On 27 August at 16:00 Kaisa Langer will defend her doctoral thesis “Estonian folklore collections in the context of Late Stalinist folkloristics” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Folkloristics).
Lecturer Ergo-Hart Västrik, University of Tartu
Associate Professor Tiiu Jaago, University of Tartu
Researcher Toms Ķencis, University of Latvia
While browsing through the materials of Estonian Folklore Archives that were documented in late 1940s and early 1950s, is interesting to see that between folklore that one could expect like proverbs, legends and sayings, there are texts that praise the life in collective farms, Stalin’s wisdom, or logging plans. This kind of folklore was not a reflection of folk culture, but rather the political expectations on folklorists in an occupied country. In the early Soviet Estonia, folklore collections were censored, university curricula reformed to resemble other universities in the Soviet Union, folklore was documented during collective expeditions. Folklorists learned about new theories and methods, they were expected to re-evaluate their work, and document contemporary folklore that would depict life in the Soviet Estonia in a positive way. Folklore scholars were expected to present this kind of folklore to the Soviet colleagues and popularize the Soviet folklore in the newspapers to show that the discipline of folkloristics has adapted to the new political situation and carries an important role in the Soviet society. Folklorists who were educated before the war, students at the Tartu State University, and volunteer correspondents of the archives alike were rather interested in classical genres of folklore, not the Soviet folklore that was hard to find. The researchers used older archival materials in their studies, for example by analysing folklore as an example of class struggles, or by quoting Marxist-Leninist works in the beginning of their writings. After Stalin’s death, folklorists did not need to find Soviet folklore anymore, but they were still not free to follow their research interests. Folklore was reconceptualised in the whole Soviet Union and also in the Soviet Bloc. Also in the other East European countries, folklorists preferred to continue to study pre-Soviet peasant culture and struggled with Soviet approaches to folklore.