The History PhD programme aims to prepare researchers, lecturers and other academic staff in the broad fields of history, including archaeology and art history.

Study level PhD studies

Duration of study 4 years

Language Estonian English

In doing this, the programme is first and foremost meant to supervise the students in developing the required skills for independent research. The students get an in-depth knowledge of contemporary approaches in the humanities and in cultural theory.

Concerning the PhD programme in Art History, we welcome first of all people who are interested in pre-modern art and interdisciplinary studies in Visual Culture. In Archeology, we welcome projects relating to the prehistory of Estonia and its neighbours, especially in the late Iron Age, but also topics in the field of urban archeology. In history, we welcome projects in all fields related to the past of the Baltic States, Russia and Europe in general, but also topics related to Baltic-German (Cultural) History and Environmental History/Studies.

Meet some of the PhD students of our School of Humanities

In 2024, we primarily expect candidates who wish to research topics related to the Baltic Sea and the Eastern European region.

Junior researcher will be employed by the university PhD student is not employed by the university
One PhD junior researcher position One PhD student position
One PhD junior researcher position to do research for the project The “Soviet West” Revisited: Individual and Collective Agency in the Contact Zones of Everyday Life in the Estonian SSR  
Three junior researcher positions will be distributed by the admission board during the admission period  

Why study with us?

  • The doctoral study programme of history was opened in 2003. It developed further according to the international traditions of doctoral study organisation, introducing the best practices whenever possible in the Estonian setting. As a result, the number of doctoral students has increased reasonably and evenly.
  • Doctoral students are supervised individually. The actual study process is partly organised in the form of general courses, whereas the remainder of the time schedule takes into account the individual necessities and opportunities of the student; doctoral seminars take place both as subject-based and as part of the series of seminars in the School of Humanities, and doctoral students are involved in the projects of the School and in the teaching process whenever possible.
  • The study programme design takes into account that doctoral students need to go to work and is focused on the completion of the doctoral thesis.
  • The programme expects the junior researcher to concentrate entirely on PhD studies and have no other work commitments.

Course Outline

Full-time studies

  • PhD studies consist of a course component and a thesis component. Many of the courses are based on individual work and demand close co-operation with the supervisor.
  • Some subject courses and all general courses will have contact meetings. Not all the general courses will be offered in English every year.
  • PhD students must participate in the PhD seminars throughout their studies.
  • The official full-time study period of PhD studies is four years.

Core course components

The central forum for the History PhD students is the special seminar organised for them where they can present and discuss their projects. The students are supervised in other fields of academic work: taking part in a conference, giving a presentation, writing (and reviewing) articles etc. The most important part of the teaching process is carried out on an individual basis. 

Study programme 2022/23

Academic Staff

Karsten Brüggemann is the Professor of Estonian and General History at the School of Humanities of Tallinn University. He received his PhD in history from the University of Hamburg in 1999 with a study of the Russian Civil War in the Baltic region: Die Gründung der Republik Estland und das Ende des ‚Einen und Unteilbaren Rußland‘ (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2002). In 2013, he defended his habilitation at the University of Gießen with a study on the perception of the Baltic provinces in Russian imperial culture that is scheduled to be published in 2017 under the title Licht und Luft des Imperiums. Legimitations- und Repräsentationsstrategien russischer Herrschaft in den Ostseeprovinzen im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz).

He is the author of an analysis of musical mass culture in the USSR in the 1930s, Von Krieg zu Krieg, von Sieg zu Sieg (Hamburg: Kovač, 2002), a history of Tallinn, co-authored with Ralph Tuchtenhagen (Tallinn. Eine kleine Geschichte, Köln: Böhlau, 2011; in Estonian published as Tallinna ajalugu, Tallinn: Varrak, 2013) and numerous articles on Baltic and Russian history. Together with Ralph Tuchtenhagen he is the editor of a three-volume history of the Baltic States. He is co-editor (with Mati Laur) of the journal Forschungen zur baltischen Geschichte and member of the editorial board of Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung. Since 2011 he serves as Vice President of Baltische Historische Kommission.

Main research interests: connected with Russian and Soviet history include the history of the Baltic States, civil wars and wars of independence, the cultural history of Stalinism and Late Socialism, national narratives and memory cultures as well as the history of sport and tourism.

Ulrike Plath is the Professor of German History and Culture in the Baltic Region – a professorship that was launched in 2012 by German State financing to ensure sustainable research on German heritage in the Baltics in the 21st century. Ulrike has Baltic German roots, she studied in Hamburg, Tartu and Greifswald and received her PhD from Mainz University. She has mainly dealt with 18th and 19th century studies, the history of Baltic German culture and literature, and, more recently, with environmental history looking at history from a transnational perspective.

Her recent research and teaching covers topics that bring local and global phenomena together – as for example in the Baltic German food history, Baltic climate and agrarian history, transnational and social history of the region.



Kersti Markus is the Professor of Art History, senior research fellow in Medieval Studies and head of the study area of History of School of Humanities. She has studied at Tartu University, Vienna University and in the Swedish Institute in Rome. She received her PhD in art history from the University of Stockholm and spend a year in Germany as a Humboldt fellow.

She has experimented with the use of visual sources in history writing, especially regarding the history of Baltic Sea region in the Middle ages. The focus of the research concerns the visual culture and political history in 12th-13th century Scandinavia and Estonia. Additionally, she deals with the history of Art History, methodological issues and landscape studies.

Study Support Facilities

  • Students can use the services of the libraries of the university and the National Library of Estonia which is located in Tallinn. These institutions offer a wide range of electronic data bases to their users.
  •  Additionally, the Estonian capital houses many archives, museums and art collections, which offer many research opportunities for PhD students. The members of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Art History are ready to support students with their indepth knowledge in their respective fields. Academic journals edited by the Institute are open for contributions by promising young scholars. 
  • The staff of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Art History deals first and foremost with all periods in Estonian and Baltic history in a broad regional context (Scandinavia, Russia and East-Central Europe) from the time of the crusades till the fall of the Soviet Union. The competence of the staff is related to fields like cultural history, diplomatic, socio-economic and military history, the history of migrations, environmental history, memory studies, the history of reformation, education and "soft issues" like tourism and sports. The staff also focuses on transnational aspects and, especially concerning the earlier periods, issues related to visual and material culture.
  • A central event in the academic life of the Institute of History, Archeology and Art History is the biannial Conference on Modern History of Estonia, which has been held in the Estonian capital regularly since 1989. PhD students are especially welcomed to present their projects during this traditional meeting of international specialists in the field.
  • Additionally, students are invited to take part in the work of the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Centre for Environmental History where guest lectures and smaller workshops are held. Recently, on the initiative of our students, a special conference for younger scholars has been organised that is meant first and foremost to encourage closer contacts with academia in Latvia and Lithuania. Read more here.
  • Regularly, international conferences for MA and PhD students are being organised by Prof. Karsten Brüggemann in Germany 
  • The PhD studies are supported by the activities of the Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts.
  • Funding: Harno

Admission Requirements

  • Completed Master’s degree or the equivalent.
  • Proof of English Proficiency.

Read more here

Additional admission criteria in 2024

In 2024, we primarily expect candidates who wish to research topics related to the Baltic Sea and the Eastern European region.

During the application period (20 May -01 July) the candidates should upload into the application database:

1) The research proposal that has been expanded and enhanced in cooperation with the prospective supervisor (length approx. 5 pages / 2500 words without the list of sources), which contains at least the following components:

  • The topic of the research project;
  • The objectives of the research and main research question(s);
  • Overview of methods to be used and/or of main terminology;
  • The overview of the state of the art of the topic;
  • Overview what topic related research the candidate has done prior to application;
  • Overview of the contents of the intended research;
  • Prognosis on the possible primary results of the research;
  • Primary list of the sources and literature to be used in the research;
  • The timeline-schedule of the research (incl. information on research to be conducted abroad, like Erasmus visits to other universities, visiting libraries and archives abroad etc.).

If the research contains fieldwork: the description of the scope, length, and financing (both the projected budget and sources of financing).

The project candidates must also clarify how their topic is related to the project and what activities they will carry out as part of it. For non-project related topics clarification why this research should specifically be carried out at Tallinn University School of Humanities.

2) Expanded vision of the teaching assignments to be carried out during the PhD studies (max. 2 pages). It should give information on courses or course components to be taught, the role of the PhD candidate, and should be accepted by the prospective supervisor. (During the four years of PhD studies the students are expected to assist at least in three courses or seminars and to teach or co-teach at least one course / seminar).

3) CV (including a list of candidate’s publications)

4) A proof of English proficiency

Admission exam

The admission exam is an interview that is conducted based on the research proposal and other documents submitted by the candidate. The candidates for junior researcher position should have a very clear idea how long their studies will take. The interview take place in July and candidates will be contacted to arrange the exact time.

The assessment criteria

The following aspects will be assessed:

  • The academic competences of the candidate (incl. suitability of prior education, other knowledge and qualifications supporting the research topic, suitability of language skills for the intended research) [max. 35 points]
  • Research project / proposal (incl. topicality and interdisciplinarity, the contents of the research, intended methods, suitability for the profile of the School of Humanities or connection with the project) [max. 35 points]
  • Teaching competences (incl. the candidate’s suitability to teaching at the School of Humanities) [max. 20 points]
  • General motivation to study at PhD level (and to contribute towards a project) [max. 10 points]

The subtotal maximum points a candidate can obtain is 100.

The examination board will assess each candidate individually based on the criteria. Each board member will assess the candidates based on the submitted materials. The board members will discuss the candidates and decide if they should / should not be invited for an interview. During the interview all board members may ask questions. Afterwards there is a discussion among the board members and a shortlist of candidates to be offered a PhD position is created based on the mutual agreement of the board members.

See also the detailed guidelines on application procedure at Tallinn University site.

The “Soviet West” Revisited: Individual and Collective Agency in the Contact Zones of Everyday Life in the Estonian SSR

The PhD candidate is expected to conduct individual research within the framework of the project The “Soviet West” Revisited: Individual and Collective Agency in the Contact Zones of Everyday Life in the Estonian SSR and its sub-fields: labour, education, culture and leisure. Potential topics include, but are not limited to, youth (sub-)cultures, nutrition and food culture, ageing, social welfare, transborder contacts. To strengthen our expertise in the everyday life of the “Soviet West”, we encourage students to apply also from outside Estonia, especially from Latvia or Lithuania.  

Linguistic requirements: 
•    English (C1 minimum)
•    passive knowledge of Russian
•    Knowledge of Estonian (alternatively Latvian or Lithuanian) is an asset

Other requirements:
•    MA in History or a related discipline (e.g., anthropology, cultural or literary studies) 
•    Experience in oral history is an asset

Supervisor: Karsten Brüggemann

Notable Alumni

​"Sometimes research is done simply for it's own sake. You can do it too."

  • Browse his PhD thesis here.

"During my PhD studies I was researching the development of history teaching, and how it evolved from the Soviet period into the history teaching of Independent Estonia. This topic is close to my heart since I was a participant in this process of change while holding various administrative positions. I started to teach didactics in university in 2004. The PhD studies enhanced my knowledge in the field of Education and enabled me to polish my research skills; both enable me to be a better lecturer and better supervisor of my students".

Postgraduate Destinations

Graduate career options

A doctoral diploma enables working in employment positions that require a doctoral degree, as managers and top level experts in Estonian, EU and international institutions, also as researchers, lecturers and leading specialists in the fields of history, art history, and archaeology.

Further study opportunities

With a PhD obtained from Tallinn University, one can apply for PostDoc positions all over the world or continue individual academic development.

Contact Us!

  • Specific questions regarding the programme should be directed to the School of Humanities:
    Maris Peters

aDdressNarva mnt 25, 10120 Tallinn


  • For additional guidelines regarding admission procedure please contact the international admission specialist. 


Related programmes

Studies of Cultures

School of Humanities

Our Studies of Cultures is an umbrella PhD study programme covering fields like Cultural Theory, Estonian Literature and Culture, English Literature and Culture, German Literature and Culture, Romance Studies, Russian Literature and Culture, Middle Eastern and Asian Literatures and Cultures, Cultural Geography, Philosophy, and Social and Cultural Anthropology.

PhD studies
View curriculum