Mäetagused vol. 47


Orthodoxy and Orthodox Sacral Buildings in Estonia from the 11th to the 19th Centuries

Jaanus Plaat

Key words: Estonia, Orthodoxy, Orthodox sacral buildings, poluverniks, Setomaa (Setoland), Seto tsässons

In 1845–1848, the movement from the Lutheran Church to the Russian Orthodox Church took place in all the southern Estonian counties and about 17% of the peasants in southern Estonia converted to Orthodoxy. Until then, Orthodoxy was mainly the religion of the local Russians and Seto (Setu) people, and remained influential among the poluverniks of eastern Estonia, the Russians who were officially Lutheran but followed many Orthodox rites (including partially Estonianised Russians). The article gives an overview of the spread of Orthodoxy in the current Estonian territory and in Setomaa from the 11th century until 1845, focusing on the establishment of different Russian Orthodox churches and chapels (including the Seto tsässons). The Russian Old Believers, who settled in Estonia at the end of the 17th century are not dealt with in detail in this article.

Orthodoxy is probably the most ancient form of Christianity to arrive in Estonia, during the 11th century. Some of the local Finno-Ugric people were baptised into Orthodoxy during the 11th–12th centuries, before the crusades of the Roman Catholic Church; it is also possible that the first Christian church in Estonia was founded by the Russian conquerors in Tartu (Yuryev) in the 11th century. The oldest surviving, although extensively reconstructed, Orthodox churches are to be found in Setomaa, and they date back to the 14th century. The oldest wooden sacral buildings in mainland Estonia are the Mikitamäe and Uusvada tsässons (Seto village chapels, in Russian ÷àñîâíÿ), built in the last decade of the 17th century. The Orthodox sacral buildings also include the oldest surviving wooden church in Tallinn – the Kazan Church (1721).

This article briefly describes Orthodoxy in Setumaa, an area which was partially or wholly incorporated into Russia for centuries (specifically as a part of Pskov), prior to accession with the Estonian territory in 1920, and therefore under the direct influence of Orthodoxy, unlike the rest of Estonia. From the Setos, the Old Believers and the Russians of present-day eastern Estonia, Orthodoxy might well have spread among Estonians, to some extent. This is attested to by the gatherings, near the Pühtitsa chapel and other Orthodox chapels, that have been taken place since the 16th–17th centuries and which have been attended by Lutheran Estonians as well as Orthodox Russians. Orthodoxy in Estonian towns and eastern Estonia was promoted by Russian military campaigns and conquests, especially during the Livonian War in 1558–1583 (with the help of the mission of the Petseri (Pechory) Monastery in Setumaa), when dozens of Orthodox churches were erected in Estonia, plus at least one convent in Tartu. Following the Russian defeat in the Livonian War, some Russian-founded Orthodox churches continued to function for some time under the Polish and Swedish reigns.

By the end of the Swedish period, the church of St. Nikolay (St. Nicholas) in Tallinn was the only active Orthodox church in Estonia (excluding Setomaa), but the gatherings around the Orthodox chapels in present-day East Viru County continued during the reign of Lutheran Sweden, especially crowded meetings were held around the Pühtitsa chapel.

After the Great Northern War and incorporation into Russia, new Orthodox churches were erected in all the bigger towns in Estonia (first in 1721), as well as in many smaller places in eastern Estonia (e.g. Räpina, Nina, Mustvee and Vasknarva). Until the 1840s, the Orthodox churches were mostly built for Russians. However, many Estonians had had contacts with Orthodoxy for centuries before the 1840s, particularly in eastern Estonia and in some bigger towns.

Communicating across the Border: Exhumation and the Generic Memory of Laments for the Dead

Madis Arukask

Key words: archaeology, Balto-Finnic and Russian folk culture, border, burial customs, exhumation, laments

The present article discusses the issue of elimination of the fear of the dead as it appears in archaic cultures; first and foremost in connection with laments as a folklore genre and lamenting as a ritual practice. Primarily, it is the relevant Balto-Finnic and North Russian traditions that will be observed, in which lamenting has retained its original function of balancing the relationships between the spheres of the living and the dead, and of establishing borderlines, as well as that of restoring the interrupted social cohesion. Lament texts can be viewed as a multifunctional genre that may possibly even be addressed variously, but wherein nevertheless the interests of the community stand foremost, whereas personal psychological problems come only after them and as related to them. The lamenter’s role and function in the society will also be examined.

The second part of the article will, in connection with overcoming the fear of the dead, discuss exhumation – a phenomenon that has not been preserved in the North European cultures but that can, in the light of treated bones or incomplete skeletons in the graves of Bronze and Iron Ages, be assumed to have at one time existed even in Estonia. In cultures where exhumation has remained a living practice up to the present (Greek culture, for instance), it has probably also solved problems linked to the fear of the dead, since part of the person’s skeleton is posthumously reincorporated into the society of the living, in the shape of an amulet or a talisman. The relevant rituals have been performed to the accompaniment of laments. The final part of the article will take a look at certain textual examples of the Seto laments for the dead, which may have preserved a distant memory of the practices connected with exhumation.

The Magic of Laments in Funeral Customs and in Warding off Vermin/Weeds

Galina Misharina

Key words: charms, funeral customs, Komi people, laments, warding-off rites

The article dwells upon two types of Komi ritual lamentation: funeral laments and the ones used for expelling bedbugs from the house or for ridding the fields of burdock. The focus is on the magic aspect of ritual lamentation, together with the analysis of the genres of laments within protective rites – although the texts used in such rites actually operate as charms and incantation, the context of the custom reveals a number of elements which are intrinsic of the logic of presenting laments. The author comes to the conclusion, by way of analysing the texts performed at funerals and ward-off rites that besides the poesy, uniform popular terminology and recitative presentation, these texts have similar performing characteristics and unitary magic. As an integrated whole, these characteristics make it possible to use the same terminology with regard to the texts used in protective magic rites and the ones of funeral customs.

The Periphery of Komi Music – the World of Birds

Anatoli Panyukov

Key words: Komi folklore, Komi language, ornithological conceptions, Komi folk music

The article analyses bird sounds and the expressions thereof in Komi folk music. Relying on a number of examples, the author introduces the potential emergence of linguistic, mythological and musical connections, and the relevant research in Komi folklore, observing the most meaningful levels of interpreting and understanding the world of birds in folk tradition. Undoubtedly, the study of folk music is not only associated with the research of musical thought, but also pre-necessitates the analysis of mythological, folkloric and linguistic conceptions which serve as the basis for the ethical needs of people. The presented cross-section of folk culture makes it possible to see the connection between the linguistic, mythological and musical phenomena.

Based on the given analysis, it can be said that in certain situations, the chronotopy and indepth structure of bird images (at linguistic, mytho-epical and musical levels) may indeed act as the primordium for the plot. Folkloric texts generated in such a manner are cosmological in their structure, as they reflect the universal principles of traditional worldview – anthropocentrism, anthropometry and anthropomorphism, i.e. the reciprocal influence between the macrocosm and microcosm.

Rites Associated with Conjuring Rain in the Udmurt Calendar Cycle

Tatjana Vladykina, Galina Glukhova

Key words: conjuring the rain, Udmurt folk tradition, warding off/wedding of insects and pests, Water Mother

Several archaic features of interpreting the surrounding world are still present in Udmurt folk culture. Calendar-related customs and feasts still preserve the oldest elements at all levels of rituals: in activities, artefacts, verbal and acoustic fields, etc. The dismissal of pests and caterpillars, and their wedding rituals, are deeply rooted in calendar customs. The thorough study of the codes of these rituals would help to determine the semantics of rituals, ascertaining the synchronic-diachronic aspects of the calendar, and provide an integral imagination with regard to the mythopoetic foundations of popular worldview. Relying on the analysis of the specificity of Udmurt calendar feasts and customs, it becomes obvious that the tradition of warding off vermin takes place in different seasons and is an inseparable part of the calendar cycle. Having analysed the specificity of Udmurt calendar feasts and customs, the rituals associated with the dismissal of insects is intrinsically polyfunctional, whereas the most archaic feature therein is the idea of conjuring the rain.

About Female Deities in the Mythology of Finno-Ugric Peoples

Nina Yurchenkova

Key words: female deity, fertility goddess, Finno-Ugric mythology, Mother Earth

The most widespread female deity in world mythologies is the Goddess of the Earth, known among Finno-Ugric peoples as Mother Earth. Research presumes that the cult of Mother Earth is relatively recent in origin, and somewhat associated with and related to the development of agriculture. Still, the religion of Finno-Ugric peoples comprises abundant other female deities whose help and assistance women can account for when in need. Moreover, among those Finno-Ugric peoples whose tillage culture is less developed, the goddess of the Earth can sometimes obtain even cosmogonic functions. The article gives an overview of Finno-Ugric female deities, their functions and the ways to sustain the favour of gods.

On a Possible Characteristic of the Governing System of Chinese Empire during the Time of the Sui Dynasty (581–618 AD)

Tarmo Kulmar

Key words: early totalitarianism, history of China, sinology, state power, Sui dynasty

The article attempts to study whether the Chinese Empire at the time of the Sui Dynasty could be considered an early totalitarian state or not. The analysis, based on historical data, proceeds from a scheme of an early totalitarian state devised by the author and reveals that the Sui state does have the characteristics of an early totali­tarian state with regard to historical-political reasons and foreign policy related factors, and, to a great extent, in administration and economy, whereas the relevant characteristics are indirectly or very slightly explicit in the field of social life. The features of early totalitarianism, within the governance method of the Sui state, are generally not evident with regard to legal order and ideology. In conclusion, it is highly probable that the Sui Empire corresponds to an early totalitarian governing system, bearing in mind the external characteristics of state power, not the internal ones. This is a relevant and fundamental difference between the Chinese Qin Empire (221–207 bc), as a purely early totalitarian state, and the Sui Empire as an emerging early totalitarian state. Thus, the Sui Empire was probably becoming an early totalitarian state, however, this process was discontinued due to the perishing of the dynasty.

Neo-Babylonian Chronicle and Old Persian Cuneiform from the Reign of Artaxerxes III Ochos

Vladimir Sazonov

Key words: Akkadian language, Artaxerxes III, Babylon, chronicle, cuneiform, deportation, despotism, Ochos, Persia, revolts, Sidon, Susa, Tennes, Umasu, usurper

The main aim of the current short article is not only to give an overview of some facts regarding the biography of the last important Old Persian king Artaxerxes III Ochos (359–338 bc), who re-established a weakened Achaemenid Empire, but also to give an analysis of translations of two short, but very important texts from his reigning period, one of which is an Akkadian cuneiform text (written in neo-Babylonian dialect of Akkadian). This text was composed in the form of a short chronicle, from which we can see as the evidence of statements of some ancient Greek authors, for instance, Diodorus Siculus, that king Artaxerxes III was a very brutal despotic king and deported many people, including those involved in the revolt of the Phoenician city-state Sidon, which had been conquered and destroyed by forces of Artaxerxes III in 345 bc. He killed part of population of this big important Phoenician cultural, economic and political centre, and all women and children were deported into the inland of his renewed empire – in Babylon and Susa. He also conquered independent Egypt, killed Apis, the scared bull of the Egyptians, looted and razed sanctuaries and killed many inhabitants of Egypt. An example of his brutality: when Artaxerxes III got the throne, he butchered his 80 brothers and many other relatives.

The second text, written in Old Persian cuneiform, is one of the last Old Persian cuneiform texts and can be described as “peaceful” or more correctly as a building-inscription. It has the opposite aim comparing to the first text – to glorify Artaxerxes III as a constructive force in Persepolis, the capital city of the Achaemenid Empire and also as a very religious and faithful zoroastrist, who honoured very much the main Deity of Persians – Ahuramazda.

With the poisoning of old Artaxerxes III in 338 bc, by his vizier eunuch Bagoas, began the decline of the Persian Empire, which ended some years later, when Alexander the Great, son of Philip II of Macedonia invaded with his victorious Greek-Macedonian army and during 4–5 years (334–330/329) destroyed the Persian Empire and afterwards conquered the whole of the Middle East from the Hellespont to the Indus Valley, from Egypt to the Caucasus, and died in Babylon 323 bc, when he was only 32 years old.

News, overviews   

In memoriam. Ellen Liiv (30. IX 1930 – 22. XII 2010)

Ellen Liiv, longserving employee of the Estonian Literary Museum, and former head of the Folklore Archives, passed away at Christmas 2010.

Renata Sõukand’s Doctoral Thesis Herbal Landscape

Almo Farina gives an overview of Renata Sõukand’s PhD thesis.

Anneli Baran Defended her PhD on Semantics in Phraseology

The review of Anneli Baran’s Doctoral thesis by Outi Lauhakangas.

Europhras Conference in Spain

Overview of the event by Anneli Baran is available in English in vol. 46 of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore (http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol46/news.pdf).

From Language to Mind IV

Overview of the event by Liisi Laineste is available in English in vol. 46 of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore (http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol46/news.pdf).

54th Kreutzwald Days: Folkoristic Issues

Reet Hiiemäe writes about the twoday scientific conference organised before Christmas 2010, focusing on the presentations associated with money.

Haldjas 15: Folklore and Internet

Piret Voolaid writes about the Estonian folklorists’ winter conference which took place on the 3rd and 4th of February 2011, (http://www.folklore.ee/rl/fo/konve/2011/ftk6), and was also dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the launch of the first, and so far, the only folklore server (http://www.folklore.ee) in Estonia.

Presidents’ Folklore Awards and Prizes to Archivists 2010

On March 14, the Day of Mother Tongue, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the President of the Republic of Estonia, presented awards to the best folklore collectors of 2010. During the festive gathering in the Estonian Literary Museum, prizes were also handed over to those contributing to the Estonian Folklore Archives and the best collectors of kindergarten lore.

Overview of the event by Astrid Tuisk is available in English in vol. 47 of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore (http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol47/news.pdf).


A brief summary of the events and activities of Estonian folklorists from December 2010 to April 2011.

Life, History and Research: Methodological Views in the Study of Narratives of the Recent Past

Eda Kalmre. Hirm ja võõraviha sõjajärgses Tartus. Pärimuslooline uurimus kannibalistlikest kuulujuttudest. [Fear and Hatred of the “Other” in Post-War Tartu.] Tänapäeva folkloorist 7. [Contemporary Folklore 7.] Tartu: Eesti Kirjandusmuuseumi Teaduskirjastus 2007 [2nd print 2008]. 239 pp.

Ene Kõresaar. Elu ideoloogiad. Kollektiivne mälu ja autobiograafiline minevikutõlgendus eestlaste elulugudes. [Ideologies of Life: Collective Memory and Autobiographical Meaning-Making of the Past in Estonian Post-Soviet Life Stories.] Eesti Rahva Muuseumi sari 6. [Series of the Estonian National Museum 6.] Tartu: Eesti Rahva Muuseum, 2005. 239 pp.

Folkloristic comparison of town narratives and life stories could also be topical in the Estonian context, bearing in mind the articles and monographs published in this field during recent years. With an aim to understand the mutual connectedness and distinction between these domains, Tiiu Jaago provides a comparative analysis of two monographs published during the second half of the 2000s.

Mires in the Hearts of Finns: Personal Narratives

Kirsi Laurén. Suo sisulla ja sydämellä. Suomalaisten suokokemukset ja -kertomukset kulttuurisen luontosuhteen ilmentäjänä. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura. 2006. 243 pp.

Piret Paal presents Kirsi Laurén’s Doctoral thesis, published in 2006. The dissertation by K. Laurén, a folklorist from Joensuu, is an analysis of personal experiences of Finns, associated with mires; the relevant stories were collected during the writing competition conducted by the Finnish Literature Society in 1998.