The traditional student life that consists of communicating with fellow-students, life in boarding-houses, the academic traditions of the university and faculty, takes time to get familiar with. Getting acquainted is made easier by certain rites and traditions. For Estonian students the most important one is fox dubbing.
The present article gives a review of contemporary ritual of passage in the Estonian universities (Tartu University, Estonian Agricultural University, Viljandi Cultural College, Tallinn Pedagogical University, Narva University) during the 1960-1990s. This is also a continuation of the author's article "Everything could be done except killing" that dealt with the rite of/ox dubbing in Estonian high schools (Koivupuu 1995, 180-191). To make a survey of the contemporary initiation -fox dubbing - the author has used suitable material collected by the Estonian Folklore Archives in 1994-1995 about university tradition, the author's manuscript collection and authentic information.
ABOUT THE HISTORY
In 1632 King Karl Gustav II of Sweden founded Tartu University. The formation of TU was influenced by the traditions of Swedish Uppsala University. The initiation rite was also formed according to the example of Uppsala University. The rite is thus 363 years old. During this time Estonian universities have been under political and cultural influence of Sweden, Germany and Russia (see: Koivupuu 1995, 181-182).
The tradition of fox dubbing began definitely in Tartu, where from it later spread all over Estonia to other universities that were established much later (In 1936 Tallinn Technical Institute was founded, in 1938 it was renamed Tallinn Technical University In 1923 a Conservatory was founded in Tallinn Tallinn Pedagogical University was founded only in 1952 Estonian Agricultural University (up to 1992 Estonian Agricultural Academy) was formed an independent university in 1951 from the faculties of agriculture, forestry and veterinary science of Tartu University Narva University, founded in the 1990s, is meant mainly for Russian students At the same time Viljandi Cultural College was founded on the basis of Viljandi Cultural School In all these universities fox dubbing is a popular and expected event, where freshmen are finally given full membership among students. From universities this tradition has spread to high-schools, technical and vocational schools, also to summer work-groups that existed in Soviet times (Eesti Õpilasmalev and Eesti Üliopilasmalev) (Kõivupuu 1995, 183-184).
The initiation or, as students prefer to call it, fox dubbing, foxing, fox-exam fox-christening, belongs to the third or the last stage of the rite of passage -the joining rite (Kõivupuu 1995, 180-181) In Estonian student slang the word fox, meaning freshman, comes from the golden age of the 19th century corporation culture (Germ Fuchs - Estonian rebane). The first corporations were formed according to the origin of students: Courlanders founded "Curonia" in 1808; Estonians "Estonia" in 1821; Livonians "Livonia" in 1822. The main task of corporations was to grow noble educated people. Following the example of Baltic-German corporations the Estonians started to form their own ones, too. The first Estonian corporation "Vironia" was founded in Riga in 1900 (situated in Tartu since 1920). In 1907 "Fraternitas Estica" was founded, "Sakala" in 1909, "Ugala" in 1913. The union of Estonian corporations was founded in 1915. Estonian corporations were also founded in St. Petersburg ("Rotalia" 1913, "Fraternitas Liviensis" 1918). Female students also had their own corporations in Tartu: "Filiae Patriae" (1920); "India"; "Lembela; "Amiticia" (all in 1924). Before World War II almost every faculty in TU had its own corp!, as did foreign students:
German "Fraternitas Normannica" (1920), Russian "Fraternitas Slavia" (1923), Jewish "Limuvia" (1925), Latvian "Metraine" (1927). In 1920 corporations were founded also in Tallinn - "Tehnola" (1921), "Leola" (1920). The corporative upbringing depended on the authority of age. The young members of a corporation were trained according to the rule -orders can be given by those who can obey orders. A fox was not to wear colour regalia of his corporation, but wore a black student-cap instead.
In addition to corp! several student societies, formed on national principles, operated. In many cases they played an important role in the development of a particular nation's culture: Estonian Student Society (1889), Estonian Student Society "Uhendus" (1907), Russian Student Society (1884), etc. Members of corporations had quite an unfriendly attitude towards Estonian, Latvian, Russian, etc. students and this was the reason for creating different societies with their own traditions. The colours of EUS (ESS - Estonian Student Society), chosen in 1884 -blue, black and white, were established as Estonian national colours.
By establishing the Soviet System in 1940, corporations and other societies were forbidden. Some of them continued their work in exile.
Instead of these so-called "bourgeoisie traditions" the new "soviet" ones were tried to introduce. H. Kübar, a student of Tartu University in 1945-1954 recollects:
No societies were allowed, to say nothing of corporation attributes. The student caps were allowed only at the end of the 50s. Studying foreign languages was forbidden. Those who tried to study half-se-cretly were accused of attempting to emigrate or of spying. Christmas, Easter and Estonian Republic's Anniversary were celebrated secretly, in little companies.
The students of that period remember the so-called course-evening as the only entertainment at the university in those days.
Since the 60s an evening of fox clubbing started to gain popularity, where also student caps were delivered. The blue-red-white student caps were taken into use in 1957.
Three variants were offered - classical white caps, then a white-blue-black (EUS's/ESS's and also Estonian national colours) and also some other, perhaps a combination with red. Agricultural students chose green to be their main colour. These caps were discussed in Komsomol and Party-committees, // were very much against. Some said that let them wear. Käbin in Tallinn liked this white-blue-black the most but he said that black stripe did not match black peak. That is where the red stripe came from. At first the peaks were all of leather, black, only later the were made of this ugly plastic. (Anon. to M.Kõivupuu 1995)
In 1960-1990, every university and technical school had a student cap with its own colours. In this period caps were popular, students wore them every day. They were a kind of visit-card that determined the status of its owner and gave colour to the streets of university-towns. Now these caps are seldom seen, mostly worn by young people who belong to alternative formations. The folklore about cap-wearers - remarks, sayings, names of new and old caps in slang - spread all over Estonia and gave subject for witty sayings. The blue caps of TU and their wearers were inkstains, the green caps of the Agricultural Academy on the streets in spring gave the possibility of TU students to say that: blockheads are bursting into leaf. Brand new caps are called cakeboxes, a really dignified student was characterised by a very old cap, the best possibility was to get it as an inheritance from some older companion.
At the re-establishment of the Estonian republic, the international white caps with black stripe were taken into use again in 1991. Corporations and national student societies were restored. The members of corporations started to carry colour regalia again. Since then, there are two completely different joining rites: 1) joining a corp! during the fox-year, that can be longer than a calendar-year; 2) joining the students and academic family of chosen subject through fox dabbing. Because the characteristic feature of a young member of corp! is a black cap, let's call them hereafter black-headed foxes, and the unorganised, "free" students white-headed-foxes (they wear white caps).
Black-headed fox is a student who wants to become a full member of a corporation. The fox-time is a testing-time, an intermediate period, when a person is prepared to go to a new stage, getting acquainted with the status of full membership. A fox gets to know the corp! traditions and customs.
To become a fox I had to write an application that I then had to read aloud at the meeting. Then l was asked questions, e.g. Are you sportive? What is your attitude towards serving in armed forces? (Many members of corp! Sakala belong to Defence Union, during WW II it was an unwritten law to belong to Defence Union.) Then I was asked to leave the room. A discussion and voting took place. I was called in and had to read the principles of corp! Sakala. If I agreed I had to say: Yes! (E. Tasso, a member of "Sakala" since 1994)
Full members get an impression of the young member during the year, and that decides if he is accepted as a full member or not. Black caps pass from one to another, there are names and years of previous owners written inside. A black-headed fox has its rights and obligations. (To carry matches or a lighter to offer light for full-members. One also has to carry a song-book (so called kantusbuch), a pen and paper). A black-headed fox never pays bills, full members never ask money from him, etc. If a fox has transgressed these rules he is punished.
Fox, take in! A fox has to stand up and drink a jug of beer quickly. Then the jug has to be washed under running water and dried by moving in the air. Then a nail test is done. If a drop of water comes on the nail, the jug has to be washed and dried again. (E. Tasso, a member of corp! Sakala since 1994)
A full member does not borrow money or cigarettes from the fox. If he does, the loan has to be paid back tenfold. Whether a black-headed fox is taken into the corp! or not is determined by his willingness to accept the rules of the corporation without conditions. A corp! is usually a society for persons of the same sex, and that also determines the character and plot of the traditions.
The second type of foxes of the Estonian universities is much more widespread: the white-headed fox (we presume that he has a white international student-cap, although according to the author's information the act of delivering caps is no more a part of fox dubbing rite in the 90s, and it seems that at the moment the caps are not very popular among Estonian students). A white-headed fox can become a black-headed one if he wants to, but the opposite version is impossible.
A black-headed fox can also be a teacher but a white-headed fox is always only a freshman of the university and he is called fox till the end of the first year. In the Soviet university every course had its tutor-teacher, who was dubbed together with his course. This symbolised a kind of solidarity between students and teachers - one whole academic family! -drew both sides closer to each other and made further communication easier.
Newcomers, who have not yet gone through the rite of fox dubbing are called differently in different universities -fox cubs, would-be-foxes, fox-embryos etc.
Fox dubbing can last from one day (Tartu University, Viljandi Cultural College etc.) up to a week (Estonian Agricultural University, 1995). For a successful course of events usually some preparations are made by older students. For example since the 1990s the fox-council of Tartu University Estonian philologists has had a tradition of making newcomers answer a questionnaire e.g. Why have you come to the university? What can you offer to Alma Mater? What are your greatest achievements so far? But they also have to answer questions touching speciality slang that demand some knowledge of the traditions of the faculty. (E.g.: Name all the parishes that you have not visited. Which character of the Estonian literature are you similar to? Why? In which lair do you live? Do you live in a skulk or privately? How much do you carry alcohol and what kind of bullet wounds you?) The council uses those answers for carrying through the fox-tests or fox-exams.
Every contemporary initiation rite is original and very rich in details. The older the university, the more divers are its academic traditions including the fox dubbing. Universities founded in the 1990s try to create their own initiation traditions following the examples of the older ones. The information is got from other students, advice is got from teachers, also from the folklore archives.
A contemporary initiation is characterised by:
1. Visiting historical and cultural places of the town. Mainly the rite is connected with places that are significant or holy for students of certain specialities. In Tartu white-headed foxes are taken to Toomemäe, where the historical monuments are visited. The most popular of these are Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876) for medical students, Kristjan Jaak Peterson (1800-1821, one of the first students of Estonian nationality, a famous poet) for Estonian philologists; but also the founder of Tartu University Karl II Gustav, J. K. S. Morgenstern (1770-1852, professor of classical philology, the head of the university library, the founder of Classical Antiquities Museum) etc.
An academic speech is delivered by some outstanding teacher of the faculty, "Gaudeamus" is sung. Different parts of ''Gaudeamus" are sung on every possible occasion during the excursion.
In addition to visiting historical moments, where sometimes candles are burnt and poetry is read, fox cubs are taken under the windows of the most popular teachers and citizens to sing "Gaudeamus". Usually the excursion is done in early morning, at about 5-6 a.m.:
From the main building we went to Tähtvere to sing under the windows of Matti Milius and Harald Peep. Fox cubs were teased, those who did not walk in line were hit." (Tartu University, Estonian Philology 1991)
Early in the morning 5.30, we had to be by the main building. A sign with one's name and photo was hung round the neck of each fox-cub and "Gaudeamus" and "On kevad Tartu pääl" (The Spring Is On Tartu) were sung. Then we had an excursion in town, "Gaudeamus" was sung under the windows of prominent citizens and teachers: Viitso, Pruuli, inBoil..." (Tartu University, Estonian Philology 1994)
Those who were missing in the morning were punished in the evening event (one had to fulfil additional tasks, bring along a "book" - a bottle of alcohol). This morning event was followed by classes.
In the evening, before the party, this walk is repeated and the noisy company shows itself to the town.
In the morning of the fox-day we had a beer-race at Toomemäe, before that we went to give blood at Maarjamõisa hospital. The procession came from Toomemäe to town hall square, we sang. (E.-M. Rebane, Tartu University 1994)
In Narva University Narva castle is visited and the medieval jousting on horseback is imitated.
In Viljandi Cultural College the event takes place during one night, it begins in the ruins of Viljandi Order Castle, where the cubs are taken. Before that, "Gaudeamus" is sung round the fountain in front of the college. On the way to the ruins older schoolmates play scenes from freshmen's previous life, when they were kids, from their college time and future after the graduation. Cubs have to free their tutors and course-mates who have been imprisoned by the christeners. Fires burn everywhere. When prisoners are free after a long battle, big shaman-drums are beaten. If necessary, tattlers can be punished physically, not verbally! is written in the 1995s plan of christening. The shaman makes a proposal to dance a ritual dance which culminates in singing an oath. After that fires are blown out and the procession goes through the town to the culture club "Fellin" where the event continues (A. Sünter to M. Kõivupuu 1995).
The Russian groups of Tallinn Pedagogical University wrote (1994-1995) that fox cubs had to make snow-buildings (in case there was snow).
2. The traditions of a particular faculty:
2.1. During the Soviet period the communication between freshmen was made easier by obligatory work in collective farms. Freshmen were sent to the country for a whole month (September or October). They were clubbed foxes after their arrival from there. Anyway, by the end of the first term they had to be dubbed.
The fox dubbing took place in the 1st year between the students' autumn days and examination session. (A. Soon, Tartu University, Biology-Geography 1968-1973)
The freshmen who came back from collective farm were called fox-embryos. This status lasted up to the party at Laeva where they were fox-dubbed. Naturally, before that all kinds of hardships had to be experienced, because of the fact that the ceremony is carried through by second year students who were tortured the year before and now were trying to wreak revenge. (K. Ader, Tartu University, Biology-Geography 1983-1988)
If possible, fox dubbing takes place on the so-called neutral territory, either out of town or in some club, home or in someone's summer-cottage. Different faculties have their own traditional places for fox parties outside Tartu.
The traditional place for the party was a hay-barn near Laeva. The rumours were spreading that there had been several barns already, because sometimes they had been burnt down by merry drunkards. Usually the permit to use some barn was got from some farmer. On the previous day some active students built a fox lair of switches and laths. (K. Ader, Tartu University, Biology-Geography 1983-1988)
At night in Taevaskoja Anti Lääts read Uku Masing, that sounded like a spell. We had to repeat, our backs against tree trunks to get strength for studying. Whole 5 years still! (K. Sak, Tartu University, Estonian Philology 1990)
The walk with different tests and exercises allows us to draw parallels with the intermediate period of a rite of passage (the elimination). Successful passing of those tests makes the next exercises easier or releases from them.
On the way we had to find 6 eggs from hen's nest, then it was not
necessary too go through christening. Guns were shot but no foxes fell. (E.-M. Rebane, Tartu University, Estonian Philology, 1991)
We went to Palupera by train and then 7 km by foot, we sang folk songs on the way. There were obstacles on the way, we had to jump over the fire. (Tartu University, Estonian Philology 1991)
Because the petrol cost almost nothing at that time, we went to Laeva by bus. In front of Laeva shop people from several other places waited and the foxes were stamped usually with brilliant-green or stamping ink to distinguish who is who. Fox cubs were also tailed (for example my tail was a dead duck's leg). Them the "embryos" were lined up and Laeva graveyard was shown to them (this should be the right place for foxes), then girls and boys had to run in pairs and play cavalry. While we arrived at a small board across the Laeva river, foxes were asked to take off their shoes to keep them dry in case anybody was strongly against kissing a frog. A draught of vodka had to disinfect the mouth later. The rest of the way we gathered wood for campfire, of which a huge fire was lit near the barn." (K. Ader, TU Biology-Geography 1983-1988)
Near Tartu at Laeva we had to force the river, the prize was a bottle of Põltsamaa wine. The department of zoology had to kiss a traffic-sign with an elk." (E.-M. Rebane, Tartu University, 1994)
A party took place at the cafe of Pedagogical Institute. We were turned around, led through the back-doors, older students said, that "the best way is to make a detour". (N. Litvinenko, Tallinn Pedagogical University, Russian group 1992)
2.2. Fox tests. During the joining rite, freshmen have to fulfil several tasks and answer questions in front of a council. The council is formed of popular teachers, older students, at best also outstanding persons of this speciality. The questions demand knowledge in their speciality and also of the folklore (nicknames, stories) concerning the teachers. Exercises might also be connected with political issues of the day etc.
Christening took place at the university-club in Tähe street. It was organised and carried out by second year students, supposedly by 4th year students, too. On the stage at the long table the Learned Council was seated (less than 10 persons). They were all men, dressed in historical clothes (knights or judges) that were probably borrowed from the theatre. After a long demonstration of wit, the foxes were asked to come to the stage one by one. They were asked all kinds of tricky questions. Some were tortured longer, some were released without saying a word. (A. Soon, Tartu University, Biology-Geography 1968-1973)
Sometimes homework had to be prepared for the council:
We had to stage the play "Klaabu, Nipi and Little Angry." (Tartu University, Medical faculty 1994).1
Liis Kolle and Hannes Vetik had to play the sketch "Laugaste". Hannes laid down and Liis jumped over. Got over pool/Laugaste. (K. Sak, Tartu University, Estonian Philology 1994).2
The groups got tasks - to play teachers, to play laws of physics, to play Newton's III Law. (N. Litvinenko, Tallinn Pedagogical University 1992)
For instance at a. fox dubbing of Estonian philologists in 1995 one group had to perform "The Zoo of the Lord", the girls had to play "Tape scandal of Savisaar" [Edgar Savisaar - Estonian Minister of Interior who had to resign because of his secret recordings], etc. The answers to previous tests inspire the members of council to create new questions. The wit and shrewdness of the newcomers are put to test by asking tricky and specific questions. Good and witty answers deserve approval and applause of the audience and also the council's favourable attitude.
I would identify myself with Aavik's Ruth. (The test's question was - Which literary character would you identify yourself with?) Tonu Tender asked, how hair grows, is it possible to raise up by pulling hair? (K. Sak, TU Estonian Philology 1994).3
Foxes were asked to come to the stage one by one, they had say their name or family-name (women did not want to say it). There were 3 possible answers to the questions. There was a male fox made of pasteboard on the stage, the genitals of which had a little tinker attached, one had to crawl under that without touching it. If the bell tinkled one had to try once more. Girls gave kisses to the members of the council, these were not repeated. (E.-M. Rebane, Tartu University, Biology-Geography 1994)
The medics of TU answered the questions of the council in the lecture hall of the anatomical theatre, hand on a corpse. For every wrong answer a freshman got a flip at forehead. (Tartu University, Medical faculty 1992)
In the Faculty of Philology fox cubs have been asked: How many lakes are there in Finland? - The answer: 1000+1. Finland is a country of thousand lakes and the teacher Jarv ('lake') is staying there at the moment; How many rivers are there in Tartu? The answer: Two: Emajõgi and Volga.4
The tricky questions for physics can be much more specific:
Why are transmission, lines usually very high up? - The answer: Because the sine curve of the alternating current might touch the earth.; What to do if a table with 3 legs is shaking? - The answer: A table with 3 legs never shakes.; If there are three swallows on the wire, at what moment they are on the same level? - The answer: They are always on the same level, because 3 points form level.; How to measure the height of the house using an ammeter and a stopwatch? - One has to throw the ammeter down from the roof of the house and measure its time of falling with the stopwatch., etc. (E. Kasak to M. Kõivupuu. Nov. 1995)
The alcohol-endurance of the fox cubs is also put to test, e.g.: the so-called "depth-bomb" is given for drinking (a small glass of vodka is poured into beer and a freshman has to drink it); they are asked to suck the breast of Alma Mater (a freshman has to climb up to the ceiling were he as if from mother's breast gets a draught of Vodka or spirits), etc. The council asks fox cubs to come to the stage either one by one or in group. The tests can last several hours depending on the number of participants.
2.3 Fox dubbing. If in the 17th century during the initiation rite the rough and rude features of a future student were rubbed off, ritual drinking of wine and dipping salt on one's tongue symbolised teaching knowledge to the freshman, then now this is replaced by beating with special literature and drinking ritual drinks. The fox dubbing is accomplished either individually or the whole course together. If it is done individually, then it takes place right after fulfilling the council's tasks. The head of the council takes the holy book and by saying: l dub you the fox of the Faculty of Philology (History, Physics etc.), hits the freshman with the book. By this procedure the freshman has become a member of the real students' body, although in the speech they remain foxes up to the end of the first year.
If fox clubbing was carried out in groups, especially in the 1970.-1980s, the oath had to be taken in a special pose (kneeling, standing on one foot) and to stress the emotional side candles were lit:
We had to take our fox-oath kneeling in front of the stage. The text was dictated and foxes had to repeat. Everyone got a draught of drink and a mouthful of something. The drink was probably a mixture containing spirits and maybe red pepper. The mouthful of meat was quite tasty although a taste of ether was clearly recognisable. Later it came out that it was made of frogs who were killed with ether. (A. Soon, TU Biology-Geography, 1968-1973)
After the oath the members of council attached tails to foxes, sometimes fox-masks had to be worn, and caps were put on. (Tartu University; Faculty of Philology and Faculty of Mathematics 1970-1980s). But caps could be given in the morning at the procession at Toomemäe, depending on how the organisers thought more suitable. In Viljandi Culture College special fox-cards were made that were given to the newcomers by saying ritual words. The rite was finished by fireworks.
The festive part is followed by a traditional party with dance and music. At the Cultural College (also EAU and in some faculties of TU) the tradition is spreading that older students introduce themselves with programs specially made for the fox party (plays, music projects, dance performances, etc.). If it is possible, different groups are formed: some dance, some sing by guitar, some make music. Surely different generations fraternise. Fox parties are usually held with alcohol and being drunk foxes are told all kinds of stories, (anon. to M. Kõivupuu 1995).
Fox parties usually last until dawn and therefore they are held at weekends so that they would not disturb the academic life too much.
2.4. The initiation can have different stages. Medics and biologists-geographers have divided the joining rite into 2 totally different events. The first stage - the intermediate rite (elimination) or dirty clubbing takes place in the open air or in the anatomy building. The fox cubs are made to test their "cool nerve" and resistance in the extreme situations that the chosen subject demands:
Then freshmen were sent to their lair. Those who had come out were marked with fox-stink. In 1983 it was butter acid, but after that year no such fools were found because its awful smell made sleeping in the barn quite impossible. (K. Ader, Tartu University, Biology-Geography 1983-1988)
The second stage -joining or clean dubbing is a festive ball-like event, where the stress is laid in communication. There are dance, wine, an oath is taken. Older students introduce themselves by a self-made specific play or song-play. Clean dubbing was carried through by older students, the dirty one was organised by students in their second years. (It came out in the process of gathering the university tradition, that it was usually done by the 2nd and 4th year students.)
As referred, fox dubbing was also a tradition at the work-groups, where the newcomers' resistance was put to test.
Foxes had pillowcases on, a snare round their necks and older persons drove them where needed - to the mud puddles, to the channel where water was poured on them. The tug of war with a cow's bowels was organised. (P. Pärnapuu, EÜE (SBH - Students' Building Host), Tuigo group, 1987)
Analogies to fox dubbing can be found in boarding house traditions.
In Tartu Art School freshmen are catted jaanike, no animal-names. The relationship between a jaanike and older students is generally complicated and contradictory, but not because of their age or some kind of humiliating attitude towards them (or vice versa: unfriendly attitude towards the older student), but these problems come from principles, the whole way of life. He who comes to live to the boarding-house of Tartu Art School, comes in 95% of the cases, to a completely different world, comparing with one's previous living conditions. This little communism-like society is really friendly and secure - one just has to get accustomed to it. Most of jaanike usually get accustomed to the funny laws of the boarding-house during their 1 st year, but at first everybody gets a bit terrified seeing this anarchist and psychedelic milieu. Older students' friendly attitude and attempt to make friends might seem intrusive and disrespectful to jaanike and sometimes they shut themselves in their rooms and decide not to contact with those awful people. If the reservation continues for too long a time the natives start losing interest and hope to get to friendly terms with those funny newcomers. But a jaanike surely does not escape from christening, that takes place during October. This important event is carried though by the 2nd year students, not the 4th year ones, as it usually is in other places (this might come from the fact that most of the progressive people have found themselves a private Hat for living by that time). Christening is done at night when everyone is asleep and no one can suspect anything. Preparations are made totally secretly, if any jaanike suspects anything and runs away for that night he still won't get away with that. There will be time to do it anyway...
Christening itself is quite traditional; something is tied up (one person's legs to another; hands, eyes or the whole person is tied to the bed), something is given to eat/drink (a boiled apple, water of pickled cucumbers with gin etc.), something is coloured.... This style -secretly at night-demands creativity and improvisation on the scene of action because you never know what one does at night. Maybe someone is not asleep at all, someone can wake up, etc. - one has to be prepared for surprises. Christening is an important thing in the students' lives and gives subject for talking for a long time. (H. Hindrikson, Tartu Art School 1990-1994).
1.Initiation is a popular and expected event among contemporary students. Every particular rite of fox dubbing is formed more or less by the cultural background of the city, by the historic traditions of that particular university and traditions of the certain speciality. Considering all that, the organisers - senior students - create their own fox dubbing by a way of improvisation. The information is better memorised by those who have become the organisers of the rite in later years. Questioning people of 35 years and over, it appeared that those who have been members of the council and organisers remember more. Passive participants remember the event as such, but details have been forgotten:
|Was there a fox dubbing? - Yes there was, but who can remember it, it was in 1973. It was done with Wiedemann. (T. Viil to M. Kõivupuu 1994)|
|Yes, I remember some questions, but they cannot be understood unless you know the laws of physics. (E. Kasak to M. Kõivupuu 1995).|
In last years fox dubbing has become an open event, where friends and acquaintances, all who are interested, can take part in. The author has read from Tartu newspaper "Postimees" an announcement where everyone was invited to the fox dubbing of EAU's veterinary department (Oct. 1995). In EAU the whole university organises one long fox week with all kinds of entertainments.
If in the 1970-SOs fox dubbing was characterised by the transmission of the referred tradition within one faculty from older to younger students, then nowadays students all over Estonia exchange information. There are several reasons for that.
Soviet order of higher education had a closed system of courses. A course formed a micro-society, social groups with its leaders, traditions (course-evenings, so-called equatorial parties when half of the study-time was over, last class of the course, common outings, common graduation ceremony, etc.) and other characteristic features. Communication continued even after graduating, gatherings are/were organised, etc. In the Estonian republic the so-called system of subjects was brought in. It is possible to listen to the lectures and do exams at several universities at a time. Foreign students come to study to Estonia and Estonian youth can study abroad. Students do not identify themselves by courses but they are determined as the 1 st, 2nd, etc., year students according to their specialty. This favours the students' communication on very different levels and is a cause for the decline of some traditions (e.g. course-evenings, equatorial parties, common last class etc.) and modification of others (e.g. initiation ot fox dubbing) and also the rise of new traditions in the constantly changing progressive student body. International student societies according to their specialities have come into existence (for instance, the students of folklore, history and ethnology of TU became members of NEFA in 1990).
On the fox dubbing of a course, attention was paid to the individual person, who introduced himself to the council and also to his companions. The person's role in the course was significantly bigger than his role in the contemporary university. The fox dubbing of the past few years has characteristically been performed in groups rather than individuals, although some individual dubbings still occur.
A need to belong into a certain group, to have friends, is definitely bigger among the 1st year students, the older ones have already found their place in the academic life. Corporations with their conservative laws are not suitable to everybody for different reasons. 2. Teachers are involved either
a) passively: There were teachers on "fox clubbing", it seemed to be natural, they also liked good jokes (A. Soon, TU, Biology-Geography, 1968). If teachers do not participate, other ways are found to draw attention to them - e.g. singing under their windows early in the morning. Not all teachers are worthy of that honour, a selection is made. Every next generation has its own sympathies and antipathies. For instance, the favourite person of the Estonian philologists of the last decade has definitely been the head of the TU Scientific Library, teacher and library scientist Peeter Olesk, under whose windows songs are sung, who delivers an academic speech and who, as the head of the council, chris-tensfoxes.
b) actively: they are asked to deliver an academic speech, lead an excursion, participate in the work of the council. According to the students' estimation they are interesting characters, good at their specialities and persons who carry the academic spirit.
Written exams and independent work are characteristic of the contemporary university. The exams are taken individually rather than with the whole course. This tendency loosens the relationship between students and teachers, which in some ways is reflected even in the initiation rite - the participation of teachers t fox-parties seems to become less and less frequent, fox-parties seem to become the events of students, where students' jokes and entertainment are more important.
3. On dirty dubbing, which has been practised mainly by the biologists-geographers and medics of TU, one can find more elements of violence, as well as in fox dubbing in secondary-schools, vocational schools and in the summer work-groups of the past (see: Kõivupuu 1995, 184-185). Also the representatives of these specialities have mentioned that the fox dubbing traditions of historians, mathematicians, philologists, etc., are clean by character, wherz the foxes' clothes are not spoiled and no cruel jokes are played on them. Still talking about philologists, historians or mathematicians they say that the tests stand on the very edge of tolerating.
4. Fox clubbing of the Soviet period was characterised by songs, parodies, absurd jokes, etc., of greater social criticism, because of the fact that the university (ies) carried a good amount of classical academic spirit that was highly evaluated.
Students could (on some conditions) get forbidden literature, in common discussions with some teachers those issues of philosophy, linguistics, etc., were touched that were not taught during the Soviet period. This caused the evaluation of the student's status. It was stressed by wearing a student-cap. Correspondence students even wore their caps outside the session time - that contradicted with the statute of wearing.
A contemporary student does not think it necessary to carry regalia on the street. Even corporation caps and black fox-caps are worn only on festive occasions. Maybe Estonian students have become apolitical during the radical social and political changes?
5. The term fox dubbing has given place to fox christening or christening parfy, where, especially in secondary schools, in the highlight of the rite freshman is not hit with a ritual book or object, but clerical christening is imitated (Kõivupuu 1995, 187). On the student christening parties usually clerical rites are not imitated.
6. The tradition of fox dubbing contains several types of folklore -in the 1970-1980s elements of wedding-traditions were recognisable, stories about teachers, etc. In the 1990s passwords, sayings, tricky questions dominate. The folklore related to fox dubbing is changing rapidly because the gap between generations is becoming shorter. When in the 1970.-1980s it was about 5 years or more, then now it is only 2-3 years.
Comparing the 1960s to the 1990s, Estonian students are now going through radical changes both in the society and in student-life, which in one way or another, as we can see from the afore-given, is reflected in the university tradition.
1) Klaabu, Nipi and Angry Fish are characters of a cartoon by Avo Paistik, Little Angry was a nickname of a teacher.
2) Laugaste - Estonian folklorist, professor; laugas, lauka - '(bog) pool'
3) Ruth - an ideal woman of Estonian literature, created by Johannes Aavik.
4) Volga was a restaurant near the main building at soviet times.
1. Material collected by Estonian Folklore Archives in 1994-1995.
2. The author's manuscript collection.
Kõivupuu, M. 1995: Kõike võib teha, peaasi, et päris ära ei tapeta. Lipitud-lapitud. Tartu.
Piirimäe, H. 1982: Tartu Ülikooli ajalugu I. 1632-1798. Tallinn.
Siilivask, K. 1982: Tartu Ülikooli ajalugu II. 1798-1919. Tallinn.
Siilivask, K. & Palamets, H. 1982: Tartu Ülikooli ajalugu III. 1928-1982. Tallinn.
Tartu Üliopilaskonna ajalugu 1932: Tartu.
Translated by Külliki Steinberg.