The last ambassador

August Torma, soldier, diplomat, spy


Estonian ambassador August Torma had a protracted and unconventional relationship with the British Foreign Office. Appointed to the Court of St James’s in 1934, Torma lost his government in 1940 when the Soviet Union overran his country, but continued to live at the legation in London and visit the Foreign Office. Gradually, however, his diplomatic standing was eroded because of Soviet demands. For Torma there was the very real fear that Britain might recognise the Soviet occupation of his homeland and he continued to reiterate his faith in international law in the hope that Estonia’s stolen independence would be restored one day. He died in 1971, twenty years before the country regained its lost freedom. This book is a biography of Torma who had a remarkable life: he assisted in the creation of the Estonian state in 1918–20, worked for it during the inter-war period and struggled to keep its cause alive during and after the Second World War; it is also a study of the awkward relationship between the ambassador and the Foreign Office that lasted for more than three decades.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
"Tina Tamman’s biography of August Torma (1885-1971) sheds welcome new light on the history of independent Estonia, as well as the long decades of Soviet domination during which Torma stayed on in London as Estonia’s “last ambassador.“ … Tammanshows great insight into the strengths and weaknesses of Torma’s personality … the book is […] generously illustrated." – in: Diplomact and Statescraft 23/3 (2012)
"A poignant portrait … I took this book on holiday with me, read it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it … a thought-provoking glimpse into a vanished world." – Edward Lucas, The Economist
List of illustrations
David J Smith and John Hiden: Foreword: August Torma and the importance of small states
The making of an “officer-diplomat” (1895–1930)
First World War and British intervention
Estonian military representative in Kaunas
Head of Foreign Ministry’s political department
Estonian relations with Russia
Estonian-Russian prisoner and spy exchanges
Estonia on the fringes of Europe (1931–1939)
Difficulties in Baltic cooperation
Estonian minister in London
Estonia in crisis (1939–1940)
Estonian-Russian mutual assistance pact
Russian-Finnish war and Estonian neutrality
Soviet occupation begins on 17 June 1940
Keep calm and carry on (1940–1944)
The question of an Estonian government
Baltic envoys demoted
Campaign for a fair deal for small nations
Maintaining the London legation (1944–1971)
Estonian refugees
Britain accords partial recognition to Soviet annexation
The London legation’s financial problems
The KGB identifies Torma as a British agent
  • Collapse
  • Expand