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Uku Masing
Estonian philosopher

Uku Masing

Uku Masing
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Estonian philosopher
Was Religious scholar Linguist Philosopher Author Poet Translator Theologian Writer
From Estonia
Field Literature Religion Philosophy Social science
Gender male
Birth 11 August 1909, Raikküla Parish
Death 25 April 1985, Tartu (aged 75 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


Uku Masing (born Hugo Albert Masing, 11 August 1909 – 25 April 1985) was an Estonian philosopher. He was a significant figure in Estonian religious philosophy. Masing also wrote poetry, mostly on religious issues. Masing authored one novel, Rapanui vabastamine ehk Kajakad jumalate kalmistul (Liberation of Rapanui, or Seagulls at the Cemetery of Gods) in the late 1930s, which was published posthumously in 1989. As a folklorist, he was a distinguished researcher of fairy tales, contributing to the international Encyclopedia of the Folktale. He was awarded the Righteous Among The Nations by Yad Vashem and the Israeli Supreme Court for his participation during the Holocaust in helping a Jew in Estonia escape capture from 1941 until the end of the war. His actions exposed him to great danger during this period requiring him to meet with his friend as well as lying to the Gestapo.

Early life

Masing was born in Lipa village, Raikküla Parish, Rapla County, on 11 August 1909 as Hugo Albert Masing. His parents were Ado Masing and Anna Masing. He had one sibling, a younger sister named Agnes Masing (married surname, Saag) born in 1911. A gifted polyglot, he was able to speak four languages by the end of secondary school and forty by the end of his life. He started to study theology at the University of Tartu in 1926. During his time there and after the graduation he published numerous poems, translations, and essays. His most famous work was in 1935 with the publication of Promontories Into the Gulf of Rains (Estonian: Neemed vihmade lahte).

Masing was a member of the influential group of Estonian poets brought together in 1938 by literary scholar Ants Oras, who was greatly influenced by T. S. Eliot. The small circle of poets became known as Arbujad ("Soothsayers") and included Heiti Talvik, Betti Alver, Paul Viiding, Mart Raud, Bernard Kangro, August Sang and Kersti Merilaas.

At his peak Masing was able to speak around 65 languages with the ability to translate from 20 of them. In particular. he was known for his ability to translate straight from original Hebrew, occidental European and oriental languages into Estonian. Such was his prolific nature it is estimated over 10,000 pages of his manuscripts have yet to be published. Masing was known for his anti-German sentiment, that was the core of what at times was Masing's general dislike of the Indo-European people (whom he sometimes called 'ethnic garbage' and referred to as Indo-Germanic people).

Righteous Among the Nations award

Masing lectured at the University of Tartu in Estonia, where he was known as a brilliant teacher of theology and Semitic languages, if somewhat eccentric. After the invasion by the German Army he gave up his teaching post at the university and devoted his time to protecting and salvaging Jewish cultural and religious items.

Masing knew the Jewish Isidor Levin from his teaching days, and decided to hide from the occupiers who most certainly would have brought him to death. Masing and his wife Eha helped Levin evade capture by supplying him with food, shelter, clothing and even forged documents, while on occasions lying to the Gestapo about knowledge of Isidor. For these actions, Masing and his wife were honoured as Righteous Among the Nations. After the war, Masing also took part in investigating Nazi war crimes, in particular the Klooga concentration camp where many Jews had been killed.

Selection of scientific works

About Uku Masing

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