Literature Defined by Language? Some Remarks on the Definition of Estonian Literature


  • Anneli Kõvamees Tallinna Ülikool, Humanitaarteaduste instituut, Narva mnt 29, 10120 Tallinn



Estonian literature, Estonian Russian literature, Baltic German literature, Andrei Ivanov


In the era when multiculturalism is one of the key concepts and the relationship between foreign and own is shifting, the definition of national literature has been in the centre of discussions. In Estonia the issue has been raised most prominently in connection with the Estonian Russianlanguage writer Andrei Ivanov (born 1971) whose works have turned out to be difficult to classify. How to define Estonian literature? Is it a literature written in the Estonian language, literature written by Estonians, literature associated with Estonia or is it a literature written in Estonia? Especially small nations like Estonians tend to define one’s identity according to the language spoken and ethnicity, not the citizenship. There are various significant shifts in Estonian literary history, for example, when the beginning of Estonian literature is discussed, then Baltic German authors are included but when the Estonian literature made by Estonians is born in the 19th century, Baltic German literature disappears from Estonian literature, although Baltic German literature continued until the 20th century. The aspect of value plays a significant role, as what is included or excluded in the literary history is associated with ideological choices. It is only recently that the inclusion of Baltic German literature into Estonian literature is taking place. The position of Estonian Russian literature has also shifted from rejection and periphery in the spotlight and the works by Andrei Ivanov have played a crucial role in that process. Taking the Estonian Russian-language literature and Baltic German literature as examples, the article addresses the question of defining (national) literature.


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