Die Stadt als Erinnerung: unzeitgemässe Notizen


  • Ülo Matjus




essence of city, city and Tartu in Estonian literature, city and citizenry, Tartu, heritage protection


The City as Memory: Untimely Notes

The essay focuses on the city and its essence in the context of memory. It is asserted that the true essence of a city as such cannot be completely revealed by individual sciences or by explanatory dictionaries. Therefore, 1) the Estonian word linn (city) is allowed to reveal itself with reference to its origin, and 2) the city itself is allowed to show itself as it really is, i.e. phenomenologically. Essentially, the essence of a city consists of both caring for and restricting its own residents or citizenry and the essence of the citizenry is to care for and restrict its own city. Figuratively, the relationship between a city and its citizens can be compared to that of a mother and child. Examples of this correlation, and the possibility that the correlation can change to reciprocal animosity or, instead, to love, are cited from Estonian literature (Karl Ristikivi, Oskar Luts, Bernard Kangro and others). Based on memories, the author focuses on the university town of Tartu, the city of his birth and his hometown. The city not only suffered damage during World War II, but also in the post-war
years. For instance, the Soviet city authorities carelessly blew up and demolished the ruins of the Vanemuine Theatre, built in the geometric Art Nouveau style of Vienna, instead of rebuilding it with the aim of conserving it for the future. Imminent total destruction also threatened the district that provided the author shelter during his childhood and adolescent years. Luckily Soviet power itself was destroyed – ended –  before it was able to totally destroy one of its “greatest enemies” (as the author sees it) – the section of Tartu’s Karlova district adjacent to Ropka.

Ülo Matjus is a philosopher, philologist, bibliophil, professor of history of Estonian philosophy at the University of Tartu. His main research fields include phenomenological philosophy (in the broadest sense) and being-historical thinking in Germany; scientific (commented) translation of phenomenological philosophy and being-historical thinking to Estonian; historically specific characters of mental social phenomena (metaphysics, philosophy, science, morals, religion, values etc.) in front of their modern unitedness; appearance of the historically specific character of aesthetical phenomena – especially the art – in age of the modern technology; history of Estonian book and the bibliophily.


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