Honoraripoliitikast Eestis stalinismi perioodil. The Politics of Royalties in Estonia During the Stalinist Era


  • Eve Annuk Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum




The article treats the topic of royalty politics within the field of Estonian literature during the Stalinist era. This is an introductory treatment of the topic with the aim of opening up a discussion and to introduce corresponding sources. The topic of royalties has avoided the attention of researchers; up until now, no studies have been made. Despite this, it is an important topic, since the role of royalties in Soviet cultural politics shouldn’t be underestimated. Even though the cultural politics of the Soviet system are usually treated as repressive pressure, the politics of royalties bring out a different aspect by revealing a bonus system with which authors were incited to create conformist texts. Several different kinds of sources relating to royalties can be found , the most important of them being the laws on author royalties. The first of these was the Author Royalties Act passed by the People’s Commissariat of the Estonian SSR and in force already in 1944. Laws passed in 1948 and 1952 regulated the payment of royalities for both fictional works as well as all other kinds of works, such as scientific and technical publications, popular science, dictionaries, school text books, various kinds of collections, translations, etc. The laws were passed according to the boundaries of the work, such as artistic value or ideological level. Larger royalties were paid for works which were ’better’ in an ideological sense. Fiction and literary studies paid the best, which shows just how important literature as ideological education was to the Soviet system. The laws were in-depth and detailed and saw regular additions, such as in 1960 when several regulations were issued. Archival sources and honorary copies of Estonian newspapers and authorpublisher agreements consitute other important sources in addition to the legislation. From the honorary copies , the size of the royalties paid becomes clear. The source value of these documents is confirmed by the fact that they were used as bookkeeping material by editorial offices. The publisher agreements also provide an idea of the actual royalties. In the article, poetess Betti Alver’s publisher agreements from the end of 1940 are used as an example. A concrete example of the politics of royalties used in the article is what happened with poetess Ilmi Kolla (1933–1954). Kolla’s correspondence and several manuscript notes open up a view of the background to her creative work, and show the role of royalties in an age of ideological demands and the effort to create suitable poems. In the 1940s and 1950s, royalties were relatively large in comparison with the standard of living, constituting Ilmi Kolla’s main source of income and contributing to creative conformism. The Soviet system’s royalty politics can indeed be seen as a kind of hidden bonus which stimulated authors to write conformist texts, revealing the relationship between ideology and material aspects.


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