times

Born in 1949, Mr Helme is a graduate of Pärnu 2nd Secondary School, and University of Tartu as historian in 1973.

Having acted as executive director of Estonian Union of Writers, he served in foreign ministry since 1994 and was in 1995 appointed as Estonian ambassador to Russia by President Lennart Meri.

Returning from there as term expired, he was vice chancellor at foreign ministry, followed by the job of a counsellor for minister of agriculture.    

From there, he became adviser to MEP Tunne Kelam while working as teacher and heading the publishing house Kunst.

During the occupation years, Mart Helme played bass guitar and sung in several bands including the early Fix.  

The war and farm background

From EKRE website, we learn of his grandfather fighting in the War of Independence for which he got decorated with Cross of Liberty – and a farmstead.

His father, in his turn, was veteran of Estonian Legion so while child little Mart was hearing all these stories of battles and wars.

Country living played a large role, especially towards the end of 1980ies when grocery stores were empty and people by their thousands were tilling whatever land they had. 


Mart Helme joined the Estonian diplomatic service in 1994. In 1995, he was appointed as the Estonian ambassador to Russia by President Lennart Meri. His tenure lasted until 1999. While in Moscow, he took part of the border negotiations with Russia.

From 2003 to 2005, Mr Helme was a member of the agrarian-centrist People's Union of Estonia. In 2012, when the party merged with the Estonian Patriotic Movement, Mr Helme became a member of the new Conservative People's Party of Estonia. A year later, he was elected its leader.

He has said: «Estonian politicians should honestly admit that our choice is between staying with those who are creating a United States of Europe and joining those who desire a Europe of nation states. The Conservative People's Party doesn't see a place for Estonia in United States of Europe.»

In 2015 parliamentary election, Mr Helme was elected into the parliament with 6,714 individual votes.