The first period of independence - the Republic of Estonia 1918 - 1940
Until the revolution in 1917 in Russia, the present territory of the Republic of Estonia included two Russian provinces: Estonian province and Livonian province. But a major part of Livonian province became later the territory of the Republic of Latvia. The Republic of Estonia was declared on 24 February 1918 by the publication of the 'Manifest on the independence of Estonia' prepared by the Salvation Committee, and this day is considered the day of independence of the Estonian state. Until the Republic of Estonia was declared, the laws of the czarist Russia were applied on the territory of Estonia. On 1 April 1919 the Estonian Provisional Government adopted a temporary notaries act, which established the czarist Russian code of 1914 with partial amendments in respect of notaries on the territory of Estonia. The czarist Russian laws in respect of notaries with certain essential amendments were effective in Estonia until the occupation of the Republic of Estonia in 1940. Based on the above-mentioned act, the Minister of Justice adopted a regulation - instruction in respect of notaries, by which 39 notary posts were created in Estonia. By 1940, there were already 48 notary posts in Estonia. In 1918-1940 the so-called Latin notaries' model was applied in Estonia: notaries were public officials under the powers of the Ministry of Justice, but they were not paid their salaries by the government and were liable with all their property. To secure a claim arising from causing damage a bail was established; the failure to pay the bail could result in compulsory retirement from the post. The amounts of bail were relatively big, and at the same time the notary's liability was not limited by the bail amount. Although notaries were considered public officials, their benefits and social guarantees were essentially limited (they were not entitled to the occupational pension). An adult citizen previously unpunished by court and not employed by a state or self-government agency, who was not a member of any political organisation, could become a notary. To become a notary, a candidate had to take an examination proving his knowledge of laws and performing of notarial acts; the examination was received by a committee assigned by the Ministry of Justice. The Minister of Justice appointed a notary to the office upon a proposal of a local court, and notaries started to discharge their liabilities after giving a solemn oath of office. Although it was not required by laws that a notary should have a university degree in law, it was mandatory. The notary's post was relatively popular - on the average, there were 4 candidates to one vacant notary's post. In 1933 a Notaries' Union was formed in Estonia, which was founded pursuant to the resolution of the congress of notaries; it was a voluntary association of notaries. In case a notary fell ill or was on vacation, the notary had to find his or her substitute. If the notary was unable to find a substitute, he had to submit his office requisites temporarily to a local court for keeping. The Minister of Justice and the prosecutor supervised the activity of notaries in general. Courts kept records of the activity of notaries and of complaints filed against notaries, which were registered in respective journals.