Vabamu Annonuces Appointment of New CEO

After a rigorous search the Vabamu Supervisory Council unanimously appointed Karen Jagodin as CEO of Vabamu. Karen is a current management board member and since 2019 has been Vabamu’s Chief Operating Officer.

Karen Jagodin commented: “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead Vabamu. Our  mission to understand and acknowledge our recent history and thereby our freedom is more important than ever. The personal fate of the museum’s founder, Olga Kistler-Ritso, who fled Estonia as a refugee herself, speaks to everyone in the country through obvious parallels. I believe it is important that more young people get involved in Vabamu’s activities, because it’s vital that they realise just how fragile a thing freedom really is and that it can’t be taken for granted.”


Merilin Piipuu, Estonian Under-Secretary of Culture, former CEO of Vabamu and a member of the Vabamu Supervisory Council commented:

“Karen Jagodin is superbly qualified to lead Vabamu into the future, expanding and strengthening our exhibits, events, education and youth engagement programs.”

Sylvia Kistler Thompson, President of the Vabamu Supervisory Council (daughter of the founder Olga Kistler Ritso) said:

“My mother established Vabamu in partnership with the government leaders of Estonia in 1998. Their purpose was to safeguard freedom, sustaining memories of occupation and engaging future generations in the task of protecting and expanding freedom. She would be delighted to see Karen Jagodin take on leadership of Vabamu and advance our cause.”


The previous CEO of Vabamu, Keiu Telve, has taken maternity leave. The 

Supervisory Council was delighted that she would be raising a family and appreciated her support as they engaged in the structured, open search for a new leader.


About Karen Jagodin

Karen has been working in the field of art and culture since 2005. She graduated from the Estonian Academy of Art in art theory and University College London, Bartlett School of Architecture with MA in architectural history. Before joining Vabamu, Karen worked at the Museum of Estonian Architecture and the Estonian Maritime Museum and has led a number of major projects on the museum scene.  She is a member of the Estonian Museum Association and the Estonian Society of Art Historians and Curators. In 2008 she was awarded the annual prize of the Estonian Association of Interior Architects and together with the team at the Estonian Maritime Museum won two Estonian Museums awards for the permanent exhibition at Fat Margaret Tower in 2021. At Vabamu, Karen was the primary driver behind the ‘Why Estonia?’ exhibition on digital society, overseeing its development and successful opening in November 2021.

About Vabamu

Vabamu is the largest active non-profit museum in Estonia. Vabamu’s mission is to educate the people of Estonia and its visitors about the recent past, sense the fragility of freedom, and advocate for justice and the rule of law. It was founded by Olga Kistler-Ritso, an Estonian-American refugee, in partnership with the Estonian government, to support her wish that Estonia never again be occupied by a foreign power. Vabamu's Patron, President Lennart Meri, declared Vabamu to be “Freedom’s House."