Estonian director, educator, and actor, founder of the Eesti Riiklik Nukuteater (Estonian State Puppet Theatre; today, Estonian State Puppet and Youth Theatre). Ferdinand Veike was born in the village of Saueaugu in the Virumaa district. His interest in theatre began with performing in an amateur group during his school years. In 1942, he entered the Tallinn Theatre School led by Leo Kalmet, the director of the Estonian Drama Theatre who, in 1936, had formed there the first professional puppet group in the country. While a student, Veike played drama and puppet parts in the Estonian Youth Theatre (Eesti Riiklik Noorsooteater), sometimes also acting as assistant to the directors.
In the late 1940s, the puppeteers from the then-closed Estonian Youth Theatre joined the Kalmet group. It was then that Veike directed his first puppet shows (Reinhard the Fox, The Red Flower, Kalevipoeg and Cuckolds, Tiny and Swallow), while at the same time (1947-1950) pursuing a career as a dancer and classical actor at the National Theatre.
In 1950 and 1951, Veike studied directing at the then named A. N. Ostrovskii Leningrad Institute of Theater (today, the Leningrad Institute of Theatre, Music, and Cinematography), and in 1952 he returned to Tallinn to establish the new Estonian State Puppet Theatre of which he became the first artistic director. He ran the company until 1980 and produced more than 100 shows based on original and classical fairy tales, folklore, and national epics. The most significant of his works were Kaval-Ants ja Vanapagan (Tricky Ants and Old Devil, 1954), The Accursed Mill (1961), Kalevipoeg’s Journey to the End of the World (1962), The Little Stork and the Scarecrow (1969), Kalevipoeg Fights the Devil (1973), and The Star-Child (1974). Adept at both the traditional booth settings and experimental actor/puppet combinations, Veike used various types of puppets, often manufactured by himself.
For the 1980 Olympic Regatta in Tallinn, Veike staged a grand open-air show Bloody John full of crowd scenes, music, songs, and special effects.
Since 1953, Ferdinand Veike has taken his signature character, Buratino, a Russian version of Pinocchio, into radio and television. From 1981 to 1985, he performed his Buratino solo programmes at the Estonian National Opera.
From 1962 to 1966, Veike was the head of the first puppet theatre studio in Estonia. In 1973-1978 and 1991-1995 he was an instructor at the Tallinn Pedagogical University. After an extended break in his career, in 2001 Veike returned with his puppet revue Ferdinand Veike and His Puppets.
Ferdinand Veike was, alongside Sergei Obraztsov, a Vice President of the Soviet Centre of UNIMA from 1958-1984, a UNIMA Councillor in 1980-1984, and was made a UNIMA Member of Honour in 2004.