No. 40



Nikolai Maim as the Founder of the Faculty of Law at the Estonian National University and as a Legal Scholar*

  • Lea Leppik

    Associate Professor in Legal History, University of Tartu

  • Marju Luts-Sootak

    Professor of Legal History, University of Tartu

  • Hesi Siimets-Gross

    Associate Professor in Legal History and Roman Law, University of Tartu

Nikolai Maim (1884–1976) was the only professor present at the opening of the Faculty of Law of the Estonian-language University of Tartu on 1 December 1919.

He was the first Dean of the Faculty of Law, and is regarded the person who built it up. Maim was the son of a businessman in Tartu, obtained his legal education at the law faculty of Saint Petersburg University, and passed his final exams in Moscow. In 1915, he was the first Estonian to pass the Master’s exam in Law at the University of Tartu. In 1915–1917, Maim worked in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. Among other things, he drew up the implementation provisions of the law on the autonomy of Estonia, passed after the 1917 February Revolution, which made it possible to actually enact the law. In 1917, Maim returned to Estonia and worked for a while in Tallinn at the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs and in the Estonian Constituent Assembly. In 1919–1924, Maim was the acting Professor of Constitutional Law at University of Tartu, in 1924–1928 the Extraordinary Professor, and until 1944 the Ordinary Professor. In the spring of 1920, Maim organized the restitution of the belongings of the library of the University of Tartu from Russia. In September 1944, Maim emigrated to Germany, and in 1946–1950, he was the Extraordinary Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at the University of Marburg. After moving to the United States with his family in 1950, Maim was active in Estonian societies, but failed to find work as an academic.

In 1928, Maim defended the first doctoral thesis in law at the Estonian-language University of Tartu, with a monograph (in Russian) on parliamentarism and sovereignty. In 1934, Maim came up with the idea of ‘mundology’, which was supposed to ensure the universal order of peace. He developed his theory of mundology further in works published after World War II. Maim was certainly one of the most remarkable Estonian legal scholars of his time. In fact, the international importance and topicality of his views have increased over time.

* Peer-reviewed article