Estonain Folklore

Home | Contact | About | FAQ | Search | Eesti Keeles | Deutsch


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!

Folklore: An Electronic Journal of Folklore special issue on (post-)Soviet military bases in Central and Eastern Europe

The latest issue (70) of Folklore: An Electronic Journal of Folklore “Small Places, Large Issues” (Vol. 70), guest edited by Elo-Hanna Seljamaa, Dominka Czarnecka, Dagnosław Demski, provides insights into the complicated cultural and social landscapes of post-Cold War military bases in Central and Eastern Europe. Eight case studies from the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Russia by scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds explore how military objects erected during the Cold War years continue their existence in the narratives and practices of the local population, national memory politics, and top-down development scenarios.
By foregrounding the perspective of the everyday, this volume seeks to contribute to a more nuanced and diversified understanding of the nature and effects of the Soviet/Russian military presence in CEE, and how this period and remnants thereof have been and could be recycled and mobilized for new purposes; how the Cold War as it was lived east of the Iron Curtain is remembered and narrated under the present circumstances, which are both radically different and unsettlingly similar.

Folklore 69 came out

It is our pleasure to present to you the latest issue of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, with Eda Kalmre as the guest editor. This special issue focuses on the research of conspiracy theories, contemporary legends, and rumours – sets of ideas and practices, their spread, consistence, and models, spreading as newslore, fake news, and communication styles – which strongly influence today’s society and often create insecurity. Rumours and their related genre, legends, have a significant role in today’s social and everyday communication, and articles presented here proceed from these two genres.
The first article by Anastasiya Astapova is about presidential election folklore in Belarus, which is a non-democratic country and where the results of the elections are known in advance. The author shows, based on her fieldwork examples, how the genres of rumours and jokes are interconnected, sometimes to the point of being indiscernible.
Zuzana Panczová presents in her article one of the typical features of conspiracy theories – a dualistic worldview, which explains important events as a consequence of a hidden struggle between ‘Us’ and the dark forces. The author points out the functions of the concept of the West as an ‘enemy’ in rumours and conspiracy theories.
Alexander Panchenko’s article deals with the role of conspiratorial motifs and themes in the formation and transmission of what is known as ‘contemporary legend’. The author shows how and why the present-day conspiracy theories and practices of ‘conspiratorial hermeneutics’ are inspired by particular combinations of emotional, moral, and epistemological expectations.
Eda Kalmre and Liisi Laineste write about the cult of president Putin and the media behaviour related to the recent rumours concerning Putin’s disappearance from the public eye during a ten-day period in March 2015. The analysis of the data obtained from global news coverage and from social media sheds light on the inner workings of rumour and humour in social media and its effect on the dissemination and content of folklore.
Amandine Regamey writes about a very influential story, a rumour and contemporary legend, which accompanies all military conflicts provoked by Russia. The article explores the different aspects of a war legend about women-snipers, which was born among soldiers, was embodied in fiction and popular culture, and was used in Russian official propaganda.
Mari-Liis Madisson in her article explicates how the leakages concerning the details of the top-secret United States government mass surveillance programme PRISM were contextualised in the Estonian public information space. The Snowden affair received strong public feedback as it touched the cornerstone of contemporary identities – the right for free Internet.
This issue is supplemented by two articles from the editorial board. Antti Lindfors explores the notions of performativity and performance in digital environments from the combined perspective of linguistic anthropology and folkloristics. He analyses two different cases of digital communication, the first manifesting an instance of everyday SMS messaging between two friends, the second concerning the so-called Per-looks media event that took place in Finland in October 2012.
Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj’s article is dedicated to riddles and humour. She argues that riddles exist in a performance context in which all the participants want to enjoy the game. The situation simultaneously involves both entertainment and humiliation, because riddles are intended to mislead the listener.
The news section of the issue presents a book review and overviews of different conferences.

Folklore 68 came out!

We are happy to present to you the latest issue of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 68, with Janika Oras as the guest editor. This special issue is a continuation to Folklore 67, dedicated to oral singing traditions.
The first two articles of this issue observe Seto culture from different perspectives. Andreas Kalkun, in his article “Introducing Setos on Stage: On the Early Performances of Seto Singing Culture”, paints a colourful picture of the appropriation of Seto culture by the entrepreneurial and creative local elite of the neighbouring areas of the Seto region, who aspired to stage exoticism of the late nineteenth century.
The next article, continuing with the Seto theme, is Žanna Pärtlas’ “On the Relict Scales and Melodic Structures in the Seto Shepherd Tune Kar’ahääl”. The author shows the extensive variation of the musical scales of herding songs, which have survived in the oral tradition until the present day. The results of her analysis have inspired the author to improve the existing theories on the processes of scale formation.
Another music-related article, “Historical Skolt Sami Music and Two Types of Melodic Structures in Leu′dd Tradition” by Marko Jouste discusses the individual leu′dd song tradition that is central to the Skolt Sami culture. Jouste introduces the model of fragmentary phrase structure, characteristic of the earlier leu′dd, and demonstrates how the living song tradition has incorporated melodies and other musical features from the neighbouring cultures while preserving its main characteristics and identity.
In the second part of their co-authored article, “Star Bride Marries a Cook: Processes of Change in the Oral Singing Tradition and in Folk Song Collecting on the Western Estonian Island of Hiiumaa. II”, Helen Kõmmus and Taive Särg take a closer look at the songs of Hiiumaa Island, giving examples of unique hybrid forms characteristic of the region, which have developed as a result of a longer coexistence of different styles.
Aado Lintrop in his article “Where Do Songs Come From? An Attempt to Explain Some Verses of Regilaul” directs his attention to the former magic function of objects depicted in verses about singing skills. These objects bestowed the singer with the power to recreate and perform long epic texts. The author discusses the religious background of the imagery in Estonian regilaul by pointing out parallels with several shamanic cultures. The article titled “How Old Is Runosong? Dating the Motifs of Burial-Related Folk Songs by Using Archaeological Material” by Pikne Kama approaches the Estonian singing tradition from an archaeologist’s perspective, searching for manifestations of period specific tangible culture and burial practices behind the poetic images of songs related to death and burial.
The last article in the issue, titled “The Motif of Apple in Different Cultures and Its Usage in Anatolian Folk Songs”, by Ahmet Emre Dağtaşoğlu, discusses the motif of apple frequently encountered in different times and cultures. The author points out its meanings in different cultures and analyses this motif in the context of Anatolian folk songs, introducing the relations of this motif therein and in other cultures.
The news section of the issue presents two conference overviews, two book reviews, and introduces some thoughts evoked by a doctoral dissertation defence at the University of Tartu.

Folklore 67

It is our pleasure to present to you the latest issue of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, with Janika Oras as the guest editor. This special issue is dedicated to oral singing traditions, with a special focus on older Finnic oral song tradition.
The first article, "Literary Kalevala-Metre and Hybrid Poetics in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Finland" by Kati Kallio, examines the blurred boundaries between different oral and literary poetics in early modern Finland, presenting the examples of the first written poems following the poetic features of traditional Finnic oral poetry (in so-called Kalevala-metre with no rhymes or stanza structures) or contrasting with them.
Kristiina Ross and Ahti Lohk discuss early Estonian-language hymnal poetry in their article "Words, Forms, and Phrases in Estonian Folksongs and Hymns", revealing the essential differences of oral folksongs and written hymns, proceeding from their different cultural context, ways of conceptualisation, music, and language use.
In her article "Towards a Typology of Parallelism in Estonian Poetic Folklore", Mari Sarv introduces the current situation in the discussion on parallelism in runosongs and, comparing runosongs, proverbs, sayings, and riddles, proposes an original model for identifying the types of parallelism on the basis of semantic relations between parallel elements (words or phrases) in grammatically parallel units.
The article "Star Bride Marries a Cook: The Changing Processes in the Oral Singing Tradition and in Folk Song Collecting on the Western Estonian Island of Hiiumaa. I" by Helen Kõmmus and Taive Särg gives a detailed overview of the archival representations of the older oral singing tradition, the regilaul, earlier vocal genres and transitional forms of Hiiumaa Island, and discusses the ideological, local, and personal factors influencing their creation.
Liina Saarlo in her article "Regilaul in the Political Whirlpool: On Collecting Regilaul in Northeast Estonia in the Second Half of the 1950s" observes the changing status of the runosong in Estonian folklore studies during the first decades of the Soviet occupation, discussing the representations of the regilaul repertoire of the 1950s in Ida-Virumaa County, north-eastern Estonia.
Janika Oras in her article "Mari and Marie: Performativity and Creativity of Two Estonian Singers in the Late Nineteenth Century" analyses differences in the performativity of two outstanding female singers, shaped by the changing of song repertoire and performance situations alongside the modernisation of the society, their belonging to different generations of performers, and their different relationship with literary culture.
In her article "Emotional Transpositions: Interpreting Oral Lyric Poetry", Niina Hämäläinen searches for clues to understand the origin of the popular lyrical runosong text Armahan kulku ('The beloved's walk') by Elias Lönnrot, analysing the oral sources that the text is based on and the views and attitudes guiding their literary rendition.
The news section of the issue presents an obituary for academician Arvo Krikmann, a book review, and gives an overview of a PhD thesis defence at the University of Tartu.

In memoriam Arvo Krikmann (21. VII 1939 – 27. II 2017)

Estonian humanities have experienced a painful loss. Arvo Krikmann, who dedicated his life to studying folklore, short forms, figurative speech and humour - a good colleague, a great teacher and a friend - passed away after a serious illness on the early morning of February 27.
Arvo Krikmann was born on July 21, 1939, in Virumaa county, Pudivere village. In 1946-1950 he studied in Pudivere elementary school, followed by middle school years in Simuna (1950-1953) and high school in Väike-Maarja (1953-1957). In 1957 he started his studies in the department of history and linguistics at the University of Tartu, graduating as Estonian philologist in 1962. After graduation, Arvo Krikmann was assigned to work at the Estonian Literary Museum, where he worked until 1969. In 1973-1977 he studied for his postgraduate degree at the Institute of Language and Literature and in 1975 defended his thesis on the content and world view of proverbs. He later worked in the folklore section of the Institute, followed by working as Senior Fellow at the department of computational linguistics, Principal Researcher at the Institute of Estonian Language and finally, in 2000-2014, Senior Researcher at the Estonian Literary Museum.
Arvo Krikmann's bibliography includes numerous articles and monographs. Next to his monumental publications of Estonian proverbs (Eesti vanasõnad I-IV, 1980–1988), Estonian riddles (Eesti mõistatused I-III, 2001–2013) and studies into short forms of folklore, Krikmann has compiled publications for more popular purposes, the methods, prefaces and afterwords of which have been of the highest scholarly merit. In 1997 he published the exceptional study "Insights into short forms of folklore I: Fundamental concepts, genre relations, general problems", defending it for his PhD in 1998. During the last decades, Arvo Krikmann applied methods from cognitive linguistics on folkloric data and furthered considerably studies in Estonian humour. His scientific works were internationally widely known and appreciated.
Side by side with publishing research, he was a highly valued professor at the University of Tartu since 1990s. He supervised five doctoral theses and held lectures on short forms of folklore, folk humour, semantics and theories of figurative of speech. Since 1997 he was a member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, belonged to a number of international scientific organisations, editorial boards, steering committees and scientific councils.
Arvo Krikmann was the recipient of Third class Order of the White Star, National Research Award, Estonian Cultural Endowment's Annual Award, Baltic Assembly Prize, and Finnish Kalevala Society Allhallows Prize. In 2014, he received the Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann's language prize for studying short forms of folklore, introducing linguistic methods to folkloristics, studying humour both humorously and analytically, and internationally disseminating his research on Estonian heritage.
His colleagues and students will remember him as an exceptionally brilliant scholar with extensive erudition and wonderful sense of humour; a great person.

Folklore: EJF Vol 65 came out

We are glad to announce that the special issue of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore on the theme of 'Belief Narratives' is now accessible in print and in the web:
The introductory part of the journal gives an overview of the terminological polemics and the connections between belief narratives and believing. Most articles in the current issue are based on papers that were presented at two joint conferences that took place simultaneously in Macau (China) on March 23–28, 2015 (Vernacular Religion, Folk Belief, and Traditions of the Supernatural, and The Supernatural in Literature and Film).
Several articles focus on supernatural experiences in today’s world and the attempts to interpret them by experiencers-narrators. Karin Maria Raahauge points out that even persons who don’t believe that a supernatural world could exist, experience unexplainable things and try to interpret them with the help of traditional folklore, but also by using elements from TV series on haunting, ghost movies, or advertisements. Ultimately the narrated representations have the power of gradually shaping social reality, as Reet Hiiemäe’s article about the interpretation of non-verbal communication in belief narratives also exemplifies. Huai Bao in his contribution about Chinese thrillers describes how traditional concepts of mediumship and foretelling find resonance in modern films and work there, in turn, as a trigger for the creative fantasy of the audience and for their new or modified beliefs and rituals. Kaarina Koski ’s article focuses on continuities and changes in Finnish belief traditions. She points out that modern Finnish people who are confronted with out-of-the-ordinary experiences often seek to interpret them through a scientific or Christian vocabulary.
Victoria Chervaneva’s contribution offers the reader a structural approach to the belief narratives, paying particular attention to the syntagmatic level, i.e. methods of introducing demonic characters and linguistic tools employed for this purpose. The questions of structure and classification are also the topic of Vito Carrassi’s article about fairy tales within the historical-cultural context of the Irish tradition. Kirsten Møllegaard combines literature and the supernatural in her case study about the rich folklore surrounding the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe. As a separate section, the journal presents a case analysis by Elizabeth Ann Berton-Reilly about an American Estonian woman, offering an example of how supernatural beliefs are integrated into life history narration and identity building. The news section offers reviews of new books and recent conferences
The guest editor of this issue was Reet Hiiemäe.
We hope that you will have an inspiring reading!

Folklore: EJF 64

The 64th issue of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore ( contains researches in the field of linguistics and folkloristics, which are dedicated to categories and their applications essential in terms of culture, map the cognitive backgrounds of language use by different peoples, and highlight the lingvo-folkloric or lingvo-mythological interconnections. Such a selection was substantiated by a need for interdisciplinary confluence, but it was rendered possible by the 60th birthday of Professor Urmas Sutrop, a renowned linguist and cultural researcher.
The articles focuses on: children’s spontaneous sayings, and proposes the theoretical mechanisms of humour they are based on (by Piret Voolaid), provides a closer look into spontaneous transmedia narratives and processes based on giant lore (by Mare Kõiva and Andres Kuperjanov), analyse in detail the tale types The Encoded Message and The Big Bull (by Yuri Berezkin and Evgeny Duvakin); gives an overview of the etymology of the word jumal ’god’, its meanings, and its role as a linguistic unit fulfilling different communication goals (by Anni Jürine, Karl Pajusalu, Renate Pajusalu, Ilona Tragel, and Ann Veismann).
Three articles explores the usages of colours and colour terms in different languages and genres: cognitive organisation of colour terms in our mental lexicon (by Mari Uusküla and David Bimler), colour entrenchment in Middle-School (by Jody L. Sandford), a system of colour symbols in Mari folk songs (by Natalia Glukhova).
Liisi Piits explores collocational patterns of the noun ‘man’, which reveal social attitudes and stereotypes of age, gender, and behaviour. Hille Pajupuus’s team introduces how to predict the possible effect of a written text on the reader and gives a description of the creation of an automatic identifier of the polarity (positivity-negativity) of Estonian texts, which is independent of domain and of text type (by Hille Pajupuu, Rene Altrov, and Jaan Pajupuu).
Ekaterina Velmezova compares the articles about the Estonian language in the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, published in 1934, 1957, and 1978, and draws attention to the ideological influences.

Vol. 63 of Folklore: EJF came out!

It is our pleasure to present to you the latest, special issue of journal Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 63 (, with Aimar Ventsel as guest editor. The initial idea of the special issue was to reflect the current state of affairs in Kazakh academia, and demonstrate to the English speaking audience the variety of topics and research methods existing there. As is typical of academia in the former Soviet Union, scholars in Kazakhstan overwhelmingly focus their studies on subjects from their own country. This tendency offers the reader a unique possibility to get a glimpse inside the academia of Kazakhstan, and learn about the questions, methods, and approaches that Kazakh scholars work with.
Aimar Ventsel and Baurzhan Zhanguttin present in their co-authored article materials about Pakhta-Aral prison camp No. 29 for prisoners of war, which was an untypical prison camp in the Soviet prison camp system in that it was opened as a workforce supply for the cotton growing collective farms of Kazakhstan. The appendix at the back of the article presents a list of buried prisoners of war in the cemetery of Pakhta-Aral prison camp.
The article by Zhanat Kundakbayeva and Kamshat Rustem is dedicated to reputable Soviet writer Gabit Musrepov, and presents a literary analysis of his three short stories. The authors show that under the strictest control and actively expressed interest of the authorities in the writer’s creative activities, the latter’s mastery and the incompetence of censors allowed him to avoid the prohibition of his works.
Madina Sultanova, Natalia Mikhailova and Dinara Amanzholova analyse a self-cognitive experience performed by Kazakh contemporary art, led by globalisation tendencies, in search of its place in the world, seeing itself both as the most western of Oriental countries and the most oriental of Western ones. The authors conclude that within two decades of independence modern Kazakh society, not without difficulty, has managed to find an equilibrium that constitutes the Kazakh mentality and keeps a balance between East and West.
Galina Vlasova in her article compares Slavic and Kazakh folklore calendar, drawing typological and ethno-cultural parallels. The Slavic holiday calendar represents a dual faith synthesis of pagan and Christian entities while the Kazakh holiday calendar focuses on the connection of the pagan and Muslim principles. Slavic and Kazakh ethnic and cultural contacts are reflected in the joint celebrations, in interethnic borrowing practices, rituals, games, and in Russian and Kazakh song performances by representatives of different ethnic groups.
Sholpan Zharkynbekova and Atirkul Agmanova’s article gives an overview of some of the research priorities of Kazakhstani scientists who study the linguistic, socio linguistic, and methodical parameters of scientific description of a language as a social fact, describing the language situation in Kazakhstan, which creates a scientific background for theoretical and practical understanding of the language changes taking place in the country.
Erik Aasland in his article emphasises the high value the government of Kazakhstan places on Kazakh oral tradition as a resource for societal restoration, by analysing a video posted by Asıl Arna, the state approved Islamic governing body’s media company, on YouTube. The author concludes that the video is a prime example of effective communication using traditional and contemporary resources in Kazakhstan’s current secular, multicultural society.
In the discussion section, Aimar Ventsel and Natalia Struchkova address the tensions between different forms of academic writing, highlighting the differences between the so-called Western writing and the style widespread in Russia and in many post-Soviet countries where the academic language is still Russian.
The issue presents a longer review essay by Taive Särg and introduces several new publications. The news section gives an overview of a PhD thesis defence at the University of Tartu as well as of the 9th Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Proverbs in Tavira, southern Portugal.

Seminar on Health Tourism in Austria

On March 15 at 12.00 Margret Jäger, medical anthropologist, doctorate from the University of Graz, collaborating professor of UFRN / School of Medicine in / Brazil will give a talk about definitions of health tourism and it’s gender aspects.
At the beginning definitions of health and medical tourism are shown to stimulate the critical reflection for differences within the study field of “health tourism”. Furthermore gender differences are presented to contextualize gender aspects in the field of tourism and health/medicine. “Health tourism” grows extremely worldwide and people spend a lot of money for different reasons to achieve better health, search for a cure, change their lifestyle and find relief for their health problems. The talk discusses the case of an Austrian “women-only” health hotel to show discrepancies between scientific knowledge about health and health promotion and industry´s interpretation of it. Anthropological knowledge may help to understand people´s search for better health and industry´s reactions to it.
As usually, the seminar will take place in the Estonian Literature Museum, Tartu, Vanemuise, 42 (Fourth Floor Seminar Room).

Seminar "'Folklore arrested'"

On December 1 at 12.00 Alexandra Arkhipova (Centre for Typological and Semiotic Folklore Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) will give a lecture entitled as “'Folklore arrested'”: court persecution for jokes, songs and rumors in the Soviet Union and today's Russia”.
The talk will focus on relations between political folklore and the power (from 1922 till 2015) – how secret police started to record political folklore in 1929, what had happened with uncensored folklore during the period of Great Terror and later, how this situation was changed after Stalin's death, and what is going now, when several people are in the middle of court persecution because of reposting visual folklore in Internet.
As usually, the seminar will take place in the Estonian Literature Museum, Tartu, Vanemuise, 42 (Fourth Floor Seminar Room).

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS! Powered by FreeBSD PostgreSQL Powered Eesti Kultuurkapital

Copyright © 2004-2005 ELM FBG
XHTML, CSS & Design: Saamuel Vesik