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Tartu Gymnasium for Girls

Great changes in 1917

A national university

The statesman

A great man of the nation


Town schools

In the autumn of 1888 when Peeter was 10 he entered Rakvere Town School, as his maternal grandmother offered him room and board. Due to her death he did not remain very long at Rakvere.
Peeter was admitted to Narva Town School in 1890, and as he was a high achiever, he was a credit to the name of his teacher father.
He studied at Narva Gymnasium from 1893 to 1898, enjoying the recognition of his peers and his strict teacher. There was a joke about him: veni, vidi, vici (he came, he saw, he conquered)!
In his second year in gymnasium Peeter started working as a tutor and he contributed the money he earned, 20 – 30 roubles a month, to the family income. He was a good teacher, but working in addition to studying was a heavy load, which gave rise to one of his bad habits – ruining his health by working through the night.
Despite his lack of free time the young man never neglected his hobbies – reading, playing the flute in the school orchestra, taking long walks and excursions.

Peeter was a model student and was held in the headmaster’s highest esteem until his final year at school, when there was an unexpected clash caused by his choice of future studies. The headmaster considered the talented young man best suited for a career as a lawyer and that he should continue his studies at the Law Faculty at St. Petersburg University. But the top graduate had decided differently – to study theology at Tartu University. Instead of the expected gold medal at graduation he was awarded a silver medal, which he later donated to the collection of funds to support the Estonian War of Independence.

Tartu University

His university years (1898 – 1906) were decisive in the development of Peeter Põld’s personality. He studied with deep concentration and excelled through his superior motivation, dedication and diligence, strong will and varied interests. In addition to theological literature he studied the works of philosophers and often liked to debate issues concerning the philosophy of life.
Peeter Põld joined the Estonian Students Society even before completing his university admission. That society had a leading role in organising students and developing national sentiment and it also had a great influence on his becoming an ideologist and statesman. Peeter Põld was chairman of the Estonian Student Society from January 1902 to October 2, 1903.
The most significant event in the history of the society was the opening of the new building of the Estonian Student Society. On August 29, 1902 during the official ceremony after the dedication by Jakob Hurt, the students were addressed by the chairman of the organisation, Peeter Põld. He then made a longer speech after “Vivat Academia” was sung and described the past events and presented the future goals of the student society.
The society had two main objectives - strengthening relations among its members, and studying the Estonian language, history and culture and disseminating the results. They wanted to motivate young people to fight for the rights of Estonians and Estonian culture. Peeter Põld was one of the most active speakers at meetings of the society: he participated in the work of the literature commission and with his brother Harald was a lecturer of courses in Estonian language. He also took an active part in musical activities and he sang in the quartet and the double quartet of the Estonian Students Society.

Photo: Student Peeter Põld, April 24, 1904. Private collection

Dedication of the Estonian Students Society building, August 29, 1902. Estonian Museum of Literature

The Estonian Students Society quartet,
December 12, 1904. Private collection

Peeter Põld (Cand. Theol.) et altera, May 27, 1907.
Private collection
Peeter Põld wrote in his biography:

I finished gymnasium in the spring of 1898; in August of the same year I became a student of the theological faculty at Tartu University because of my interest in the matter and my own internal compulsion. I spent 8 years at the university being all the time the member of the Estonian Students Union. I took my final examination in October 1906 and was awarded the honourable title of a candidate. I want to start work as a teacher.

Postimees 1857 – 1907. Commemorating the 50th anniversary. Tartu, 1909, p. 224

In 1907 Peeter Põld was awarded the degree of the Candidate of Theology for his study “Pius IX and the clerical state in 1848 and 1849”.