Tartu esimesed üliõpilaspäevad said alguse Käärikult ja KVNi abil
The first Tartu Student Days owe a lot to the sports complex in Kääriku
and the KVN show
Feodor Klement, Rector of the University of Tartu, and the university lecturers and students were all audaciously eager to use the “thaw” period in the Soviet regime’s policies following the revelations about Stalin’s personality cult and so they used the World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow in 1957 as a pretext to organise in Tartu the Baltic Students’ Song Festival in the same year. As the political “thaw” peaked for the second time, the students became more politically minded and active and this development was called the “Tartu spirit”, denoting opposition to official politics and submission of proposals aimed at reforming the system. On the students’ initiative a circle on international relations and a sociology circle were established in 1963-64. The humour/skits competition format borrowed from the highly popular Soviet Central Television show called KVN (this Russian abbreviation stands for the “Club of the Merry and the Inventive”) and the public political debates allowed the students to discover a feeling of empowerment. Thus the idea took shape of organising special days for all students. The first such student days took place in October 1965 and the key motif of the event was removal of all the bad things from the university and from the city itself: thousands of students participated in the mock funeral of the “boring professor” and the “lazy student”. The university’s Young Communist League leaders, including Karl Adamson, Toomas Alatalu, Priit Järve, Jaak Kaarma and Mikk Titma, displayed a daring approach that engaged youth leaders in most cities and districts of Estonia. As a result, in February 1966 the XIII Congress of the Estonian Leninist Young Communist League approved the alternative action plan drawn up in Tartu for the purpose of enhancing youth rights and voted against the Central Committee Secretary sent from Moscow. At the university’s Young Communist League Conference in April 1966 a proposal was put forward to reduce to a minimum the volume of teaching of the doctrine of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The demand was made and met to increase tenfold the allocation of trips abroad to the students. These were the highest achievements of the Estonian student members of the Young Communist League who were oriented towards the stance taken by young people in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Moscow then implemented direct party control over Young Communist League activities, culminating in the relegation of the Tartu Student Days to the level of an official ideology tool in 1970.