Albert Pullerits (1892–1967)

Albert Pullerits was a central person in the creation of Estonian official statistical system. His outstanding organising ability quickly placed Estonia among Europe's progressive countries in terms of statistics. At the same time, his colourful life is a vivid example of the fate of Estonians in the changing conditions of the 20th century. Little information can be found on him in reference books. We can refer only to the biographic lexicon (Eesti biograafilise leksikoni täiendusköide, 1940). This short description of the life of Albert Pullerits has been compiled on the basis of archival documents.

Albert Pullerits was born on 8 January (on 20 January according to the new style) 1892 in Holstre rural municipality of Viljandi county as a son of the headmaster of the Pullerits primary school. He studied at the local primary school and got his secondary education at the upper secondary school of Pärnu. After finishing the upper secondary school, he studied at the higher agricultural courses of the St Petersburg State Agrarian University during 1911–1915. These studies were of practical nature: studies alternated with long practice periods in various places of Russia.

He himself writes about his practice sites as follows. “In the summer of 1912 I spent 7 months dealing with agricultural research in Semstvo, Smolensk Governorate (guberniya); in 1913 I worked 6 months at the same place as a senior official. In 1914 I did research on the Mariinski system and shipping activities for 3 months working as an official for the Ministry of Transport. From June 1914 to April 1915, I worked as head of the Semstvo group of basic economic research in the Smolensk Governorate."

Working in Smolensk was interrupted by military service in the army of the Tsar in 1915–1917, after that he held different positions in the region of Kuban. The following list of positions was compiled by Pullerits himself.

“From 1 July until 1 August 1917, I worked as head of the agricultural and cadastral department of the Semstvo statistics and economy bureau in the Stavropol Governorate, since August as deputy head of the bureau. I worked as the acting head of the bureau starting from 1 January 1918 and as the head of the bureau starting from 28.02.1918 until the liquidation thereof on 1 August 1918. Then, I started work as the head of agricultural statistics department of the Don Cossacks Government and held this position until 1 August 1919. On this date, the Kuban Cossacks Government offered me a post of the head of commercial, industrial and transport statistics; I accepted the post and held it until 1 March 1920. At the same time, I also became a member of the Kuban export committee. In connection with the invasion of bolsheviks into Kuban, I was mobilized as statistiker (a statistician) and appointed as the head of agricultural department of the central statistical bureau of the Kuban – Black Sea Governorate. I worked at this post until 1 October 1920.”

The application he had written earlier for returning to Estonia was satisfied and in January 1921 Albert Pullerits arrived in Estonia together with his family. At that time, there were three members in his family: besides him, his wife Ludmilla Prohodovskaja – a Polish woman of noble birth, and their daughter Eugenie – born in 1918. In his application for return to Estonia he has written, “If I find a job – it will be in the field of statistics no matter where; if I do not find a job, I will go to the Puide farm in Hummuli rural municipality.” Puide farm was Pullerits’ homestead.

The need for an experienced statistician was so urgent that already on 1 March 1921 Albert Pullerits started working as the acting head of the State Statistical Central Bureau of the Republic of Estonia. Starting from 25 August he worked as the Head of Central Bureau. The position of Head was renamed Director on 7 September 1927.The primary task of the State Statistical Central Bureau was to join the small units dealing with statistics, merge them and start systematic collection and dissemination of statistical information on the state level, following the example of Western European countries.

Besides organisational work, there arose a need to create a periodical publication for presenting official statistics. This task was completed surprisingly quickly – already in 1922 a monthly bulletin Eesti Statistika (Estonian statistics) was published on a regular basis. 10–12 issues of the monthly bulletin were published per year until 1939. Exceptionally, 16 issues were published in 1926. Changes in the public order were instantly reflected in the issue of the periodical: six issues were published in 1940, under the German rule ten more issues were published in 1942 and five issues in 1943. Then a long pause followed and the periodical was published again during 1992–2008. In 2009, the monthly bulletin was replaced by a quarterly bulletin.

The team working on it could accomplish a lot during the first years. At the beginning, Pullerits himself also wrote leading articles, but later his colleagues took responsibility for such kind of articles and Pullerits was mainly in charge of editing the books promoting Estonia and ensured efficient organisation work. The presentation style characteristic of the statistical material of the 1920s was already revealed in his first article on Estonian economic life (“Eesti majandusline elu“, 1922). A characteristic feature of the diagrams and tables incorporated in the publications of that time was that multidimensional information was presented on a two-dimensional surface. A diagram in the calendar Kaja illustrating the utilisation of Estonia’s territory displays the size of Estonia’s territory in comparison with other European countries as well as the distribution of its area by spheres of activity. The same idea was successfully used in three Estonian statistical albums published in 1925 and 1928.

Organisation of statistical activities in the homeland Estonia developed hand in hand with participation in international statistical activities. In 1926, Albert Pullerits became the first Estonian who was elected a member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI). This step sparked participation in a series of ISI conferences in Brussels, Rome, Warsaw, Tokio and Athens. The 1928 conference in Rome took place at the same time as the primary meeting of the International Agricultural Institute where Pullerits represented Estonia. In the autumn of the same year, he prepresented Estonia at the economy statistics conference of the League of Nations in Geneva. His career record sets out frequent business trips to Kaunas and Riga with a purpose of attending the Baltic countries as well as Estonian-Latvian statistics conferences. Active involvement in statistical life soon found recognition abroad. In 1928, Albert Pullerits was elected as honorary member of the Hungarian Statistical Association. In 1932 he became a member of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences, and in 1936 a member of the Econometric Society of America.

In addition to being at the head of the State Statistical Central Bureau, Albert Pullerits actively took part in the establishment of the Institute of Economic Research and in organising activities of this Institute. In 1930 the Head of the Chancery of State and the Minister of Agriculture authorised him to office as the chairman of the board of Põllumajanduslik Konjunktuurbüroo (the agricultural economic research bureau). In 1930–1934 the economic research bureau issued a serial publication Põllumajandusturg (agricultural market) with Pullerits as the editor-in-chief. This agency developed into the Institute of Economic Research and in 1935 Pullerits was appointed as the director thereof by the decision of the President. In 1940 the Institute of Economic Research started to issue two periodical publications whereas Pullerits was the editor-in-chief for both of them. Prior to that, a periodical “Konjunktuurinstituudi uurimused” (research by the Institute of Economic Research) was published and an article by Pullerits “Piimamajandus maailmas” (dairy farming in the world) was published in the second issue thereof in 1937.

Little is known about the life of Albert Pullerits after 1940. According to the research carried out to study his family history, he worked as the Director of State Statistical Central Bureau until it was closed due to a change in the public order. According to archival documents, the Lord Mayor of Tallinn appointed him as the Director of the Tallinn Statistical Bureau on 21 September 1941 and released him from office on 20 November of the same year due to his transfer to another position. On 1 September 1941, Eesti Statistika Valitsus (Estonian Statistics Administration) was set up with Pullerits as its Director. This agency terminated activities in September 1944. According to the research on his family history, in 1944 Pullerits and his wife emigrated to Germany, where their daughter already lived with her family. The daughter’s family took mother to live with them and moved to the USA later. Albert Pullerits died in Germany in 1967. No data are available on his activities in 1944–1967.

Source: Kollo, T. (2006). Eesti riigistatistika rajaja Albert Pullerits. – Eesti piirkondlik areng. Eesti Statistikaseltsi teabevihik No. 17, pp. 107–113 (only in Estonian).