Oudekki (Oťo, Yevdokia) Figurova

Oudekki Figurova (1891–1978) was born in a large Votian family in the Jõgõperä (Krakolye) village, although it is known that one of her grandmothers was an Ingrian living in the village of Narvusi (Kozemkino). Oudekki Figurova’s father was the brother of Maťo Gerasimova’s husband. Oudekki had three sisters and a brother. When she was 12 years old, their father died. The widowed mother struggled to feed the family and this is why Oudekki had to start working at a young age—she was a babysitter, a house maid and a fisher. At the age of 17 she started working at the factory in Narva. Regardless of the fact that Oudekki had finished only one and a half years of village school, she could read and write. At the age of 20 she returned to her home village and married a local Ingrian, but continued to speak Votian at home. The Figurovs had nine children, of whom only two daughters reached adult age. After most of the Jõgõperä village burned down, the Figurovs settled in the village of Rajo (Mezhniki). During the Second World War, Oudekki’s family was deported to Finland alongside other Votians, Ingrians and Ingrian-Finns. After they were repatriated into the Soviet Union, Oudekki lived for a while in different parts of inner Russia. Her husband was arrested and died in a labour camp. Oudekki remained healthy until an advanced age—even at the age of 80 she went fishing on the Lauga (Luga) River.

Oudekki was a lead singer, also at weddings, and a very fine soloist. She got most of her huge song repertoire from her uncle’s wife Maťo Gerasimova, the great singer of the Jõgõperä village, who was also a wedding singer. According to Estonian folklorist Paul Ariste, who wrote down many of Oudekki’s songs during 1966–1978, Oudekki was the last Votian who was familiar with Votian singing traditions and had a relatively wide repertoire. Regardless of her being a married woman, Oudekki took part in mumming and masking, but also sang at weddings and funerals.

Oudekki learned from her mother, a wise woman, popular remedies, using spells, and believing in Votian folk wisdom. She was familiar with herbal medicine and knew how to prepare ointments and potions. She could heal with her hands and use spells. Oudekki was widely known as a folk doctor, and as the last Votian täätäjä, a wise woman or witch.

Being a village bohemian, Oudekki Figurova’s special hobby was domesticating magpies and crows. Always kind and in good spirits, she used humour to overcome hardships in life. Ariste collected folklore material from Oudekki until her death and he never stopped praising her intellect, memory and knowledge. Since Oudekki knew the language very well and was a great storyteller, she was an excellent informant for folklore collectors. She understood the questions right away and tried to answer these as appropriately as possible. Unfortunately, her daughters and son-in-laws did not like her talking Votian, her old rituals and beliefs, or her singing and laughing. Eventually, Oudekki Figurova could talk to folklore researchers only with risking upsetting her relatives.

Ariste 1986, 2005; Arukask 2003; Arukask, Raudalainen 2005; Bartens 2012; Ernits 2009; Heinsoo 2005.


Votian singer Oudekki Figurova wearing ethnic Votian clothing. Photo: T. Seilenthal, 1966 (from the personal collection of Tõnu Seilenthal).

Oudekki Figurova with Estonian folklorists. Photo: T. Seilenthal, 1969 (from the personal collection of Tõnu Seilenthal).