Estonain Folklore

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You are visiting the Estonian folklorists' server Haldjas (fairy, guardian spirit), which was set up in 1995 by the folk belief research group of the Institute of the Estonian Language. Presently, the group and the server have been incorporated under the Estonian Literary Museum. The majority of electronic publications and data corpora in the server are in the Estonian language, which belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. Estonia is a small country with ca one million people, who speak the Estonian language as their mother tongue.

The server offers a wide range of information on oral heritage, folklore and folk belief, on the institutions actively engaged in folkloristic research in Estonia as well as researchers and research projects. The covered aspects of folklore also include the heritage of other peoples of the Uralic language group. The server features two journals that have been published online and in print since 1996: Mäetagused and Folklore: An electronic Journal of Folklore.

Only parts of the material are currently available in English and/or German; in time the proportion of material in foreign language will grow.

Our news!

SIEF Ritual Year Working Group Autumn 2020 Seasonal Webinar

We are thrilled to announce the initiative of the members of the SIEF WG “The ritual year” to establish an ongoing webinar which will technically organized on the platform of the Estonian Literary Museum (Tartu), and supported by the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies, and will be moderated by Irina Sedakova, Mare Kõiva.
The beginning of these series of academic e-meetings is very symbolic – the first webinar start with the lecture by Emily Lyle, the honorary President and the founder of the group.
The webinar is planned as once in a season, so the first one has the title SIEF WG “The Ritual Year Webinar” Autumn 2020 RY will take place on October 15, at 15-17 pm. (UTC+3).
Poster for the Autumn Webinar
Irina Sedakova (Moscow). Introduction
Emily Lyle (Edinburgh University) A spark of hope: Need fire as a responce to crisis
Mare Kõiva (Tartu, Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies). Earth Day: Against the silent spring
Laurent S. Fournier (Aix-Marseille University). Holy Healers in Provance (France): From folkloore to anthropology.
Information: Mare Kõiva,

COPING SRATEGIES 2: From Diary to Meme Creation

From Sept. 21-22, the conference "COPING SRATEGIES 2: From Diary to Meme Creation" of the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum will take place in Äksi Moto ranch. The conference will continue the analysis of the project topics and examine vernacular adaptation and coping strategies.
The aim of the conference is to expand and deepen the theme, which was started with the first international conference on humanitarian sciences in early August.
According to the organisers, Katre Kikas and Anastasiya Fiadotava, on the one hand, the focus is on how individuals and groups interpret major societal changes and upheavals. On the other hand, the choices and solutions that people and communities face in their everyday lives are of interest. What verbal and visual genre tools are applied in these situations? Are these more private or public, personal or community choices?
The conference will include, for example, meme creation, fictitious events, keeping diaries, role-model search, and a number of other examples from both present and past times.

The conference program and presentation abstracts are available on the website:
ELM 8-2/20/3 project supports the conference and The Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies (TK 145) through the European Regional Development Fund.

Old and new sociocultural values in Russia and Bulgaria by Irina Sedakova

On September 28, at 11 (Est. time) Dr Irina Sedakova (Institute for Slavic studies, Russian Academy of Science, Head of the Department of Typology and Comparative Linguistics) will give an online-lecture "Old and new sociocultural values in Russia and Bulgaria."

The aim of the lecture is to compare and scrutinize the semantics and pragmatics of sociocultural values as represented in old rural and new urban settings in Russia and Bulgaria.
The talk starts with a brief account of the axiological terminology in Russian and Bulgarian in order to demonstrate that ‘value’ as an abstract notion is a recent development, and not typical in the rural contexts. It gains more and more frequency in the era of the internet, ‘new sincerity’, and new ethics.
• How do we investigate values in our field work, what sort of questions should we ask our interlocutors?
• Is it possible to draw a border (lexical, pragmatical, etc.) between ‘old’ and ‘new’ values?
• What are the reasons for dynamic changes in the axiological hierarchy?
• How does COVID-19 influence the routines and preferences of people, and correspondingly the hierarchy of values and its vocabulary?
These and some other questions will be discussed on the examples of such values as 'love', 'old age', and 'health'.

The lecture takes place online, at the ELM, in the TEAMS enviroment. Preregistration is suggested, and the languages of presentationsa is English
The lecture takes place as a part of the seminars of the Department of Folkloristics (ELM) and The WG of the myths and religious studies at the Centre of Excellenece in Estonian Studies (CEES – TK 145). Lectures are supported by the research grant EKM 8-2/20/3 and by the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies (TK-145).
Contact: Mare Kalda, mare.kalda[at]

COVID-19: Management strategies and communication models. I

18 August 2020, Our first conference on COVID-19!

We are part of a pandemic with the greatest number of registered cases, in which, along with medical data, researchers can draw on enormous amounts of recorded experience and practices. Next to new curing methods, technologies, and economic analyses, several vernacular practices and behavioural patterns have emerged for crisis situations. These are supported by a number of different vernacular theories, the credibility of which depends on each concrete person – be it the recognition of the reliability of Twitter conversations and their help in predicting the spread and outbreaks of COVID-19 if no other credible indicators are available (Singh et al. 2020). According to Thomas McLaughlin (1996), the theoretical approaches presented by non-academics, for example, experts, activists, fans, or visionaries, constitute popular theories, which proceed from the attempt to explain their discoveries and knowledge.

The open online forum focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, discussing which manifestations of adaptation and creativity came to light and what were the results achieved in the field of vernacular processes and practices. The issues under observation are trust, credibility, crazy hypotheses, and extreme control, and the fields discussed range from medical folklore to secular and religious rituals, figurative speech, social media movements, and other topics.

Folklore 79

We are happy to introduce the second part of the special edition of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, titled “On the Move: Migration and Diasporas”, with Leena Kurvet-Käosaar and Triinu Ojamaa as guest editors. This issue focuses on current methodological advances in the field, in particular on mixed-methods approaches and methods for studying digital diasporas as well as some related conceptual concerns, for example, the re-emergence and critical revision of the concept of cosmopolitanism.
The article by Eva Toulouze and Nikolai Anisimov, “An Ethno-cultural Portrait of a Diaspora in Central Russia: The Formation and Culture of the Eastern Udmurt”, is based on the authors’ ethnographic fieldwork material and focuses on the formation and development of a small diaspora community that has left their original territory. The authors analyse the relationship between diasporic identity and ethnic or vernacular religion, demonstrating how religion can function as an important axis of one’s group identity.
The article by Irina Belobrovtseva, “Seto People in the Expedition Diaries and Literary Works of a Russian Émigré Leonid Zurov”, discusses some of the lesser-known aspects of Russian migration history through an analysis of Zurov’s activities. Belobrovtseva analyses various aspects of Zurov’s mission, arguing that Zurov believed that the Seto preserved the ancient Slavic rites better than Russians.
Aija Sakova and Marin Laak in their article “Situating Oneself within the Estonian Language and World Literature: Ivar Ivask’s Relational Ways of Self-understanding” analyse the creative choices and their influencing factors of Ivar Ivask, a multilingual writer, who felt himself at home in far more than only two cultures. The authors argue that Ivask was a cosmopolitan, and this view largely coincides with his own self-image.
In the article “Literary Biographies without a Fixed Linguistic Abode”, Elina Mikkilä takes under observation migration writers’ language choices and migration literature in its historical development, defining migration literature as “a genre on the move” due to the writers’ nomadic lifestyle. Mikkilä’s article focuses on the literature created by culturally bilingual authors and it has a strong autoethnographic value as Mikkilä herself is one of them.
The article by Kari Korolainen, “Graphic Aspects of Mobility: Folkloristic-Ethnological Drawings as a Starting Point for Discussing Mobility and Borders”, introduces the reader to the folkloristic material collected from the eastern part of Finland and Finnish and Russian Karelia in 1936–1939. Korolainen examines the handwritten texts of ordinary people, which describe an object, activity or situation; the documents also include hand-made drawings. The article contains multi-layered discussions on mobility in the context of folklore, but the author also exemplifies mobility with his own original drawings.
Tanya Matanova’s contribution to the special issue, “German Migrants in Bulgaria and Their Social Networks”, presents the results of a pilot study, the focus of which is on immigrants’ various communication practices. It is an internet-based research of the communication activities in sixteen German-language Facebook groups, complemented by ethnographic interviews.
The issue is complemented by three articles from the editorial board. The article by Anastasiya Fiadotava, “Where the Structural Meets the Personal: Mother-In-Law Humor between a Joke Cycle and Joking Relationships in Belarus”, discusses the status of mother-in-law humour in the context of humorous family communication in contemporary Belarusian families. The humorous communication is represented by widespread canned jokes that portray the wife’s mother as an ill-natured and imperious character, and by personal humorous stories and other personal forms of humorous communication.
Alexey Britvin, Irina Britvina, Liudmila Starostova, and Marc Compte-Pujol in their article “Symbolic Capital as a Resource of Promotion of Provincial Cities: An Analysis of Place Branding Strategies of Ural Urban Destinations” analyse the concept of the symbolic capital of a territory and substantiate the importance of its identification and its use for the promotion of three provincial cities in Russia: Shadrinsk, Chebarkul, and Chelyabinsk. The authors of the article propose to group the resources of the symbolic capital of a territory by using signs or symbols, images of the territory, and archetypes.
Ulrika Wolf-Knuts in her article “’Still, I Can Hardly Believe It’: Reactions, Resources, and Religion in Conversations about Sexual Abuse of Children among Laestadians in Finland“ analyses people’s reactions to a case of paedophilia, presenting three types of narrators – the reluctant accepter, the disappointed accepter, and the explaining accepter – and showing what resources they applied to overcome their frustration.
The articles are followed by an overview of an international scientific colloquium on trauma issues, an overview of a thesis defence, and two book reviews.
The issue is accessible online at

Cooking with humour. Belorusian humorous folklore about family cooking traditions

Anastasiya Fiadotava, a junior research fellow at the Estonian Literary Museum, presents in her lecture a study of Belarusian humorous folklore revolving around cooking. It examines two different types of folklore text: jokes collected on the internet, and humorous anecdotes in family lore about cooking, the latter collected through fieldwork. By comparing the two kinds of humour, the study investigates to what extent the values and attitudes manifest in my interviews mirror those found in internet jokes. The research shows that while there can be some parallels between the two types of humour, their forms, topics, and functions differ greatly and reflect separate aspects of Belarusian foodlore.
You can follow the lecture:
The lecture is supported by the research grant of the Estonian Literary Museum EKM 8-2/20/3 and by the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies (TK 145) through the European Regional Development Fund.

CFP: Conference “Voice, Connection and Message in Traditional Singing“ in Tartu, Estonia 30.11-1.12.2020


Dear colleagues!

We are pleased to invite you to participate in the conference on traditional singing, which will take place in hybrid form on November 30 – December 1, 2020 in Tartu, Estonia. It is possible to choose between traditional face-to-face sessions at the Estonian Folklore Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum, in Vanemuise 42, Tartu, or online sessions.

The spread of the coronavirus has impacted all of our lives in one way or another; the situation is unpredictable and future opportunities to travel and meet are currently unknown. However, we have decided to continue the tradition of song conferences that we started in 2000. The limited human contact during the lockdown made us think about the role of singing and voice in communication.

The overall theme for the conference is “Voice, connection and message in traditional singing“. We invite proposals for presentations addressing one of the following subtopics:

VOICE. The singing voice is the physical mediator of the song. The singing voice conveys information about the singers themselves and their messages, with the voice itself representing a part of the message. What information is perceived in the singing voice and how is it interpreted, for example, what is considered a masculine or feminine performance? How is voice quality related to the content of the message? What voices and timbres are considered important to achieve in traditional singing styles and what are avoided; how are they described and taught; how is their necessity explained? How do the content, form and text of the songs reflect the singer's voice and the sound of the song?

CONNECTION. The second topic of the conference is the singer’s presence in a singing situation, her/his perception of the surroundings and other people. What demonstrates a singer’s cultural competence to adapt themselves to a singing situation, to other singers and listeners? How does seeing another singer, sensing physical closeness or contact with them affect singing? How do the lyrics reflect the singer's sensory perceptions? How are the singer's dreams about the ideal singing situation and companion(s) reflected in the lyrics? When, why and what are people singing alone? What is the effect of singing in crisis situations?

MESSAGE. What kind of messages are conveyed through a traditional song? How is the poetic aspect of the song lyrics and its putative historical development related to singing? What are the messages of different singing styles from the same culture - both in a traditional context and outside the traditional context (eg if used in art music, literature)? How does the context affect the style of the song? What are the cultural meanings of singing and different singing styles? What messages convey the expressions or lyrics with no semantic or difficult to understand meaning in the lyrics?

THEORY AND METHOD. The papers on more general theoretical and methodological aspects of folk song research, as well as on the creation and systematization of song corpora are welcome. In this context, we can also use the "voice" in a wider sense, for example to ask, how does the digitization of archival materials affect their research and reception in society.

The topics of the conference can be interpreted in the context of the recent crisis. Presentations on singing in the emergency state created due to the pandemic and spread of the coronavirus are very welcome.

We are waiting for your abstracts of about 350 words and speaker’s data (name, institution, email) by August 15, 2020 to

You will receive notifications of acceptance by the 1st of September 2020. The conference has no participation fee.

Organizing team: Janika Oras, Mari Sarv, Helen Kõmmus, Andreas Kalkun, Liina Saarlo, Taive Särg
Estonian Folklore Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum
Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu Estonia

Anastasiya Fiadotava's lecture on mother-in-law jokes

Anastasiya Fiadotava, a junior research fellow at the Estonian Literary Museum, explores in her lecture the ways mother-in-law jokes function in Belarusian families' folklore. The talk focuses on the main topics of these jokes, the social context within which they spread and the meaning of these jokes in family members' personal relations.
The lecture is supported by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies).

Lecture "DrinkIing the Udmurt way" by Eva Toulouze

Eva Toulouze (Paris, INALCO, professor in Finno-Ugric Studies; Universisty of Tartu, Department of Ethnology) introduces in her short presentation, the Udmurt use of their moonshine, kumyshka. While formerly it was mainly a ritual brew, today it is mostly used to receive guests and to celebrate. I show gestures and rules about its use as well as the containers in which it is held and poured. I finish with some examples of its use while commemorating the dead.

Folklore 78

We are pleased to present to you the special edition of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, titled “On the Move: Migration and Diasporas”, with Leena Kurvet-Käosaar and Triinu Ojamaa as guest editors. The issue brings together researchers representing a variety of fields of the humanities and social sciences. The contributions of the current volume focus on migration dominantly from the perspective of the individual and highlight, in particular, the crucial importance of the ways in which social engagements and bonds and communication networks are formed and function (or fail to function) on individual and collective levels in the context of forced and voluntary migration.
In the article “The Kosovo Conflict and the Changing Migration Patterns of the Gorani Community: Continuities and Shifts”, Ivaylo Markov takes under observation the Gorani people, defining them as an “archetypal migrant community”, thus referring to their everlasting “being-on-the-move” that has been caused by various reasons and realized in different ways.
Desislava Pileva in her article “From Mobility to ‘Exile’. Shifting Co-Presence: Narratives of Bulgarian-Syrian Families in Bulgaria” examines changes in the migration practices of four mixed families, in which one of the spouses is a Syrian, following the outbreak of an armed conflict in Syria in 2011.
In the article “Uncertainties of Transnational Belonging: Homeland Nationalism and Cultural Citizenship of Lithuanian Immigrant in the USA” Vytis Čiubrinskas takes under comparative observation the representatives of two different migration waves, the first of which was triggered by World War II and the second one by the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the 1980s–1990s. The author aims to demonstrate how the migrants of different waves – forced and voluntary – use their social ties and cultural resources for coping with their transnational belonging.
The article titled “Emotional State and Inequality among Lithuanian Emigrants” by Dainius Genys, Ilona Strumickienė, and Ričardas Krikštolaitis is based on a survey conducted in 2018 among the migrants from Lithuania in Scandinavian countries,Great Britain, and Southern Europe. The research team approaches the issues of unemployment, low wages, and poor living standards from a novel perspective of the emigrants’ emotional state, which often remains in the background or is completely overshadowed by economic problems.
Maija Runcis’ contribution, “Estonian Diaspora in Sweden: An Analysis of the Collection ’Life Destinies’ at the Swedish Nordic Museum“, demonstrates how the archival collection produces a narrative about World War II refugees of Estonian origin in Sweden, which underlines their adaptation to Swedish society at the expense of other elements of identity, most importantly their Estonian identity.
In the article titled “Traces of Trauma in Estonian Women’s Life Narratives of World War II” Maarja Hollo deals with the mediation of the traumatic impact of witnessing warfare and the escape journey to the West. Hollo also distinguishes two temporalities: secure and beautiful childhood before World War II and shook-up life order after the beginning of World War II, the escape to the West and the years spent in displaced persons’ camps. Hollo claims that life narratives rarely contain detailed descriptions of traumatic experiences and discusses the possible reasons for that.
In the article “The Task of a Cultural Researcher: Telling the Story of Siberian Estonians” Anu Korb interprets the mission of a researcher based on her sixteen academic fieldwork trips to Estonians living in Siberia in 1991-2016. Korb discusses various migration practices in the nineteenth century and in the first decades of the twentieth century: voluntary emigration, deportation, and remigration. She also sheds light on the relationship between the researcher and his/her subject, explaining that the researcher as an outsider can shift more and more into the insider’s position and as a result become a spokesperson for the subject in society.
Stephan Steiner in his essay “Deportation and the Crises of [Early Modern] Europe: A Brief Historical Introduction” outlines the prehistory of deportation as an avant-garde demographic policy, the aim of which was, first and foremost, to clean certain territories from “unwanted elements”. He argues that the roots of the crisis we have to face today, and the ways “how we came to where we are” can be traced back to the past practices of forced migration.
The article from the editorial board, „Through the Apulian Streets: The Liminal Space-Time of the Holy Week’s Processions“ by Vito Carrassi, builds on the author’s fieldwork carried out between 2013 and 2015, and focuses on the importance, significance and specificity that the religious and devotional processions have in many Apulian sites.The participants of these processions act as mediators between the common and the uncommon, the secular and the sacred, the worldly and the otherworldly; in these ritual dramas some sacred symbols leave their ordinary, static dimension to acquire an extraordinary, dynamic, and more engaging role.
The articles are followed by an interview with Michael Witzel, an overview of the conference on comparative mythology by Marina Valentsova, and two book reviews.
The issue is accessible online at

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