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Archival Historian Arnold Soom (3 June 1900 – 28 July 1977)

This article is dedicated to the Estonian-Swedish eco- nomic historian Arnold Soom, who was born on 3 June 1900 in Vao rural municipality in Viru County. In 1922, Soom was accepted as a student at the University of Tartu Faculty of Philosophy. His academic supervisor over the course of his university studies was the histori- an of Finnish origin Professor Arno Rafael Cederberg. His university course ended in 1930 with the defence of his diploma dissertation Church and School Conditions in Saaremaa during the Great Northern War, for which Soom was ascribed a magister philosophiae degree. Soom worked as an archivist at the Central National Archives alongside his university studies and as the director of Narva’s municipal archive and museum in 1930–1940. Since he was familiar with modern archival science, Soom started reorganising the collections of the Narva Municipal Archive. By the end of the 1930’s, the Narva Municipal Archive was one of the best or- ganised provincial archives in Estonia. In parallel with his work as an archivist, Soom dedicated himself in the 1930’s to researching the history of trade of Estonian cities and primarily Narva in the first half of the 17th century, focusing on the economic policies of Sweden’s central authorities, and primarily on the role of Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna in bringing transit trade with Russia back from Archangel to the Baltic Sea in the first half of the 17th century. Soom defended his doctoral dissertation on this theme in 1940.

Soom came to Tallinn at the beginning of the Soviet occupation in 1940. He was appointed deputy director of the ESSR Central State Archive and in February of 1941, he became acting director of that same archive. Estonia’s entire archival system was under Soom’s direction during the years of German occupation.  He  was  also  the  director  of  the  State Library in 1941–1944. At the end of August 1944, Soom fled with his family to Sweden ahead of the advancing  Soviet  Army.  Sweden  became  his  new homeland and he became a Swedish citizen in 1954.

Thanks to the experience he gained in archival work in his Estonian homeland, Soom immediately succeeded in finding work in the autumn of 1944 at the  Swedish  National  Archives  in  Stockholm.  His greatest undertaking at the National Archives was the reorganisation of the Livonica II collection containing 16th and 17th century archival records concerning the territory of present day Estonia and Latvia. Thanks to the opportunity to thoroughly study materials of Swedish archives, Soom’s pen produced monographs on Estonia’s manorial estate economy in the 17th cen- tury (1954) and the Baltic grain trade (1961). Soom published a monograph on Tallinn’s trade (1968) and Tallinn’s craftsmen (1971) on the basis of materials from Tallinn’s Municipal Archives, which were de- posited in Göttingen, Germany. These monographs brought  Soom  international  recognition.  A  study concerning the economic problems of Sweden’s Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna’s complex of ma- norial estates in Estland was not completed.

Soom was by his nature an archival historian first and foremost who did not allow himself to be swept along by great and modern historical theories, which often emerged only momentarily. His research papers abound with facts and it is difficult to find supplemen- tation to them in the form of new archival records.

Arnold Soom died on 28 July 1977 and is buried in Stockholm’s Forest Cemetery.