The study provides an overview of Estonian ethnic humour over the last century (1890-2004), focusing on three periods: the end of the 19th century, the Soviet period, and the years following Estonia's regained independence.
The changes in the choice of the targets of joke throughout the century are mapped and the cultural, social and political influences in jokes are discussed. The analysis showed a clear tendency towards greater variation in ethnic joke targets. The 19th century offered the poorest choice in joke butts: only the closest neighbours of the Estonians were laughed at. During the Soviet period humour was mostly found in the life and people under the Soviet regime. In the last decade the Estonians have made fun of almost every possible ethnic group, including exotic faraway nations. The borders between "us" and "them" have been stretched; people develop more ethnic stereotypes, which results in jokes about a vast variety of nations. There have been considerable changes in the choice of joke targets in the course of the three periods, and, most likely, this tendency is manifest also in the jokelore of other countries.
An interesting result to support the assertion is that the overlapping of joke scripts between the three periods was much smaller than expected (only 6% of all joke scripts were used in both the Soviet times and in the period imminently after regaining independence). It means there is a growing and active joke tradition that creates and interprets jokes. It would be interesting to find out what the situation outside the internet is - namely, is joking an active tradition that creates new jokes and finds new targets, are people still involved in mutual joke-telling, are there age differences in telling jokes, etc.
We also tested three main hypotheses based on the theory of ethnic humour by Christie Davies (1990, and elsewhere). The theory maintains that there are universal rules in the application of main joke scripts to different nations. The most widely spread joke script is that of stupidity. In Estonia, the butts of jokes about stupidity are the Chukchi, Russians, more recently also Estonians, African Americans and Finns. None of these groups exhibits all the three main characteristics proposed by Davies - geographical proximity, similar cultures and languages, and the "top down" direction of joking relationship. Davies (2004, personal communication) agrees that in Britain the stupid ethnic groups are also not only local people from the periphery, or the Irish, Welsh, etc. Thus, in present days, the geographical proximity and language similarity may not always be relevant conditions, and the choice of joke butts has moved to a more global level. In addition, the Estonian joke lore shows a much greater popularity of jokes with "bottom up" direction. The second script can be seen in jokes about the so-called canny nations. Estonia lacks its very own canny-group, and all the jokes in this category are loans from other traditions. But borrowed butts do not have the historical, cultural and social significance for the joke-telling nation and they do not fulfil the roles described by Davies (e.g. the Scottish - popular characters in British canny-jokes - do not occupy high positions in Estonian society, nor are they an important immigrant minority). With respect to specific scripts in ethnic jokes, it is quite difficult to either prove or refute the argument that Estonians are really most concerned with alcohol and sex (as the most popular joke themes would suggest). Specific joke scripts are applied in a universal way without confusing stereotypes and assigning them to an ethnic character that is known by completely different stereotypes.
This study offers valuable material for comparison with the existing theories and indicates the possible course of further studies. It is important to note that the leading theory in the field of ethnic humour is not as universal as it claims to be - at least it is not fully applicable to Estonian ethnic joke lore (and most probably also to the joke lore of other post-socialist countries). This opens up a new dimension deserving more serious research. It also states that jokes are related to social reality but the relations are not universal and may differ in countries with a different cultural, political and/or historical background.
The article discusses the functioning of the plot of the fixed tale type ATU 1579 (Carrying a Wolf, a Goat, and a Cabbage across the Stream) as a riddle and a narrative and as its forms which have surrounded the plot and originate in traditional folklore genres. In addition to the narrative genre and the riddle genre, the plot has been widely applied in the form of an interactive computer game. The different forms and goals of a type plot may be regarded as points of contact of folklore and folkloristic.
In 1866, as a result of the work of the famous Estonian epic compiler Fr. R. Kreutzwald, a copious collection of Estonian folk tales was published in Helsinki. New editions of the anthology have been published later. Among other tales the book contains 18 legends, thus posing a question of the future (and reception) of the legends in such a prestigious anthology, and the role of knowledge about legends in this culture area. The article focuses on a legend entitled A Whining Shinbone (Vinguv jalaluu, in Estonian), but also touches upon more general issues and models of analysis in legend research. The emphasis on these aspects relies on Lauri Honko's studies on dense text corpora and textualisation strategies, and the discussions of theoreticians of intertextuality on manifestations of intertextual links. The legend discussed in the article narrates about a corpse left unburied in a valley in the course of tumultuous war a long time ago, and how it began whining at nights to attract attention until a brave man gave it a proper Christian burial and the soul of the deceased found its peace. In return, the brave man found a huge fortune. A comparison of the printed text with oral accounts and recollections held in the Estonian Folklore Archives revealed that the text corpus is formed of both published legends and also those recorded from oral presentations; the intertextual links become evident also relying on the relatively fragmentary text corpus; the recorded variants of the legend display various details, which attest of the materialisation of the freedom in storytelling, and also fixed motifs, which are suggestive of the responsibility of a storyteller in mediating the lore (using as little variation as possible); the recorded variants of the legend include motifs which enable to draw parallels between the texts and printed sources; regardless of the importance of the printed legend text, it is possible to differentiate between information dependent and independent of the printed anthology in this culture area; the setting of the legend is narrated into specific landscape.
Chronologically, in the model of variant association of the legend of the whining shinbone it is possible to distinguish between five types of links:
(i) published legends in new editions;
(ii) links between a published legend and oral accounts directly influenced by it;
(iii) links, in case of which the orally circulated legend has been preceded by accounts directly influenced by book legend;
(iv) information considering the existence of the book legend, but different from the latter (parallel link to the book);
(v) links of assumed instances of performance, which include the four previous possibilities.
One of the main aims of this paper is to take a look at possible settlement centres in five parishes of the Järva County in Central Estonia which may have formed the central regions of the county in prehistory. Currently known hill forts are also considered as possible centres of settlement, and an attempt has been made to determine their sphere of influence and connection with the settlement. So far, little is known about the prehistory and archaeological sites of the Järva County. Also, not much is known about the ancient administrative division of the county. In the book about prehistory in Estonia (Eesti esiajalugu) and in articles about the prehistory of the Järva County (Vassar 1972; Tõnisson 1999; Lätti 2004a), it has been assumed that the county was divided into three ancient parishes.
The author of this study attempts to test the aforementioned assumption on the evidence of archaeological sites. Relying on information about archaeological sites it is possible to single out settlement centres in the parishes of Ambla, Järva-Jaani, Peetri and Järva-Madise. The only exception is the Koeru parish where archaeological sites are located evenly throughout the parish with no specific condensed area.
The speculated division of the Järva County into three prehistoric parishes appears to be founded mostly on environmental conditions. Some apparent centres, however, do not seem to date back to the Iron Age, or are located in the periphery of a parish. The village of Reinevere, for example, which is located near the border of the Ambla parish, i.e. in the periphery, could not have been a likely centre of a prehistoric parish. The location of another centre in Järva-Jaani parish is questionable, owing to the fact that no Iron Age sites have been found in Järva-Jaani. Rather, the actual centre might have been in the village of Kuksema only 2 km away, or Jalgsema village with its Iron Age archaeological sites. At the same time, the location of the church seems to favour Kuksema or Järva-Jaani, because the construction of church far from the parish centre is not very likely. Thus, the exact location of the centre of the prehistoric Järva-Jaani parish is very hard to determine.
The centre of the third ancient parish, Kareda, is a large area dating back to Iron Age; hence, a very likely centre. Of the known hill-forts of the Järva County, the most typical is that of Jäneda in Ambla parish; other hill-forts are smaller in size and, probably, display no defensive constructions. The hill-forts of Jäneda, Villismägi, Siimumägi in the Järva-Jaani parish and Kaalepi hill-fort in the Järva-Madise parish are located relatively close to an Iron Age settlement; others, which are located mostly far from the settlements, could have functioned as shelters. As most of hill-forts have no defensive constructions, it is possible that they were economic rather than military centres. However, its possible categorisation into a hill-fort cannot be ruled out either.
Owing to the fact that archaeological excavations in the Järva County have been conducted only on a few graves and information about archaeological sites has been rather vague, the dating of the Järva findings is still very crude. It is also likely that the currently known sites do not reflect the real situation and many have not been discovered yet. Consequently, this paper poses a model constructed on the basis of currently available data and might not correspond to historical reality. It is most likely that the taking up of archaeological research again in the Järva County would considerably alter the overview presented here.
Archaeological investigation of graves and hill-forts would perhaps enable to determine whether the region was an area dependent on neighbouring territories or an independent centre with its own power structures and administrative division.
The article studies the festivities and holidays of the Estonian folk calendar, and their position in the yearly cycle. The author makes an attempt to indicate that the position of feast days and holidays in the calendar is not random, but follow a specific and clearly perceptible system. The system and, particularly, the specific dates of the holidays are based on an astronomical-mathematical construction rather than the climate and/or agricultural activities, which has been generally believed so far. This explains why the calendar holidays of several European countries coincide, regardless of the differences in life style and tradition.
A closer look is taken on four Estonian folk calendar holidays, which date back to the period before Christianity: taliharjapäev (Jan. 14, the day when the backbone of winter is broken), künnipäev (April 14, the day marking the beginning of field activities), karusepäev (July 13) and kolletamispäev (Oct. 14, marking the end of field activities). These days fit in the calendar system which divides a year in sixteen parts, which have been associated with prehistoric, astronomically oriented megalithic constructions in Europe. This calendar system may have been known in Estonia, suggesting that similar astronomically positioned constructions could exist here; though, as far as it is known, archaeologists have not discovered any thus far.
The article also discusses the role of folk calendar holidays in today's society. The fact that the Estonian folk calendar largely originates from the period of agrarian society explains why former traditions have lost their significance in modern urbanised life. However, since the article argues that many folk calendar holidays are based on specific astronomical phenomena rather than the cycle of agrarian activities, these holidays may not have lost their meaning and role in a modern, considerably transformed cultural environment.
Contemporary study of history approaches popular witchcraft and magic folk culture as concepts associated with cultural dichotomies: popular culture versus high culture. The component of magic is considered most characteristic of popular culture. Aron Gurevich constructs medieval folk culture from the aspect of magic by means of early medieval books of penitence. This material, however, does not allow such construction for two reasons: firstly, the content information, and secondly, the articles on superstition and magic in the books of penitence are not targeted at peasantry. Quite conspicuously, it is often the clergy that is accused of witchcraft. The letters of witchcraft (charms), mostly spread in written form, were accessible for the literate clergy. Thus the early medieval witchcraft was clerical rather than popular. The access to the tradition of witchcraft texts makes the clergy an expert of witchcraft, to whom the people turn for advice and who are therefore persecuted in the Late Middle Ages. Therefore, witchcraft formulae moved in the downward direction.
Academician Paul Ariste's collection of Komi folklore have been recorded from male informants in 1941 and 1942 in Tartu. The ethnic Komi informants resided in Tartu as prisoners of war. The original texts have been written in transcription and each text is followed by a translation into Estonian. The materials represent a wide range of genres, including Komi chastushkas, folk songs, riddles, jokes, legends, folk tales, etc. Beside of this were is a collection of the Komi material from Aleksei Rakov: it includes abundant information about the ethnography, Rakov has illustrated the text with numerous drawings, which is an important and informative addition to the ethnographic descriptions. The texts have been written down in the so-called Molodtsov alphabet, the alphabet was used in the Komi area during 1918-1932 and during 1934-1936.
The overview introduces the centres, scholars and publications of ethnology, folkloristics and visual anthropology of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences. A closer look is taken to the principles of folklore collection and publication by Karel Shtrekelj, founder of Slovenian folkloristics. The article introduces the research topics of modern scholars Monika Kropej, Jurij Fikfak and Nashko Krizhnar, and the folk art gallery Skrina of Blazh Telban.
The article observes the treatment of soul and hell and torment in hell characteristic of modern scientific and religious thought to describe the linear chronology of macrocosm.
First there was the Creation of the world and man, and the Fall, which was followed by the Great Deluge some two millennia later. The temporal scale is halved by the Crucifixion and Ascension of Christ, and the Judgment Day will arrive soon, destining people to heavenly bliss or torment in hell. The discussion questions what happens to soul after death and before final judgment. Modern religiosity exerts considerable influence on contemporary views on science
The 2004 Baltic Assembly Prize in Science was awarded to our
colleague, the folklorist and academician Arvo Krikmann. Next to his
monumental publications and studies into short forms of folklore in earlier
written sources and other exceptional works, Krikmann has compiled
publications for more popular purposes, the methods, prefaces and afterwords of
which have been of the highest scholarly merit. Arvo Krikmann's
bibliography includes numerous articles and monographs. In his scholarly career
Arvo Krikmann has moved from studying the short forms to the more
general aspects of figures of speech and the theory of humour. Review by
The two exhibitions, three conferences held in Tartu, dedicated to
the centenary of Paul Ariste, the leading figure of Finno-Ugric studies
in Estonia, linguist and folklorist. In addition, two books were
published to celebrate the anniversary of the famous scholar of
Finno-Ugric studies: Ariste's fieldwork diaries
Vadja päevikud 1942-1980, edited by E.-H. Västrik, and a two-volume publication on Komi folklore
and ethnology, largely written down by Ariste himself, edited by
Nikolay Kuznetsov. Review by Kristi Salve
On October 8-10, 2004 the Department of Folkloristics of the
Estonian Literary Museum and the Centre of the Cultural History and
Folkloristics held the joint international conference Generation P in the Tundra.
Scholars studying our kinsfolk in the north and representatives of various
institutions from Germany, the United States, Hungary, the United Kingdom and
Russia met in the inspiring and pleasant atmosphere of the conference. The
main problems were connected with the impact of mass and urban culture
exerted on the indigenous youth. Overview by Andres Kuperjanov
On October 26 and 27, 2004, the second interdisciplinary seminar
"People and Pets", organised by the Estonian Folklore Institute and
the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum, was held
at the Literary Museum. The seminar presentations discussed the
reasons why people keep pets, on the one hand, and how people are responsible
for the welfare of their pets, who benefits most from this relationship and
who has the higher responsibility, the pet or its caretaker, on the other
hand. Presentations were held by biologist Triinu Mänd, human
geographer Juhan Javoish, protector of animals Loone Ots, ethnologian
Maarja Kaaristo, animal psychologists Aleksei Turovski and Raivo Mänd,
literary theorist Kadri Tüür, semiotician Renata Sõukand, folklorists
Arvo Krikmann, Mare Kõiva, Marju Torp-Kõivupuu, Ell Vahtramäe,
psychologist Liisa Vesik, veterinarian Enn Ernits, archaeologist Tõnno
Jonuks, specialist of rock art Väino Poikalainen. Both seminar days
concluded with open discussion on the topic of pets in the "sevice" of humans,
and pet as a symbol. Review by Katre Kikas
On November 26 and 27, 2004, the folk song conference celebrating
the centenary of the three-volume publication Setukeste
laulud, or the Setu Folk Songs, by Jakob Hurt was held in Tartu and Värska. The turn of the
new millennium has witnessed an active study of folk songs in Estonia. On
the first conference day various interpretations of the form and contents of
Kalevala-metric folk songs and tunes were discussed (Tiiu Jaago, Mall
Hiiemäe, Liina Saarlo, Edakai Simmermann), other presentations were dedicated
to folk music (Janika Oras, Zhanna Pärtlas, Taive Särg, Igor Tõnurist).
The second conference day, held in the Värska cultural centre, was mainly
dedicated to the Setu material (Andreas Kalkun, Paul Hagu, Madis Arukask,
Aado Lintrop, Arne Merilai, Õie Sarv, Kristi Salve). The conference concluded
with the presentation by Paul Hagu, discussing the issues of compiling the
recently published Leeloantoloogia, the anthology of Setu chants.
Review by Kristi Salve
On December 10, 2004, the interdisciplinary (folk) medicine
seminar MEDICA was held in the conference room of the Estonian Literary
Museum. Seminar presentations discussed popular healing methods (Piret
Paal, Renata Sõukand, Marju Kõivupuu), medical historian and human
geographer Ken Kalling touched upon the issues of eugenics in Estonia, the
presentations by folklorist Mare Kõiva and psychophysiologist Jaanus Harro reflected
the different angle and approaches to the issue. Review
by Renata Sõukand
On December 2, 2004, many generations of Estonian scholars
studying Votian language or folk culture came together in the main hall of the
Estonian Literary Museum. In addition to the nine announced
presentations, the event inspired spontaneous recollections, comments and
discussions. Review by Madis Arukask, Taisto-Kalevi Raudalainen
The presentations of the second day of the seminar on December
22, 2004, discussed folklore, with a special emphasis on monuments
and myths, and observing relatively recent events and phenomena.
Presentations were held by Katre Kikas, Eneken Laanes, Tiiu Jaago,
Mare Kõiva, Eda Kalmre, Mare Kalda and astronomer Tõnu Viik, the old
friend of the Literary Museum. Overview by Andres Kuperjanov
The first seminar of the Department of Folkloristics of Estonian
Literary Museum was held in the new building of the center of the Landscape
reserve of the Emajõgi Soomaa Wetlands. Presentations were held by
Asta Õim, Katre Õim, Piret Voolaid, Liisa Vesik, Karin Maria Rooleid,
Nikolai Kuznetsov, Tõnno Jonuks, Priit Lätti, Liisi Laineste, Renata
Sõukand. Topics covered most of workaereas of department. Review by
On January 27 and 28, 2005, members of the centre of excellence presented a selection of their research results. Topics of the first session covered the narrative tradition and beliefs of the Setu (Kristi Salve), the spread and reasons of horror tales about sausage factory (Eda Kalmre), the conflicts and agreements of two religious movements in Tartu in the 1980s (Mare Kõiva), the religious life and spread of folklore on the example of a member of the Ingrian-Finnish (hyppoy)seuralaiset movement (Ergo-Hart Västrik). Karin Maria Rooleid, a member of the international project of the bibliography of folklore reviewed the problems and solutions in compiling Internationale Volkskundliche Bibliographie.
The second conference day, entitled The Cultural Historical Context
of the Soviet Period was dedicated to literary theory (presentations by
Eve Annuk, Rein Veidemann, Rutt Hinrikus, Hasso Krull, Virve
Sarapik). The morning session discussing the issues in the theory of rhetoric
and phraseology explored various topics associated with folkloric
databases (Asta Õim, Katre Õim, Liisi Laineste). Rein Undusk talked about
line and colour rhetoric. The last session Poetic and Musical Folklore
consisted of presentations by ethnomusicologists (Jaan Ross, Allan Vurma,
Taive Särg, Anu Vissel, Ingrid Rüütel; Liina Saarlo). Poster
presentations provided an overview of ongoing projects.
Review by Maarja Villandi, Kerle Arula
On November 19 and 20, 2004, the international seminar Folklore
Archives and Cultural Dynamics. Problems of Digitizing and Management
of Intangible Cultural Heritage was held in Helsinki, organised by the
Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literary Society. Since the term `digitising'
has become of increasing importance for people working with the material
of folklore archives at the Estonian Literary Museum, several
Estonian folklorists (Anneli Baran, Kristin Kuutma, Andres Kuperjanov, Mare
Kõiva, Liisa Vesik, Piret Voolaid and Ergo-Hart Västrik). Review
by Piret Voolaid
For the twelfth time the President of the Republic of Estonia handed
over the President's Folklore Prize to the best folklore collectors of 2004.
Arnold Rüütel, the President of Estonia, awarded the prize to Helgi
Suluste and Merlin Lõiv. As to the rest of folklore material contributed to
the Estonian Folklore Archives, it is worth noting that a most of it has
been collected by students of the University of Tartu. Review
by Eda Kalmre