Favourite Research Topics of Estonian Ethnographers under Soviet Rule


  • Indrek Jääts Estonian National Museum


Estonian ethnography as one of the Estonia-related disciplines was tied with Estonian nationalism from the very beginning. Defined as a science investigating mainly the material side of vanishing traditional peasant culture in the 1920s, it fitted rather well with the Soviet understanding of ethnography as a sub discipline of history. Thanks to the major cooperation projects initiated and coordinated by ethnographers from Moscow, Soviet Estonian ethnographers could continue studying Estonian traditional peasant culture. Their favourite research topics (folk costume, peasant architecture and traditional agriculture) supported Estonian national identity, but also suited the framework of Soviet ethnography. Studying contemporary (socialist) everyday life was unpopular among Estonian ethnographers because the results had to justify and support Soviet policy. They did so unwillingly, and avoided it completely if possible. Despite of some interruption during the Stalin era, ethnography managed to survive as a science of the nation in Soviet Estonia.


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