Kooliõpetaja Gustav Martinsoni (1888–1959) rahvuslik-kultuuriliste vaadete mõjutegurid Esimeses maailmasõjas [Abstract: Influencers of the nationalist-cultural views of the school teacher Gustav Martinson (1888–1959) in the First World War]


  • Anu Raudsepp




Abstract: Influencers of the nationalist-cultural views of the school teacher Gustav Martinson (1888–1959) in the First World War

The passing of a hundred years since the start of the First World War, a milestone of world history, has also in recent years actualised research in Estonia of the events of that time. One field that has remained unexplored to this day is Estonia’s school teachers as a large social group in the World War.

School teachers who participated in the war and survived later helped to defend and build up Estonian independent statehood. The main objective of this article is to elucidate the nationalist-cultural views of the school teacher Gustav Martinson, and the effect of the written word on his views under wartime conditions. Martinson had graduated from the Tartu Teachers’ Seminary, was fluent in several languages (Russian, German, French, Latvian), and taught in Sangaste rural municipality. In addition to the press of that time, the primary sources of this study are Martinson’s diaries from 1916–17 and 1917–21, and his correspondence (62 letters), all of which have been brought into academic circulation for the first time.

The exact number of Estonian school teachers who were conscripted into the First World War is not known. We know that in 1914, at least 400 teachers were already mobilised from Estonia. Prior to the World War, 2,249 teachers worked in Estonian elementary schools (excluding city schools). Thus in the first year of the war, at least 18% of school teachers were conscripted into the armed forces. Historians of education consider the calling up of Estonian school teachers for military service as one reason for the decline in the number of schools that took place during the First World War. It is quite probable that school teachers were not enthusiastic about fighting in the war and looked forward to returning to their everyday work.

Literate Estonians in the First World War found comfort in the printed word in Estonian, of which the most readily available were newspapers, especially Postimees (Postman) and Sakala. It emerges from several sources that school teachers were active newspaper subscribers since the start of the war. From among the Estonian press, the school teacher Gustav Martinson read the newspapers Postimees and Sotsiaaldemokraat (Social Democrat), and the periodicals Eesti Kirjandus (Estonian Literature) and Vaba Sõna (Free Word). He also had the opportunity to read books sent from home or brought along from when he was on leave, and also books acquired from where he was stationed. Despite of the horrors of war, he was able to think about values that have a constructive effect on life, including the importance of education. Regarding Estonian literature, he held the works of Gustav Suits, Juhan Liiv, Friedebert Tuglas, Ernst Enno and Henrik Visnapuu in particularly high esteem. Optimistic and positive reflections on the future of Estonian culture and the Estonian nationality, inspired by the media and by the books he had read, are the most prominent feature in Gustav Martinson’s diaries. As a great booklover, he drew support in the war from the written word, which was also the primary influence on his national self-identity. As a school teacher, he understood the importance of education and erudition for the process of building independent statehood.

Unlike Western Europe, no so-called lost generation emerged in Estonia after the experiences endured in the First World War. Estonian intellectuals, including Gustav Martinson, continued their professional work after they returned from the war and assured the continuity of Estonian cultural traditions in independent Estonia.


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Author Biography

Anu Raudsepp

An Associate Professor of Institute of History and Archaeology, University of Tartu






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