March 29, 1996 when the Council of Tartu University approved ESSDA`s statute can be considered as the official birthday of ESSDA.
But actual work began far earlier. For years there has been talk about a need to join together Estonian social science data. In the fall of 1993 a group of sociologists, psychologists,political scientists, and human geographers of Tartu University formed an initiative group for creating a data bank on social sciences and began to work out respective development project. Relying upon the financial support of Tartu University, transferring of materials deposited in the Computing Center of Radio Estonia was started to magnetic disks. In summer 1994 a project for creating a data bank was presented to the Open Estonia Foundation,or more concretely to the Higher Education Support Project (HESP).The application for support received a positive response, a grant was awarded for years 1994 - 1996. The formation of the data bank was started by transferring the data deposited in the computing centers of Tartu University and Radio Estonia to PC format in order to ensure the maintenance of the information. By the current time 214 data files from the years 1975 -1994 have been transferred to the data bank, 127 data files have been transferred to SPSS format. In summer 1995 the University prepared a room for the data bank in the Faculty of Social Sciences. In order to expand the number of participating research groups outside the university regular cooperation with the foreign social science data archives was started. For continuing the activities after the expiration of the HESP grant preparations for creating the Estonian Social Science Data Archives were begun in early 1996. ESSDA was founded as an interdisciplinary center at the Department of Social Sciences that functions as a national social science data bank. ESSDA cooperates closely with the Academic Union of Estonian Sociologists as well as non-academic institutions that are conducting social research. The nine-member ESSDA Council includes three persons from Tartu University, three representatives from academic centers outside Tartu University and the same number from non-academic institutions.On April 25, 1996 the Council of the Faculty of Social Sciences approved the first composition of the ESSDA Council: