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!

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

New series of video lectures by the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum

The state of emergency persists. To make distance working more enjoyable, the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum and the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies are launching a new series of video lectures to present their research results.
You are invited to listen to the newest lecture “Sharing Humor Online in Family Communication”!
In this talk Anastasiya Fiadotava, a junior research fellow at the Estonian Literary Museum, discusses online sharing humour in the context of family communication. She examines how, what and with whom humour is shared, and analyses why online sharing of humour is becoming more and more popular. The talk is based on a case study among families in Belarus, but its conclusions can be extrapolated beyond its immediate geographic context. In addition to learning about Anastasiya's findings, you will also have a chance to see several popular examples of online humour.

New publication out: Variation in Folklore and Language (eds. Piret Voolaid and Saša Babič). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2019

We are happy to present to you a new publication titled Variation in Folklore and Language, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in October 2019. The publication edited by Piret Voolaid and Saša Babič focuses on issues related to variations in language, folklore, and music/dance, and the confluences and connections between different variations. The authors of nine chapters deal with different temporal aspects of variation: synchronic and diachronic, different levels (individual, local, regional, historical), comparisons (registers, dialects, genres), factors influencing variation, and methods for studying them. Variation is seen as the main basis for the dynamics of folklore, and an issue of typology; variation makes the world go round.
An important part of the volume is dedicated to variations of myths and motifs, creativity, intertextuality, and transmediality.
The volume opens with the chapter “Ethnos in Words”, which discusses one of the frequently used methods in research culture, i.e., ethnolinguistics as a special method occurring on the borderline of linguistics, ethnology, and folkloristics.
Antra Kļavinska’s article focuses on the toponymic and anthroponymic system of the Latgale dialect and Latgalians’ analyses of the contextual semantics of the ethnonyms denoting Estonians in the texts of Latgalian folklore and in the corpus of modern Latgalian texts.
Nikolai Antropov discusses the continuation and variation of the Moscow ethnolinguistic school in the Belarusian context, emphasizes their similarities and differences, and shows how one method can manifest variations in different cultural contexts.
Elena Boganeva demonstrates the use of the motif of the Tower of Babel in the Belarusian oral Bible. Her discussion is extended with variants of the Babel motif found in Slavic folklore, as well as with parallels and similarities in the structural motifs of other topics of the Old Testament.
The second part, “Colourful Folklore”, consists of three studies on the variation of colours in folk tradition. Tiiu Jaago discusses colour variation in Estonian folk songs and focuses on the use of ‘red’ and ‘blood-red’ in Estonian regilaul, based on the concept of formula.
Chapters written by Piret Voolaid and Saša Babič discuss riddles and a variety of colour names within them. The articles complement each other by offering a comparison between two different languages (Estonian vs. Slovenian), language groups (Finno-Ugric vs. Slavic) and environments (north vs. south). They provide a detailed insight into folk perceptions of colours and into how the variations of their cognitive imaginaries are presented in riddles; they also discuss how the genre of riddles has varied through time.
The third part, “Culture and Entertaining Variation”, discusses festival, dance, and media variations within time and society. Yulia Krasheninnikova introduces folkloric archival data on Saint Nicholas’ Day in Kazhym and revitalization of this holiday. The next study is a folkloristic research on dance by Sille Kapper and Madli Teller. Based on the reviewed Hungarian and Norwegian examples as well as their own research in Estonia, the authors suggest that the methodical analysis of audio visual sources – both formal and embodied – is applicable for rediscovering the bodily knowledge inherent in the variability of traditional dance.
The last chapter by Siim Sorokin takes us into the present time with today’s television genre and analyses the discourse of a television serial Breaking Bad, with a focus on the blogs presenting viewers’ discussions. The article gives an overview of the variety of ways that people express themselves on provocative topics.
The volume is a result of a transdisciplinary annual conference that was organized by the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies under the heading Variation in Language, Literature, Folklore, and Music, in cooperation with the Estonian Literary Museum and the University of Tartu, in Tartu, Estonia, on 7–8 December 2017. It was the fifth conference in the series “Dialogues with Estonian Studies”, and it brought together international scholars working in the spheres of culture, literature, linguistics, folklore, communication, humour studies, translation and interpretation.
The edition of this book was made possible thanks to the support of the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies (CEES, TK 145, European Regional Development Fund) and is related to research projects “Narrative and Belief Aspects of Folklore Studies” (IUT 22-5, Estonian Research Council) and Mobilitas Pluss postdoctoral researcher grant “Tradition and Innovation: Short Forms of Folklore and Contemporary Cultural Dialogues” (MOBJD33, Estonian Research Council).

Symposium dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Academician Arvo Krikmann at the Estonian Literary Museum

In July this year the renowned folklorist Academician Arvo Krikmann (1939–2017) would have turned 80. To celebrate this, a symposium will be held at the Estonian Literary Museum on Saturday, September 7, under the auspices of the annual Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies conference. This will also mark the occasion of donating Arvo Krikmann's personal library to the ELM.
Arvo Krikmann's research was internationally widely known and highly appreciated. In his extensive studies he dealt principally with short forms of folklore and their sources, folk humour, semantics of phraseology and theory of figurative speech.
His varied interests are reflected in the composition of his library that contains over 1500 items of academic literature, including books, manuscripts, lecture notes. The library also holds a number of unique books that professor Krikmann had attained through his established network of academic connections.
At the symposium, colleagues of Arvo Krikmann will present their latest findings related to the main research fields of the Academician.
9.00-10.00 Plenary session (Big lecture hall): Opening of the Personal Library of Academician Arvo Krikmann Donated to the Estonian Literary Museum
Chair: Liisi Laineste
Władysław Chłopicki: Study of Folklore and Humour through Creative Imagination
10.00-10.30 Coffee break
10.30-12.00 Parallel session XI (Big lecture hall): Representations of Short Forms of Folklore and Humour: In Honour of Academician Arvo Krikmann
Chair: Piret Voolaid
Liisa Granbom-Herranen: With Sense and Sensibility. Academician Arvo Krikmann’s Studies in Paremiology
Jonathan Roper: Dictionaries as a Source for Folklore: Advantages and Disadvantages
Sergey Troitskiy: Between Fun, Gun and Ban. Is Parody Dangerous for Official Discourse?
The symposium is organised by the Deptartment of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum and it is supported by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (IUT22-5), and by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies).
Information: Liisi Laineste,; Piret Voolaid,

Folklore: EFF 76 - Komi edition

We are very glad to present to you the special edition of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore dedicated to Komi folkloristics. The publication is compiled by N. Kuznetsov and L. Lobanova and is an expert of today’s Komi folklore studies. The articles present various methodological approaches to the selection and analysis of folklore material as well as the scientific interests of Komi folklore researches. The issue was prepared within the framework of cooperation between the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum and the Folklore Department of the Komi Science Centre.
The article by Oleg Uliashev is about the ethnic-cultural and ethnic-genetic links between the Komi, Khanty, and Mansi peoples. On the basis of folklore and ethnographic and historical materials, the author suggests that some Khanty groups are formed of Komi, Khanty, and Mansi components.
Pavel Limerov analyses some storylines of Komi legends about the creation of the world. The object of analysis is a contamination of mythological stories of earth-diving and world creation from an egg. The article considers in detail the main components of the stories that have no parallel in similar texts.
Anatoly Paniukov studies the origin and usage of zaum’ – a complicated and very peculiar phenomenon. The author analyses one particular example of the Komi charming ritual and offers a hypothesis that linguistic transformations known as zaum’ can appear as a result of using the source text in the rhythmic matrix of becharming procedures.
Liudmila Lobanova discusses the verbal component of cattle-breeding rituals. The becharming texts are divided into five types: sentence, ritual dialogue, spell, lamentation, and prayer. A structural and semantic analysis of the most popular sentences gives rise to the definition of two types of texts: close-structure and open-structure sentences.
The article by Alexei Rassykhaev is dedicated to a children’s game of calling a house spirit (domovoi), which is unique for the traditional Komi culture. Various versions of the game have similar scenarios and the goal of the game is to verify whether the creature exists, and establish contact with it.
Galina Savelyeva presents the dynamics of Christmas youth gatherings in the Vishera micro-local tradition. The author describes the different stages of this set of rituals: traditional, Soviet-time teenagers, and today.
The article by Julia Krasheninnikova and Svetlana Nizovtseva introduces folklore materials collected in the twenty-first century from the Russian population of the mining villages in the Komi Republic. The authors analyse the Christmas rituals and the poetry used by children and adults when visiting neighbours during Christmas.
The final article of the collection by Julia Krasheninnikova analyses the scenarios of oral historical prose in the same local tradition.
From editorial board you can find the aricle about Kasks diaspora in the Republic of Kyrgystan by Bibiziya Kalshabayeva, Gulnara Dadabayeva and Dauren Eshkebaev.
The articles are followed by an interview and a book review.
The issue is available online at

The Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies 9th Annual Conference is dedicated to performativity and perception at the age of technological change

The 9th annual conference of The Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies titled „Perception and Performativity in Arts and Culture in the Age of Technological Change“ will take place from 5th to 7th of September in Estonian Literary Museum in Tartu.
Contemporary society is affected by technology on all levels of our lives and it is an important topic for a number of research fields. In culture, the digitalisation is not only visible through the different uses of technology by artist and audience, but more by the new ways of communicating and creating socio-cultural contexts. The conference focuses on these changes in our culture, more precisely in theatre, literature, film, music and folklore.
The keynote speakers of this interdisciplinary conference are cultural theorist and critic professor Mieke Bal from the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, professor of literary theory Marina Grišakova from University of Tartu and professor Władysław Chłopicki from Jagiellonian University, Poland.
The exact schedule of the conference as well as the theses of the presenters and found on the webpage
There are presenters from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, India, Russia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Austria, Romania and Ireland.
Conference is free and open for all interested in these topics.
Conference is organised by working group of the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies on narrative studies and PUT1481 ("The Role of Imaginary Narrative Scenarios in Cultural Dynamics").
The conference is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies – CEES, TK 145) and is free of charge for participants.
Info: Hedi-Liis Toome, lecturer of theatre studies, Institute of Cultural Research,
Piret Voolaid, senior researcher, Estonian Literary Museum,

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