Arvo Krikmann was born on July 21, 1939, in Virumaa county, Pudivere village. In 1946-1950 he studied in Pudivere elementary school, followed by middle school years in Simuna (1950-1953) and high school in Väike-Maarja (1953-1957). In 1957 he started his studies in the department of history and linguistics at the University of Tartu, graduating as Estonian philologist in 1962. After graduation, Arvo Krikmann was assigned to work at the Estonian Literary Museum, where he worked until 1969. In 1973-1977 he studied for his postgraduate degree at the Institute of Language and Literature and in 1975 defended his thesis on the content and world view of proverbs. He later worked in the folklore section of the Institute, followed by working as Senior Fellow at the department of computational linguistics, Principal Researcher at the Institute of Estonian Language and finally, in 2000-2014, Senior Researcher at the Estonian Literary Museum.
Arvo Krikmann's bibliography includes numerous articles and monographs. Next to his monumental publications of Estonian proverbs (Eesti vanasõnad I-IV, 1980–1988), Estonian riddles (Eesti mõistatused I-III, 2001–2013) and studies into short forms of folklore, Krikmann has compiled publications for more popular purposes, the methods, prefaces and afterwords of which have been of the highest scholarly merit. In 1997 he published the exceptional study "Insights into short forms of folklore I: Fundamental concepts, genre relations, general problems", defending it for his PhD in 1998. During the last decades, Arvo Krikmann applied methods from cognitive linguistics on folkloric data and furthered considerably studies in Estonian humour. His scientific works were internationally widely known and appreciated.
Side by side with publishing research, he was a highly valued professor at the University of Tartu since 1990s. He supervised five doctoral theses and held lectures on short forms of folklore, folk humour, semantics and theories of figurative of speech. Since 1997 he was a member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, belonged to a number of international scientific organisations, editorial boards, steering committees and scientific councils.
Arvo Krikmann was the recipient of Third class Order of the White Star, National Research Award, Estonian Cultural Endowment's Annual Award, Baltic Assembly Prize, and Finnish Kalevala Society Allhallows Prize. In 2014, he received the Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann's language prize for studying short forms of folklore, introducing linguistic methods to folkloristics, studying humour both humorously and analytically, and internationally disseminating his research on Estonian heritage.
His colleagues and students will remember him as an exceptionally brilliant scholar with extensive erudition and wonderful sense of humour; a great person.
Department of Folkloristics at the Estonian Literary Museum