Jaan Kaplinski was born in 1941 in Tartu to an Estonian mother and a Polish father who disappeared in the Gulag Archipelago during the Second World War. He studied linguistics at Tartu University and worked as a researcher in linguistics, and as a sociologist, ecologist and translator from several languages into Estonian. During perestroika and the Estonian national revival he was active as a journalist both at home and abroad, and then a deputy of the Estonian Parliament (1992–5). He has lectured on the history of Western civilisation at Tartu University and published several books of poetry and essays in Estonian, Russian, Finnish and English. His work has been translated into English, Norwegian, Swedish, Latvian, Russian, Czech, Japanese, Hebrew and other languages. He has travelled in many countries, including China, Turkey, New Zealand, Peru and parts of Russia and has been awarded several literary prizes at home and abroad, among others the Vilenica prize (Slovenia), the Max Jacob prize (France) and the Russian Prize (for his book of poetry written in Russian).