Academia Sociologicae 25

Andu Rämmer, Veronika Kalmus, Henn Käärik


This article is motivated by two important anniversaries: in the autumn of 2014, 25 years passed since the specialty of sociology was started to be taught at the University of Tartu; on 23 December 2015 Paul Kenkmann (1945–2001), the establisher of the specialty and the first Full Professor of Sociology at the University of Tartu would have turned 70.

The precursor of social sciences was taught at the University of Tartu already in the 19th century. Professor of Theology in 1856–1890, Alexander von Oettingen (1827–1905), published his monograph Die Moralstatistik und ihre Bedeutung für eine Sozialethik in 1868. Wilhelm Ostwald (1853–1932), the Nobel Prize winner in chemistry in 1909 who had studied and taught chemistry in Tartu in 1872–1882, published Energetische Grundlagen der Kulturwissenschaft in 1909 in Leipzig and he envisioned the founding principles of sociology from the viewpoint of energetics. In the period of 1920–1940 several scholars from the University of Tartu published studies in Estonian within the field of sociology, e.g., Hans Kruus (1891–1976) published “City and Village in Estonia” (1920); Eduard Tenmann (1878–1936) “Religion and Economy” (1938); and Alfred Koort (1901–1956), Rector of the University of Tartu in 1944–1951, wrote articles on Max Weber in the 1930s.

In 1937–1939 Ilmar Tõnisson (1911–1939), Master of Philosophy, studied sociology and social psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science where he wrote his PhD thesis “Theories of Historical Causation”. He held a series of lectures on sociology-related topics at the Folk University of Tartu in 1936–1937, and applied for a permission to hold lecture courses in sociology at the University of Tartu in 1939, but was declined.

In Soviet Estonia, empirical sociological studies were only allowed to be conducted by the authorities as late as in the 1960s, after the Khrushchev Thaw. In 1966 Ülo Vooglaid established the first sociological laboratory at the then State University of Tartu; sociological seminars were held near Tartu at Kääriku in 1966–1969; and Vladimir Yadov’s textbook on the methodology of sociological research was published in Tartu in 1968. It became possible for students to take courses in sociological subjects according to individual study plans. One of such students was Paul Kenkmann, student of history in 1964–1970. His diploma thesis, written in Russian under the supervision of Rem Blum, was titled “Marxism and the Problem of the Socialisation of Personality”. Kenkmann started his academic career at the State University of Tartu in 1972, and became an associate professor in 1980. In 1984 he was appointed the Head of the Department of Sociology, which had been established one year before as a consortium of five sociological research laboratories. Kenkmann continued his studies under the supervision of the pioneering Soviet sociologist Vladimir Shubkin. He defended his doctoral dissertation in Moscow in 1986, and became a part-time professor at the Department of Philosophy in June 1987. He was appointed Part-time Professor of Sociology in October 1989, and was elected to the position of Full Professor in Practical Sociology in June 1992.

The first 18 students of sociology were admitted to the Faculty of History on 1 September 1989; the second class (16 students) started two years later. In the course of 25 years, a number of structural reforms in the university occurred, bringing about considerable changes in the curricula, including a longer and more versatile list of specialty subjects; the omission of foreign languages; and the more casual covering of other social science disciplines, not to mention humanities.

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