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!

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).

Research seminars on Tuesdays in Estonian Literary Museum, Vanemuise 42, Tartu

On October 13 at 12.00 Tatiana Minniyakhmetova (University of Innsbruck) will present the paper “Conception of cleanliness in traditional worldview of Udmurts”.
Conception of cleanliness in the tradition of Udmurts is observed from the religious-ritual, ritualized and everyday life points of view.
The meeting will take place in the Fourth Floor Seminar Room.
All are very welcome!

Seminar on gender stereotypes

On October 8 at 12.00 Saša Babič (Institute of Ethnology, Scientific Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts) will present a paper “Gender Stereotypes and Prejudges in Slovenian Joking Questions”.
Seminar will take place in the Fourth Floor Seminar Room, Vanemuise 42 (Estonian Literary Museum).
Joking questions are subtype of riddle and most common riddle in Slovenian cultural space nowadays. It has the function of joke, therefore it is the form on the border between two genres: between riddle and joke. It covers wide range of themes from everyday life and we can get them in all society classes and most of the age groups. Therefore we can observe some of the stereotypes and prejudges which are masked in “not serious/just a joke” form, like gender issues, racism, intelligence etc. I will focus on gender joking questions, collected from internet forums and e-mails: the material will be presented within the place of publication, cultural background and the motivation of their creation.
All are welcome to participate!

Seminar on reflexivity in stand-up comedy

On October 6 at 12.00 Antti Lindfors (University of Turku, Folkloristics) will present a paper “Narration and Gestures in Stand-Up Comedy”. Seminar will take place in the Fourth Floor Seminar Room, Vanemuise 42.
The presentation will showcase the baselines of his current article in progress. In this article, he will continue and expand on the study of reflexivity in stand up comedy, a genre of popular cultural oral performance, one of the most striking characteristics of which relates to its highly contextualized and ostensibly “open” interactional form. Special attention will paid to gestures, which – when coordinated with narrative discourse, provide us with an entrance to look into how comics creatively manage their performances both spatially and interactionally, while conforming to or departing from the conventions associated with the genre.
All are welcome to participate!

The 61st issue of journal Mäetagused is dedicated to Ülo Tedre

The 61st issue of journal Mäetagused ( is dedicated to Ülo Tedre (February 12, 1928 – March 9, 2015), one of the most versatile Estonian folklorists, giving today’s readers and researchers an overview of his scholarly work in different fields of folklore.
Ülo Tedre was born in Tallinn on February 12, 1928, into a schoolteachers’ family. After finishing Tallinn Secondary School No. 7 in 1946, he continued his studies at the University of Tartu, and graduated in 1951 as an Estonian philologist, specialising in folklore. He considered the latter a field closest to history, yet also stressed its connections with linguistics. His degree studies were also related to folklore, with an interest in rhymed folksongs and parallel spread of oral and written forms of folksongs. He worked in the folklore section of the Institute of Estonian Language and Literature in 1949–1999, in the years 1962–1991 as head of the section, and the following ten years as senior researcher of the Department of Folkloristics.
Ülo Tedre’s scholarly work covered different song cultures and styles (runo song, newer song forms), studies of folk customs and especially masking, as well as the history of folkloristics. His legacy is comprised of more than 400 written, compiled and edited works, which cover practically all folklore genres as well as Estonian literary and cultural history, such as Eesti mees ja tema sugu (Estonian Man and His Kin) (1952-1954/2003), the four-volume Estonian folk song anthology (1969–1972), a short monograph Eesti pulmad (Estonian Weddings) (1973), a beautiful album to celebrate Jakob Hurt’s 150th birth anniversary (1989), the song collections of Jõhvi and Iisaku parishes in the series Vana Kannel (Old Zither) (1999), a voluminous overview of Estonian mumming and masking traditions published in Sweden (2007), to name but a few. In addition, he published a number of shorter writings about the Estonian runo song, beliefs and practices, and about Estonian folklore classics Jakob Hurt, Matthias Johann Eisen, Oskar Loorits, and Walter Anderson, as well as reviews of Estonian folklore in different collections and school textbooks, and more than 70 reviews on folkloristics, literature, and culture.
This special issue gives an overview of Ülo Tedre’s shorter writings concerned with different fields of folklore. The article about masking is dedicated to the masking traditions of the autumn and winter periods, starting with Michaelmas and ending with mumming at the end of the year.
The next article discusses Estonian mumming traditions at Christmastime: their spread, age and gender of the participants, costumes and masking, communication between the hosting family and the mummers, and the gifts given to the mummers.
The third writing is a discussion held by Ülo Tedre, Enn Ernits, Mikk Sarv, Madis Kõiv, Vello Lõugas, Tõnis Vint, Ants Viires, Ülo Stöör, and Heino Eelsalu about colours, numbers, and shapes in our ancestors’ worldview. The article about the runic verse in general and Vepsian runic verse in particular weighs the reasons why the Veps and especially southern Estonians preserved their song material, yet could not achieve the form of the runic verse.
The following article provides an overview of the Estonians’ everyday customs related to departures and being on the way, paying someone a visit, cooking, eating, and clearing the table. These customs also include new, urban, and international material, known in many countries and by different nationalities.
The article about great changes in the Estonian folksong speaks about the emergence of the rhymed song in the 19th century, analysing the reasons why the older folksong started to fade and was replaced by the strophic end rhyme folksong.
The next article discusses the 19th century as the period of great changes in Estonian folklore, which laid a foundation for folkloristics. The 19th century was characterised by the quick receding and even fading of folk culture; on the other hand, prerequisites emerged for extensive collecting of folklore and establishing foundations for national culture.
The subheading of the article about M.J. Eisen’s road to folkloristics reads: From the Ancestors’ Treasures to the Riddles of Estonian Folk. Eisen’s bibliography is comprised of 761 items, written between the ages of 19 and 77. The article follows the path of the versatile writer to folklore and his first steps in the field of folkloristics.
The article under the heading, What Oskar Loorits and Other Learned Estonian Men Thought about Estonians’ Character, provides an overview of the estimations of Estonians given, starting from older historical records, to the viewpoints expressed by several cultural figures and experts on folklore, such as Loorits and Masing.
The following writing is dedicated to the Institute of Estonian Language and Literature against the world level. Ülo Tedre and Rein Veidemann try to find an answer to why folklorists write monographs and not articles required by the academic system.
A retrospective look at the work of the folklore section of the Institute of Estonian Language and Literature in 1947–1990 introduces the main directions in the work of the section, its publications, and international cooperation.

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