Mäetagused vol. 76


Responses to the initial phase of SARS-CoV-2 in the (social) media

Maris Kuperjanov
Archivist-referent, Department of Folkloristics Estonian Literary Museum, Estonia

Keywords: conspiracy theories, coronavirus, internet memes, public health, social media

The aim of the article is to give an overview of the first month of the novel coronavirus outbreak and public reactions to the news in the media comments and social media environments. The pandemic is still in its initial phase at the time of the publishing of the article and the knowledge about virus SARS-CoV-2 and disease COVID-19 is increasing on a daily basis. During the first month of the virus outbreak the growing flow of information and rapid escalation of the situation made the topic more noticeable in both the media and social media and thus provided a fertile basis for jokes and internet memes, legends, fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories, etc., as was the case with the former bigger epidemics and pandemics. As it has also been observed previously, the consequences of some fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories may often be more harmful for the society than the disease itself. Several motives and storylines are universal and surge as similar situations arise both in Estonia and in the rest of the world.

The article also presents a small selection of more prominent topics and examples of the outbreak from social media environments during the initial phase of international awareness of the novel coronavirus.

“If it is true, then it is your own fault”: Recurring stereotypes about sexual violence in an Estonian children’s online forum

Simone Eelmaa
Doctoral student in sociology Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu

Maria Murumaa-Mengel
Lecturer in social media Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu

Keywords: child sexual abuse, rape myths, sexual violence, stereotypes, victim-blaming

This article provides an overview of how children and young people who are victims of sexual violence seek help and support from online forums, and the reactions and responses following such posts. Also, we look at how rape myths and stereotypes affect both the victims’ and respondents’ attitudes towards sexual violence, victim-blaming, and help-seeking. The analysis is based on 28 original forum posts about personally experienced sexual violence and 361 reactions to these original posts. At the time of the abuse the victims were between the ages of 5 and 17. By combining discursive psychological methodology with qualitative thematic analysis, we were able to distinguish six dominant interpretative repertoires, three dominant repertoires from the victims’ posts (trying to start a dialogue, self-blaming, and uncertainty on recognizing intimate partner rape) and three from respondents’ reactions (victim-blaming, justifying the perpetrator, and the stereotype of the “ideal victim”).

The most common reaction to victims’ posts was victim-blaming, mainly behavioural blaming associated with clothing, alcohol consumption, and (not) resisting the abuse/violence. Victims below the age of ten and victims of intrafamilial sexual abuse were not blamed. The ideology of the “ideal victim” played a pivotal part in the respondents’ reactions and in the observable outcome for the victim. “Ideal victims” were approached with empathy, support, and adequate guidance, in contrast to the victims who diverged from the “ideal victim” stereotype and were blamed, shamed, insulted, and rarely guided to further action. The only victims who got the help they expected (e.g., were able to tell someone or report the crime) were the ones conforming with the “ideal victim” stereotype.

When children disclose sexual abuse, the reactions of others are critical determinants of whether the child gets the needed help and support or is silenced. These reactions of others do not include only blaming and shaming but also redefining the experience and the victim status. Rape was often redefined to something less, sometimes even to the extent of the act being normalised as if it was just normal sexual interactions or maybe “sex gone wrong”. Sexual aggression was portrayed as a normal part of male masculinity, and female victims were portrayed as naive and stupid, but at the same time as flirtatious and deviant “gate-keepers” of male sexuality. Interestingly, perpetrator behaviour was justified with the same rhetorical tools as victims were blamed; for instance, intoxicated victims were attributed more blame, yet intoxicated perpetrators were justified or even exonerated of blame.

In this study, we looked at language use as an important part of reproducing and perpetuating rape myths and negative stereotypes surrounding sexual violence. This study highlighted how strong rape myths and stereotypes are, and how these are reproduced and reinforced through small everyday interactions over and over again.

The phenomenon of singing to children in the domestic culture of education

Airi Liimets
Visiting Professor of Philosophy of Education School of Educational Sciences Tallinn University

Külli Erimäe
Music teacher of Kadaka Kindergarten in Tallinn M.A. in Educational Science (Tallinn University)

Keywords: singing to children, children’s song, domestic culture of education, empirical analysis, Estonia, comparative analysis

The central question of our research project was: what is the position and significance of the phenomenon of singing to children in the domestic culture of education in today’s Estonia? Before answering this question, we have to a) define education as a cultural phenomenon, and b) define singing to children and children’s song as cultural phenomena. These are the two aims of our theoretical study. In our empirical research we have additionally sought to find out: a) what can be concluded from the comparison of our data and those of ethnomusicologist Anu Vissel from the 1990–2000, from the perspective of culture of education, and b) whether the results of our empirical research can enrich theoretical treatments of education as a cultural phenomenon.

The article has two parts. The first, “Culture of education – a sign of a communicative educational reality”, provides a theoretical analysis of education as a cultural phenomenon. It concludes that the building blocks of culture of education are mediated educational reality, cultural symbols, and rituals. The second major section of the article, “Singing to children in the domestic culture of education”, has two sub-sections. The first, “Singing to children and children’s song within culture”, defines singing to children and children’s song as phenomena, building on the work of international scholars and Estonian folklorists. The second subsection, “Singing to children in Estonian domestic culture of education in 2016 in comparison to the results of Anu Vissel’s research from 1990–2000”, presents the findings of our empirical research.

The data was collected with the help of a written questionnaire, compiled on the basis of the questions used by Anu Vissel in her research and international studies. Differently from previous research, we placed a stronger emphasis on the reasons for choosing a specific repertoire. Our respondents were 190 parents of pre-school children from five kindergartens. The questionnaire that included 28 questions (both closed and open-ended) was created using Google Forms. Answers to the closed questions were analysed with the SPSS and Microsoft Excel software. Our quantitative methods of data analysis included frequency and correlation analysis. Responses to the open-ended questions were analysed using summative qualitative content analysis. In the case of questions concerning song choice content categories were created using the inductive method.

The comparison of our results and those of Anu Vissel allows us to conclude that singing to children is, without a doubt, a cultural symbol that testifies to the existence of a relatively stable domestic culture of education in Estonia. It can be viewed as a phenomenon of consciousness in people’s subjective reality (attitudes and meanings attributed to singing) and as a specific activity in the domestic reality. This is manifested owing to the communicativeness of reality or interaction between the participants in the culture of education. That is, our study showed that a child and a parent mostly sing together, instead of one taking the role of the singer and the other that of the listener. Parents also perceive singing to children as a dialogic joint activity, even when it is not that in reality. On the level of consciousness, communicativeness is expressed owing to the singer’s connections to cultural memory and meanings therein. Intersubjective communication also entails the interpretation and creation of meanings characteristic of culture, and it is both synchronic and diachronic as people operate within a space of historically developed meanings.

The connection to cultural memory can, for example, be seen in the choice of songs sung to children. Parents’ song choices are overall conservative and the repertoire has been relatively unchanged across decades and is derived from the singer’s own childhood. Most of the repertoire has been acquired through life without special study. The comparison of our and Anu Vissel’s results shows that the most popular lullabies and play songs have been the same in families both in 2016 and in the 1990s and early 2000s. The choice of a specific song is not in the song itself (its notes or lyrics) but the cultural context and its significance for the parents as singers.

Over decades lullabies have been the predominant type of song. Singing lullabies could also be called a ritual within local culture of education as it has most of the characteristics of a ritual. Lullabies have had a stable function within the culture of education (lulling to sleep, calming) and only these songs could be viewed as global phenomena of the culture of education. Otherwise cultural symbols are linked to local educational traditions and values. Further research is needed to determine which environmental factors and modes of communication within domestic culture of education actualise which different aspects of cultural memory, and whether the potential creativity of parents today is dependent on the scope and meaning cultural memory has for them or whether these links can be established.

Looking for queer stories from interwar Estonian media: The position of eugenics in discussions about homosexuality and transgender issues

Rebeka Põldsam
Doctoral student of ethnology University of Tartu, Estonia

Keywords: history of sexuality, interwar period in Estonia, Karen Barad’s agential realism, LGBTQI+ media studies

In order to build a better understanding of what sexuality meant in interwar Estonia and how it was expressed, this article focuses on representations of sexual and gender minorities in the Estonian printed media of the 1920s–1930s. On the one hand, seldom if ever, I found immediate voices of the marginalised people in focus, while on the other hand, many of the terms to describe sexual diversity were in the process of being articulated or had not been defined by that time. This lack of definitions, however, creates an epistemological gap between the present day and the interwar period, which I am aiming to reduce with this article. Hence, in order to demonstrate the development of sexuality-related terminology through time, I start with a brief survey of Estonian LGBTQI+ historiography. Next, I map the journalistic and scientific articles on sex and gender minorities in interwar Estonia. Finally, I present a case study of a so-called male-woman A. Oinatski, who was the most frequently and diversely portrayed queer person in Estonia during the interwar era. To systematize and differentiate the found fragmented sources, I apply feminist theorist Karen Barad’s model of agential realism, which helps to notice nuanced relationships between various examples of discourse around sexual minorities during the interwar era. Finally, I look at how the eugenics movement influenced the depictions and concepts of sex and gender in the public discussions held in interwar Estonia.

Maintaining local memory: The cult of the Virgin Mary

Milena Lyubenova
Assistant Professor Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Bulgaria, collective memory, Mother of God, traditions

The article focuses on the cult of the Virgin Mary in the village of Popovo, Pernik region, and the way that cult becomes a factor in maintaining the local memory of the community that experienced traumatic changes in Bulgaria at the beginning of the socialist period. The villages of Popovo and Krapets were displaced because of the intensive industrialization of the Pernik region in the early 50s of the twentieth century and the building of the Studena dam. The population was moved near the newly-built state-owned metallurgical plant named after V.I. Lenin (now Stomana Industry), where the building of the largest quarter of the town started. Access was prohibited to the villages and the settlers’ need to adapt to the new conditions resulted in looking for compensatory mechanisms in maintaining the community life and local memory of the two previous settlements. The building of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church in the new quarter named after Lenin (now Iztok) is perceived as a kind of continuation of the destroyed village churches, and its patron saint’s day is celebrated up to the very present by the previous inhabitants of Popovo and their descendants. The study is based on field research among the settlers from the two villages, as well as on observations on the restored village feast in Popovo after 1989, and on the celebrations of the Day of the Virgin Mary in the Iztok quarter of Pernik.

News, overviews   

Collection work at the Estonian Folklore Archives in 2018 and 2019 and President’s folklore collection awards

An overview is given by Astrid Tuisk.


A brief summary of the events of Estonian folklorists from December 2019 to April 2020.

Milestone of Estonian phraseology

Asta Õim, Katre Õim. Lähtekohti eesti fraseoloogia käsitlemiseks. Tallinn: EKSA, 2019. 383 pp.

An overview of the book by Pille Eslon.