Critical events of the 1940s in Estonian life histories


  • Tiiu Jaago Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu, Ülikooli Str. 18, 50090 Tartu



The article observes how critical times, conditioned by events concurrent with Soviet power and World War II, are currently reflected in life histories of newly independent Estonia. Oral history analysis comprises texts from southern Läänemaa: oral life history interview (2005), written responses to the Estonian National Museum’s questionnaire “The 1949 Deportation, Life as a Deportee” (1999) and a written life history sent to the Estonian Literary Museum’s relevant competition “One Hundred Lives of a Century” (1999). Aiming at historic context, materials from the Estonian Historical Archives and Läänemaa County Archives have been used. The treatment focuses on two issues. First, whether oral and written narratives only differ by the form of presentation or do they also convey different messages (ideologies). Secondly, whether memories and history documents solely complement each other or do they more essentially alter the imaginations obtained from the events. The public is presented with experience narratives on coping under difficult circumstances, both at practical and mental levels. Narratives are presented from a certain standpoint, pursuant to narrators’ convictions, with the main message remaining the same in different presentations. The addition of history sources enables to better observe the evolving of narrative tradition (narration rules) and highlight new questions (hidden in the narrative).


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How to Cite

Jaago, T. (2006). Critical events of the 1940s in Estonian life histories. Sign Systems Studies, 34(2), 471–492.