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!

Conference “At the source of living tradition” at the Estonian Literary Museum (via TEAMS)

On 4–6 October 2023 an international online conference dedicated to the 70th jubilee of Udmurt folklorist Tatiana Vladykina, under the heading “Калык кылослэн визыл ошмесъёсыз” – “At the source of living tradition”, takes place at the Estonian Literary Museum.
Tatiana Vladykina is a famous Udmurt folklorist, Doctor of Philology, Professor, honoured scholar of the Udmurt Republic, foreign honorary member of the Finno-Ugric Society (Finland), laureate of the “Soul of Udmurtia” award of the Udmurt Republic in the field of traditional culture (2023), leading researcher of the Department of Philological Research of the Udmurt Institute of History, Language and Literature of the UFRC UD RAS. She graduated from the Udmurt State University in 1975, and in 1975–1978 she was a doctoral student at the University of Tartu.
She has been collecting, investigating and publishing Udmurt folklore since 1972; since 1978 she has been organising fieldwork to collect folklore and ethnographic materials. She is author and editor of the series Udmurt Folklore, Cultural Monuments of Folklore Heritage, Udmurt Ritual Primer. Her contribution to the studies of Udmurt folklore, mythology and traditional culture is priceless.
Tatiana Vladykina’s studies are important also for Finno-Ugric folkloristics.
The conference discusses topics related to fieldwork, traditional culture today, and mythology studies.
See also the conference homepage
The conference is organised through the platform Microsoft Teams and is available on KirmusTV.
The conference is organised by the Department of Folkloristics of the ELM, in partnership with the Udmurt Research Institute and the Udmurt State University.
Contacts: Mare Kõiva,
Nikolai Anisimov,

The Anderson Lecture by Bengt af Klintberg

The Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore are pleased to announce that the Anderson Lecture for 2023, The Baby on the Track: A Newspaper Legend with Roots in the 19th Century will be delivered by Bengt af Klintberg.
The lecture will take place on October 5, at 6.15 P.M, Ülikooli 16- 212, Tartu.
This year's Anderson lecturer is Bengt af Klintberg, the well-known Swedish folklorist, internationally acclaimed for his work on contemporary legends. His work on legends includes Råttan i pizzan (The Rat in the Pizza) and Den stulna njuren (The Stolen Kidney. Klintberg is so widely known for this that the Swedish word for the genre was for a while klintbergare (i.e. "klintbergers").
He has also studied other aspects of folklore, including Swedish verbal charms. And af Klintberg is also a poet and a visual artist.
In a novel by a Chinese author, Yu Hua, the birth of the main character takes place in a train toilet. He falls down on the track and survives.
During the last thirty years news stories with this content have been reported several times. The event is mostly said to have taken place in China or India.
From a folkloristic perspective the story can be defined as a newspaper legend. Like contemporary legends in oral tradition newspaper legends often are about accidents where babies are involved. As opposed to the orally transmitted legends they not seldom have a happy ending; they are published as a counterbalance to all real accidents that daily papers have to report.
The oldest version of “The Baby on the Track” was published already in 1888 in a medical journal. The author, the famous physician William Osler, had a reputation for being a practical joker, and it is today difficult to judge if his story is based on a real case or invented by Osler.
More information: Liilia Laaneman-Nekoliak liilia.laaneman(ät)

Online-seminar Philosophy of War and War in Philosophy: Philosophical Reaction to the War

July 10, 2023, 16:00-18:00
Aleksey Kamenskikh (University of Bremen) - How to turn the Patriarch of the Enlightenment into a war hawk? Voltaire, Catherine II and the antiquising imagination / Как превратить патриарха Просвещения в ястреба войны? Вольтер, Екатерина II и «антикизирующее воображение»
Mikhail Nemtsev (Independent institute of Philosophy) -
Philosophy of War and War in Philosophy. Philosophical reaction to the war / Философия войны и война в философии. Философская реакция на войну.
More information about the seminar here
Microsoft Teams meeting. Click here to join the meeting
Supported by the project EKM 8-2/20/3 of the Estonian Literary Museum.

Artistic interpretation of the war in general and specific events. Online seminar

Online seminar via Teams: June 19, 2023, 16:00-18:00
1. Michael Cole (University of Tartu, Estonia)
The calm before the storm: Cultural resistance to Russia in Ukraine before February 2014
2. Svetlana Maslinskaya (Grenoble Alpes University, France)
Chrono-journey in Children's Literature about War: the Evolution of Commemorative Pragmatics / Хронопутешествие в детской литературе о войне: эволюция коммеморативной прагматики.
See more.
Microsoft Teams meeting Click here to join the meeting
Supported by the project EKM 8-2/20/3 of the Estonian Literary Museum

Online-seminar Cultures in war mode 8: The power of memes

From 4-6 pm, Monday, May 22 the 8th online seminar from the series "Cultures in war mode": Humour in the conditions of the war.
Guillem Castañar (University of Helsinki), Anastasiya Fiadotava (Estonian Literary Museum/Jagiellonian University) and Liisi Laineste (Estonian Literary Museum) will give a talk "The power of memes".
Memes offer responsive acute commentary on societal matters. They provide non-violent and democratic spaces of discussion for conflicts. The paper studies memes on the war in Ukraine that spread in Eastern (Russia, Estonia, Belarus) and Western Europe (Spain).
We analyse who are the main actors/characters that personify the war in the memes in these countries, how these characters are represented in memes, and what are the global and local aspects of their portrayal. We show the connections between the degree of a country’s emotional engagement in, and geographical proximity to, the conflict and the humorous memes revolving around this conflict that circulate in the country.
See also
Click here to join the meeting
Supported by the project EKM 8-2/20/3 Estonian Literary Museum.

The 15th Conference "Laughter and Its Features" 18–21 May 2023, Tartu, Estonia

The 15th meeting of the conference series "Laughter and Its Features" 18–21 May 2023 (Odessa - Tartu) will start soon in the Estonian Literary Museum. The schedule of the conference can be found on the website.
The keynote speakers of this interdisciplinary conference are Władysław Chłopicki from Jagiellonian University, Poland and Anna Krasnikova from Università Cattolica di Milano, Italy. The title of the lecture by professor Chłopicki is "Humor and figurative language".
Anna Krasnikova's speech is "The end of a beautiful monstration: on one carnival procession and language defence in Russia".
See more about the event.

Folklore: EJF vol. 88

The editorial board of ELM folklorists' research journal "Folklore: an electronic Journal of Folklore" announces that the latest issue of the journal is now available.
In their co-authored article, Sonja Hukantaival from Finland and Tõnno Jonuks and Kristiina Johanson from Estonia discuss objects connected with folk magic and medicine found in museum collections in Estonia and Finland, and how these objects differ between the two countries.
They also explore how these materials have been acquired and collated.
The second article, by Siria Kohonen from Finland, continues the topic of folk medicine, examining what expectations lay people (those not considered folk healers themselves) had for pre-industrial Finnish-Karelian healing traditions, how these expectations were represented in archived folklore materials, and how they, in turn, affected the healing traditions. Kohonen’s study represents a cross-disciplinary analysis of the subject, with theoretical perspectives drawn from performance studies, cognitive science memory studies, and placebo studies.
The authors of the next article, Charlotte Doesburg and Riitta-Liisa Valijärvi, come from the United Kingdom, yet their article is dedicated to the Finnish folk troubadour duo
In their lyrics, the duo uses extracts from online forums and other social media. The authors argue that this method of song-writing is a prime example of modern folklore as it reflects the collective, anonymous creativity of people and is reminiscent of the compilation of the Finnish national epic Kalevala.
Rūta Latinytė from Lithuania discusses contemporary gift-giving practices, using the tools of phenomenological anthropology and the means of research into everyday practices.
The author focuses on special cases of gift giving, revealed through the narratives of respondents, giving a deeper insight into three cases of self-gifting.
The next article takes us to the USA. Roslyn M. Frank explores the way that the Bear’s Son tale, a wide-spread European folktale, came to be incorporated into the oral storytelling traditions of Native Americans. Frank reflects on how and why versions of the European tale came to attract the attention of Native American storytellers, as well as the time frame that might be assigned to the transfer of these oral traditions.
Although the author of the following article, Erol Sakallı, comes from Turkey, his study is related to the USA, investigating the acculturation levels of the Ahıska Turks living there. Sakallı explores the significance of age, marital status, education, employment, length of stay, and language competence in the acculturation process, discussing his findings within the framework of the existing literature.
Nesrin Akıncı Çötok, Ender Büyüközkara and Tufan Çötok from Turkey examine the status and roles of women in terms of gender in ancient Turkish history and culture based on the Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk – the first Turkish dictionary.
It can be seen from the dictionary that women are classified in terms of their social status and that they are part of a hierarchical structure, yet also being perceived as representatives of beauty and aesthetics.
Turkish topics continue with the article by İsmail Abalı, whose research is based on document analysis and was conducted on Turkish riddles that were established with obscene associations with a decent answer, creating a threatening perception and containing insult and cursing. The samples belonging to the genre are analysed from a psychoanalytic perspective.
The issue concludes with an article by Jun Zhao and Marianne Zhao from China, who investigate Zheng Qiufeng’s song cycle “Four Seasons of Our Motherland”, showing how politics can be subtly included in the musical plot.
This song cycle is made unique by the inclusion of minority characteristics from different Chinese regions together with its distinctive ideological mission.
The issue also offers an overview of a joint Estonian-Hungarian seminar on contemporary folklore as well as a book review.
Folklore: EJF is a peer-reviewed open access academic journal published since 1996 and the current issue is available online

Seminar about Russian censorship and anti-war activism

Online seminar on April 24, 2023, 16:00-18:00
Natalia Kovyliaeva (Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies) will give a lecture "Russian Anti-War Activism, Civil Society and (Self-)Censorship in Times of Russia’s War in Ukraine"
Since the re-start of Russia’s war in Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, the political repressions against Russian civil society, activists, and independent media have increased. The invasion has brought more censorship and self-censorship into the activists’ lives and forced them to find new strategies and tactics for activism or even to flee the country due to changing political realms.
The upcoming discussion will focus on how these new restrictive measures and laws had impacted and transformed activism in Russia, based on the illustration of some cases, such as feminist and human rights activism, and how the repressions before the war had created a ground for new prosecutions.
In addition, we will discuss how the new censorial measures have influenced activists’ biographies and identities while they try to continue to be activists both inside and outside of Russia, use new creative tactics of protest to overcome censorship and avoid repressions, and activists’ dilemmas arising from these balancing between the censorship and the right for freedom of speech
Finally, we will reflect on the potential implications of these developments on Russian civil society and activism in general, as well as their future trajectories and challenges that the current situation might bring.
Seminar via Teams
More about the seminar here
The seminar is supported by the ELM research project EKM 8-2/20/3.

Online-seminar on April 17 about sacred yoiks of the Sami people and their sacred sites

At the seminar starting online via Teams at 11 a.m. on April 17, Yulia Shpinitskaya (Grant-funded researcher, Department of Philosophy, History and Art Studies; Univ. of Helsinki) will give a presentation "Yoking with the Spirits: Sami Sound Rituals and Acoustics of Sacred Sites".
The University of Helsinki Archaeoacoustic Group has recently began exploring acoustics of the Sami sacred sites in relation to their ritual practices. The sites are vertical rocks often situated by lakes and rising directly from water, producing strong and accurate sound reflections. According to early historical records, these site were associated with shamanic rituals, in which the Sami yoiked to awake the spirits of the place and fall into trance. Hypothetically, those special yoiks dedicated to the sacred sites could be linked to the site acoustics. In the course of our research, we have
been collecting Sami beliefs regarding their sacred sites, information about religious practices, stories about spirits and nature beings, and yoiks that could possibly pertain to the shamanic rituals. The study encompasses material from all Sami groups, such as Northern, Southwestern and Eastern Sami found from the archives in Finland, Sweden and Norway and early ethnographic sources. Beliefs and religious practices are analysed for echo components, whereas yoiks identified as sacred are analysed for acoustically interesting elements. This presentation highlights our understanding of the Sami sacred yoiks and their sacred sites from the acoustic perspective. We will follow ethnographic sources and take a close look at the yoik texts, melodic structures, and vocal gestures.
Join here
Julia's personal profile

Public lecture by dr. Agita Misāne on March 23 at 16.15

Dr. Agita Misāne, Leading Researcher at the Faculty of Communications at Riga Stradiņši University will read a public lecture "Perception of Death and Imagined Afterlife in Latvian Traditional and Contemporary Religious Cultures" on March 23 at 16.15.
The lecture will take place at Ülikooli 16-212, Tartu.
Lecture will be based on the findings of Latvian Research Council funded project “Memento Mori: The End of Life, Death and Imagined Afterlife in the Contemporary Latvian Lifeworld” and refer to archival data as well as quantitative and qualitative sociological analyses. The principal focus will be on how traditional beliefs are reflected in the opinions represented in religious and secular parts of the Latvian society.
Issues like preparation for death, what is considered "a good death", attitudes to euthanasia and suicide, and organ donation, will also be touched upon.
See also

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