Lennart Georg Meri (29 March 1929 – 14 March 2006) was a writer, film director and statesman who served as the second President of Estonia from 1992 to 2001. Meri was a leader of the Estonian independence movement.
Lennart Meri was born in Tallinn, a son of the Estonian diplomat and later Shakespeare translator Georg Meri, and Estonian Swedish mother Alice-Brigitta Engmann. With his family, Lennart left Estonia at an early age and studied abroad, in nine different schools and in four different languages. His warmest memories were from his school years in Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris. In addition to his native Estonian, Lennart Meri fluently spoke five other languages: Finnish, French, German, English and Russian.
However, the family was in Tallinn when Estonia was occupied by the armed forces of the Soviet Union in June 1940. The extended Meri family was split in the middle between those opposing and supporting the Soviet Union. Lennart's cousin Arnold Meri joined the Red Army and was soon made a Hero of the Soviet Union. In 1941, the Meri family was deported to Siberia along with thousands of other Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians sharing the same fate. Heads of the family were separated from their families and shut into concentration camps where few survived. At the age of twelve, Lennart Meri worked as a lumberman in Siberia. He also worked as a potato peeler and a rafter to support his family...
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