Multilayered Historical Music Tradition of the Skolt Saami in Finland

Marko Jouste

The Giellagas Institute. University of Oulu


Musical tradition of the Finnish Skolt Saami has been studied previously focusing mainly on the indigenous and “authentic” features, while foreign influences have been interpreted as “un-authentic” elements. My research on the Skolt Saami musical culture is based on the fact that the Skolt Saamis have always lived in a multi-cultural environment and their musical tradition is inherently multi-layered. I explore the ways in which Skolt Saami have shaped these overlapping traditions of own and neighbouring Karelian, Russian, Norwegian and Finnish cultures and incorporated them into their own musical culture during the 20th century.

There are historical turning points in the 20th century Skolt Saami history, which have had a crucial impact on Skolt Saami culture. The first was the division of the Skolt Saami territories by the border of Finland and Russia in 1920 in The Treaty of Tartu. The multicultural environment on the traditional living areas, which had existed in this area for centuries, began to break down. Saami village areas Paččjok, Peäccam and Suõ´nn'jel were incorporated to Finland and the area was named Petsamo. The contacts across the border began to decline and ceased to exist completely during and after the Second World War, when Petsamo area was ceded to Soviet Union and Skolt Saamis of Finland were forced to migrate to new areas, namely to Sevettijärvi and Nellim in Inari district.

In my paper I shall compare historical archive material gathered from the three Skolt Saami siida areas Paččjok, Peäccam and Suõ´nn'jel and point out how was the local historical musical tradition formed with several overlapping genres and how this shows in the structural analysis of historical music sources. Naturally, the Skolt Saami musical culture contains data of how Skolt Saamis have experienced the turning points in their history, and within this material we can obtain a Skolt Saami perspective to their own history and individual and collective worldview. It can be defined as “a history told by people’s own voices”. I shall also discuss of the changes in the Skolt Saami music tradition, which occurred after the Second World War in the new Finnish cultural environment. The key questions are: Can we see the old tradition continuing its life? What was the impact of the Finnish culture? Did Skolt Saamis stop creating new tradition after the migration as it has been claimed in the previous research? What tradition can be heard in the vast archive collection of recordings made from 1950s to 1970s?