Letters from the Past: Armin Tuulse’s Archive in Tartu


  • Kadri Asmer




Armin Tuulse, Sten Karling, Exile Estonians in Sweden, Exile Estonian culture, correspondence, Eduard Wiiralt, Department of Art History, University of Tartu


In 2015, the correspondence of Professor of Art History Armin Tuulse (1907–1977) and his wife Liidia Tuulse (1912–2012), which dates back to 1944 when the family escaped to Sweden, arrived at the Estonian Literary Museum. A significant part of the archive is comprised of the correspondence between the spouses, along with frequent contacts with exile Estonian cultural figures and Armin Tuulse’s work-related communications with colleagues in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. The main objective of this article is to take a first look at the material and highlight the main points of emphasis in the correspondence of the exile Estonians in the 1940s and 1950s. At that time, the main issue (in addition to worries about everyday hardships and living conditions) was related to the continuation of their work and keeping Estonian culture alive in a foreign cultural and linguistic space.

In order to understand Armin Tuulse’s position in Sweden, the article also takes a look back onto his activities in the Department of Art History of the University of Tartu in the 1930s and 1940s, when Sten Karling (1906–1987) from Sweden came to teach in Tartu. Under Karling’s guidance, Tuulse became a dedicated scholar and later the first Estonian to become a professor of art history.


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Author Biography

Kadri Asmer

Kadri Asmer (b. 1985) is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at the University of Tartu and the editor of the Baltic Journal of Art History. In addition to her academic work, she curates exhibitions and writes art reviews. In 2013, an anthology titled Armin Tuulse. Linnad ja lossid was compiled by Kadri Asmer.