Kihnu is a small island off the western coast of Estonia, where a number of traditional cultural phenomena have been preserved. Quite a number of traditional dances are kept alive in the traditional and modern context. These dances are danced at traditional family and calendar events: pre-wedding rituals and weddings, gatherings on the eve of St Catherine’s Day, as social dances at different festivities, during organized performances for tourists, and at festivals and other events on the Kihnu island as well as in Estonian towns and abroad. The dancers are mainly members of the amateur group Kihnumua, which has been active for more than 30 years under the guidance of Katrin Kumpan. The groups have no fixed membership, as most of the island’s inhabitants know the tradition. Dances were taught also in the local school and dance club. Some old round and partner dances have disappeared, but about 10–15 dances, mostly partner dances, are still in active use. All partner dances (incl. waltz and polka) are danced in a circle. Couples can be mixed, though women often dance among themselves. Many widely known dances have specific regional style variants. The main musical instrument nowadays is accordion, which is often played by women. Bagpipe music is forgotten, and good fiddlers were found up to the mid-20th century. Also, hand harmonica, the most popular musical instrument of the late 19th and early 20th century, has become rather rare by now.
The article observes the degree to which narrators of life stories interpret the course of their life as an individual choice and as a degree of inevitability resulting from the socio-historical context. Folkloristic approaches of the survival of the tradition as the intertwinement of predetermination (folklore awareness) and individual experience, and the approaches of the construction of "autobiographical self" based on the sciences of psychology in biographical research serve as the theoretical basis of the article. The material derives from three biographies sent to the Estonian Life Histories Association in the course of the collection competition of life histories conducted in 2000-2001 on the topic My life and the life of my family in Estonian SSR and the Republic of Estonia. The campaign resulted in over 300 life histories, currently held at the Archives of Cultural History of the Estonian Literary Museum (fund 350). The main source of the article is a life history which is compared with two other stories from the angle of problem presentation. The first basis of comparison is the temporal context. The historical background of the stories of the informants, born in the early 1950s in rural communities in Estonia, has been shaped by the periods of stability under the Soviet regime: during 1950-1960 and during 1970-1980. The first period is described partly through hardships endured during the post-war period, and partly through the economic difficulties at the time collective farms were established. The second period is characterised as more stable, but was still marked with problems with shortage of goods. On the axis of individual course of life, the first period is associated with childhood and the role of family in the informants' lives, whereas the second period is associated with school, acquiring an occupation and the course of personal life. The second period also entails the formation of attitudes towards the Soviet theme. The analysed life histories are presented in the context of events of the 1990s, the period of radical change in the political system of Estonia: how the narrators view the Soviet period now, at the time of independence, and how they perceive their opportunities in the new situation and which aspects do they see themselves as having been deprived of. The second basis for comparison is the self-images of narrators in the extreme situations during the stable period of the Soviet Estonia (prison/army violence). The concordance between individual abilities and behavioural preferences point to the role of cultural predetermination in specific decisions of the individual. The analysis of the narratives reflects the dynamics of predetermination and choices: historical-political framework as a predetermination, adaptation to it as a choice; origin as a predetermination, the interpretation of the life experience of one's family members as a choice; a violent situation as a predetermination, defiance with either physical force or analysis of experience is an individual choice, but also as a predetermination owing to personal qualities and abilities. The central analyses of personal histories diversify period analyses: the Soviet period in this case is not rendered meaningful only within the framework of the period (1940-1991) and political ideas. The issue of cultural continuity transgressing the limits of the period illustrate the life during and after the Soviet period. In the context of this article, the cultural continuity was expressed through the participation of family.
The aim of the paper is to analyse the collective expression of attitudes elicited by the doping scandal that concerned the esteemed Estonian cross-country skier and Olympic gold medal winner, Andrus Veerpalu. The paper provides an insight into the evolution of an athlete into a national hero on the Internet. The analysis is based on the material collected from Estonian online media during two years (from April 2011 to March 2013), when Andrus Veerpalu’s court case was actively followed by the Estonian sports circles and laymen alike. The data corpus includes the most relevant news texts published in the online news portal Delfi (www.delfi.ee), comments from the same online environment, posts from the Facebook fan sites, e.g., “We believe in Andrus Veerpalu”, etc. The doping accusation called forth a quasi-religious movement, which was built around the belief that the athlete was sacred and it was not allowed to attack or accuse him in any way. The main threads in the comments analysed within this study could be divided into two opposing, although intertwining categories: the serious and the ironic. Both categories included people who believed in Veerpalu’s innocence, and those who did not; in addition, there were those who displayed their superiority towards the entire discussion. The analysis addresses the transformation of an Olympic hero into a national hero, and points out narratives that treat the scandal within the present-day genres of urban legends, conspiracy theories, and Internet humour. The more or less genuine belief of people was reflected in sought-out explanations for the doping test result and counter-arguments (above all, via conspiracy stories, but also through social mobilisation in support of Veerpalu). In the post factum comments, the majority expressed the feeling that their trust had been justified; they renewed their unremitting belief in the acquitted hero. But the rather complicated end to the long case was also a confusing one, and this allowed the ironic discourse to produce parodies, jokes and other critical comments. The questions central to the analysis are the following: (1) How does the audience interpret information provided by the media and which topics do the interpretations initiate in turn? (2) How does the notion of belief emerge in the discussion, which narratives and stereotypes are believed in, and how is the belief rationalised? (3) Which folkloric and other cultural (transmedial) texts have taken inspiration from this doping scandal?
The possibilities for using folklore in studying history are directly dependent on the raised problem. In memories about the distant past, reality and fiction are often mixed up, which is why historians may regard the reliability of such stories as low. Still, such folklore shows what was valued, which events were felt to be significant and important. For historians, problems have been posed by the reliability and difficulties in dating the lore. In connection with the emergence of microhistory, more and more attention is being paid to how and what people thought, and it is often very difficult to find answers to this question in written sources. This article observes the possibilities for using historical tradition in the studies of agrarian and settlement history and, more specifically, five narrow topics that concern border markers, the emergence of villages, land use in farms, inheritance matters, and beggars. Oral tradition about the founding of villages and farms and their first settlers is in most cases connected with the periods of war and the plague, immigration of people, or some other extraordinary event. Descriptions of everyday life, which are abundantly found in folk memory, usually speak about well known and familiar things. At the same time, they considerably help to broaden notions of the past and enable to find out the peasants’ attitudes towards and evaluations of one or another event or phenomenon. As a result of taking folklore into consideration, the picture of history becomes much more differentiated and colourful. The folklore that has been observed in this article is closely connected with the village society, and it primarily reveals notions connected with the farm people’s everyday life. Archive sources usually disclose them from quite a different point of view. As a result of the analysis, we have reached the conclusion that the best results are achieved when historical tradition is taken into account for relatively recent events, those that have happened since the second half of the 19th century, and under circumstances in which spatial relationships have not considerably changed. The use of earlier lore is more complicated, although it also enables us to see people’s attitudes, which gives a ‘soul’ to the discussed phenomena. The biggest difference is that archive materials, naturally, do not reflect the reasons hidden in the peasants’ mental world. Namely, this is why the use of folklore enables to provide important extra material for studying settlement and agrarian history, which supplements a rational picture about past events and processes, and enables to open up deeper backgrounds to what happened.
This paper provides an overview of the first detailed case study of a Buddhist congregation in Estonia. The object of this study is Triratna Buddhist Community in Estonia, which was established here in 1989 and is part of international Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly known as Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) created in the United Kingdom in 1967. Mainly through oral history and participant observation methods as well as analysis of data presented by different written and oral sources the researcher strives to give an overview of various aspects of activity connected with one particular Buddhist group in Estonia, including its practice, ordination rituals, beliefs and membership characteristics. It also includes a detailed overview of the congregation’s history and its relationship with members of Triratna congregations in Finland and the UK. It presents Buddhism as an emerging new religion in Estonia through a case study of a Western Buddhist ecumenical congregation.
The article discusses the structure of Korean legends as representative of female heroism, the purpose of which was to instil courage and hope in women at the time, and thereby proves that Korean legends are not merely a passive reflection of the social situation but serve an active function of influencing the society in a particular way and arranging the illogical social organisation. In addition, the article studies the heroism of Korean women in legends glorifying their beauty and dignity. In Korean legends, women are mostly perceived as passive mediators whose function is to give birth to heroes. But there are also other legends, which have been passed on throughout the long history, the nature and structure of which is analogous to European legends. Perhaps there have been other such legends, but they have not been preserved owing to the fact that the Korean society has been long dominated by men or nobility. The myths and legends are not merely simple representations of Korean society at the time, but serve as antisocial messages by shamans of the lowest social stratum, who lived under double pressure. Their message was that all people are born equal and share equal human rights, and they ridiculed the hypocrisy of the nobility, who harshly criticised shamans but eventually followed their advice.
The article takes a critical look at archaeoastronomy as a marginalised area of research and dwells upon the so-called “bad examples” with an aim to highlight the methodological reasons why archaeoastronomy is not considered a true science. The elicited examples are indeed made by amateurs, yet with an academic research background, and published in academic format. Thus, these treatments can potentially find their way into the knowledge of common people and shape their worldview. Until now, critical reviews of the elevant treatments have been non-existent, and the following article attempts to analyse the problematic issues in archaeoastronomy related treatments and bring out certain generalisations as to why such strange conclusions have been reached.
The article demonstrates how, among the Slavs, a given objective feature of a plant becomes an important factor in the selection of plants for use in folk medicine. At the same time, this feature provides remarkably close ties between the plant, folk beliefsabout certain biblical personages, and the symptoms of disease. The role of another mediator – natural language – is no less important for connections between different codes of traditional culture. A plant name becomes linked to words and objects, thereby acquiring secondary associations. Thus, traditional culture regards disease not only as a deviation but also as a situation close to the mythological time of world creation, and a patient is placed in the mythological space where he uses, as medicine, the herbs which have “appeared” thanks to characters of Christian mythology. The phytonymsand etiological legends, analysed in the article, are used within the tradition as an instrument to ascertain the reason why a specific plant was selected for the treatment of a certain illness. In folk culture, an illness is observed – at least indirectly – as ananomalous state of the human being, however, it is also treated as a situation close to the mythological time of origin of the objects of the surrounding world, and the ailing person is placed in the mythological space wherein he/she would use medicinal plants created thanks to the figures of Christian mythology; this re-occurs again in the treatment of each new patient.
The article compares the biography of St. Stephen of Perm, written by Epiphanius the Wise, with the stories about the miracle maker Stephen known in Komi folklore. The author explores the influences of Russian culture on Permian (Komi) culture by mediation of St. Stephen of Perm, and the association of folklore legends with the Christianisation of the Komi. The dialogue between the Russian Christian written tradition and the Komi pagan oral tradition, which was initiated by the Christianisation of the Komi at the end of the 14th century, was based on the philological activity of St. Stephen of Perm. It was him who translated into the Permian Komi language the main principles and concepts of Christian religion, which made the dialogue between Russian and Komi cultures possible. St. Stephen’s mission was complicated because he not only had to provide an accurate translation of Christian texts into another language, but also had to find and create meaning equivalents for Christian images in non-Christian tradition. St. Stephen of Perm became a key figure denoting the contact point of Russian and Komi traditions. In Russian tradition the acceptance of the Permian side was expressed in St. Stephen’s hagiology, which combines the biography of St. Stephen and the story of his journey to the Perm region. In Permian tradition St. Stephen and the events related to him are explained in folkloric texts about Christianisation.