The article aims to bring together debates surrounding the use of ethnographic methods in contemporary art, and attempts to theorize and define artistic research or “research in the arts”. It stems from concern about differences and overlaps between the application of ethnographic methods in contemporary art and in folkloristics, ethnology and cultural anthropology, referred to here as empirical cultural research. Contemporary artists and researchers might rely on the same qualitative methods (e.g. interviewing and participant observations) in order to collect and generate data for their works, and they might even address the same or similar topics. Nevertheless, their approaches, working processes, results, and concerns differ in fascinating ways that tend to escape definition. A picture is worth a thousand words, but researchers seem to be shackled by language, especially when trying to capture the ambiguity that often characterizes the making and undoing of belonging and non-belonging. However, both researchers and artists employ ethnographic methods as their own working instruments, and their work is heavily dependent on the goodwill of others. Moreover, both art and ethnography have the ability to draw our attention to the obvious and the unseen, to show the familiar from a new and unexpected angle. The empirical starting points for the article are the author’s ethnographic fieldwork on ethnic interactions in Lasnamäe, a part of Tallinn commonly associated with Soviet-era apartment complexes and Russian-speaking immigrants, and Kärberi 37, a series of 49 portraits by the Estonian artist Eve Kask of her neighbors in the same district. Both the author and the artist are Estonian-speaking natives of Tallinn. The article discusses how their work required them to go beyond, and even transgress, the tacit norms of interethnic coexistence that call for the silencing of ethnicity. Shared by the capital’s residents, these unspoken rules contribute on a daily basis to the separateness of ethnic Estonians and Russian-speakers. While an ethnographer concerned with research ethics and anonymity might not dream of exhibiting photographs of her interlocutors, in the context of an artistic project portraits become a mirror reflecting viewers’ implicit assumptions, Estonian society, and ethnographic practices. Providing an overview of diverse approaches to artistic research, the article supports the view that artistic research is not a new discipline, but intrinsic to art.
The article gives an insight into the hagiology (Old Russian житие) of Alexander Nevsky (ca. 1220–1263), Grand Prince of Novgorod and Vladimir. It was probably put down in the 1280s, at the Nativity Monastery in Vladimir, where his body was initially buried and where, in the late 14th century, he was canonised. The hagiology was written by an unknown author. About twenty versions of the hagiology, dating back to the 14th–19th centuries, have been preserved, and all in all, about 500 manuscript texts. The unknown author did not describe Alexander Nevsky’s entire life but focused on certain details essential for the hagiology, such as the Battle of the Neva, driving out the German invaders from Pskov, the Battle on the Ice, a campaign in the Lithuanian territories, and diplomatic relations with the Golden Horde and Vatican. The ruler is depicted as an ideal hero – a brave commander, a wise politician, and a skilful diplomat. The author has not attempted to show Nevsky as a real person but has rather constructed him as a good Christian, a saint, and a pious man, who believes in Christ and therefore defeats all the enemies of Russia. The hagiology of Alexander Nevsky is a pathetic work written in the superlative, which, based on the then canons, glorifies the hero, yet includes many inconsistencies and exaggerations. It is especially important to emphasise that the story strongly overestimates the Battle of the Neva (1240) and the Battle on the Ice (1242), which were actually of local importance only. In the description of the Battle of the Neva an interesting detail is an Izhorian called Pelkoinen (in the hagiology Пелгусий) or Pelkoi (Пелгуй). These names are the first recordings of words in Izhorian. It can be concluded that Alexander Nevsky’s hagiology was a significant religious work in Russian political and church history, which aimed, through overestimating the hero’s deeds, to create and canonise the figure of an ideal ruler, which in turn helped to strengthen Russian statehood and Russians’ national identity.
The paper aims to define the structure of the population of a relatively small East Lithuanian Barrow Cemeteries culture territory and the causes that could have predetermined the emergence of the rich inter-regional warrior elite graves and their rather abrupt disappearance.
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.
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?