Baltic News and Tidbits


Three Estonian Scholars and the Finno-Ugrian Peoples
Baltic Republics Will Be Offered to Return Soviet Investments
Latvia shining example for new NATO nations
Northern Ireland-Lithuanian labour trafficking exposed
Stalin World in Lithuania
New books about the Baltic
Song lyrics

Three Estonian Scholars and the Finno-Ugrian Peoples

Estonian Independence Day address given by MATT CAPLES at the Indiana Memorial Union Building, February 24, 2005

Dear Guests! Lugupeetud külalised!

Since we last gathered here in this building to celebrate the restoration of Estonia’s independence, Estonian Studies and Finno-Ugrian Studies at Indiana University have suffered two irreplaceable losses. On June 24, 2004 Professor Alo Raun passed away at the age of ninety-nine. A few months later, on September 25, we also learned sadly of the passing of Professor Felix Oinas at the age of ninety-three. Although their departure has left a large void, it also provides us with an opportunity to review the productive careers of two distinguished scholars, whose body of work should serve as a source of pride not only for those of us involved in these fields at Indiana University, but also for Estonians in general. There is another great Estonian scholar whose name should not go unmentioned on this day – Paul Ariste. He, like Alo Raun, was born a century ago this year. The scholarly careers of all three men began at Tartu, but due to the vagaries of history they had to follow different paths. The work of all three is emblematic of something else I believe Estonia and Estonians can take pride in: genuine concern for their fellow speakers of Finno-Ugrian languages.

Following the establishment of Estonian independence after World War I, Tartu University was rapidly transformed into an Estonian-language institution. Along with this change came the founding of new academic chairs. Not only would the study of Estonian now become a major focus at Tartu, related languages were to be taught and researched as well. Chairs in Estonian language, folklore, history and literature as well as Balto-Finnic and Uralic languages were established. Initially these positions were held by non-Estonians, mainly Finns, while the first generation of native Estonian linguists was being trained. That first generation soon came into its own and took charge. In 1925 Andrus Saareste was appointed Professor of Estonian, while in the same year Julius Mägiste took over the teaching of Balto-Finnic languages. Julius Mark taught Uralic languages throughout the era of independence and beyond (1919-1944). Walter Anderson and Oskar Loorits conducted folklore studies, while Gustav Ränk taught ethnography. Among the young scholars they mentored were Alo Raun, Paul Ariste and Felix Oinas.

Notable was Estonia’s role in launching the Finno-Ugrian Cultural Congresses of the interwar period. Of the five congresses held, two took place in Tallinn (1924 and 1936). The culture congresses, which at first focused mainly on education, gradually expanded to cover a wide range of topics. These were rather large affairs for the time, and Estonian participation was significant. For example, for the 1928 Congress in Budapest, along with 650 Finns, some 430 Estonians made the trip to Hungary. The participants at 1936 Congress in Tallinn included 588 Finns, 132 Hungarians and 909 Estonians (not to mention 4 Livonians!). Alo Raun, still a young man at 31, was appointed secretary general of the 1936 Congress. He also edited the important journals Eesti Hõim (1937-39) and Eesti keel.

While cultural contacts with Finland had been strong even prior to independence, in the interwar period Estonia began to strengthen contacts with more distant Hungary as well. In this, Alo Raun and Felix Oinas played important roles. Both men studied at the Eötvös College, in 1931 and 1935 respectively, and both learned Hungarian quite well. Oinas returned to Hungary in 1938 as the first official instructor of Estonian. In addition to teaching Estonian and Finnish, he translated Hungarian novels into Estonian, wrote articles on Hungarian culture for Estonian audiences and began to compile what would have been a massive Estonian-Hungarian dictionary. This last project was unfortunately halted by the tragic events of 1940.

The invasion and occupation of Estonia by the USSR that year ushered in a bleak period in the history of the country and in the development of Finno-Ugrian studies. The sovietization of Tartu University, although temporarily postponed by the German invasion of 1941, eventually led to that institution’s radical reorganization. Many chairs and lectureships were abolished, among them those for Finnish and Hungarian, whose speakers were branded “fascists” by the Soviets. Several new subjects were introduced, with a heavy emphasis on Russian language and history as well as Marxism-Leninism.

Just as potentially damaging to the field was the exodus of talented scholars who by 1944 had managed to escape Soviet tyranny. The list was truly impressive. The linguists Mägiste, Mark, Saareste, Valter Tauli, the folklorists Loorits and Anderson, as well as the ethnographer Ränk all left Estonia to settle abroad. Among this group were Alo Raun and Felix Oinas. Paul Ariste was taken from his home one night and imprisoned in Kazan, where he languished for two years. As disastrous as all this was, in the long run, there were paradoxically some benefits to the cause of Finno-Ugrian Studies, both within Estonia and abroad. Scholars working in the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic were now the fellow citizens of most of the other Finno-Ugrian peoples. Eventually, Estonian scholars would have many more opportunities to carry out field work among them than would scholars abroad. Tartu University, though downgraded in status from a national center of education to a regional one in a vast state, would nonetheless become the center for Finno-Ugrian studies in the Soviet Union.

Likewise, the brain drain which the country suffered at the end of the Second World War led to the establishment of new Finno-Ugrian programs abroad. Many scholars settled and continued their work relatively nearby in Sweden. However, a clear beneficiary was Indiana University in Bloomington. Thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Alo Raun and Felix Oinas, among others, the U.S. Airforce Language Training Program for Central Eurasian Languages blossomed into the Department of Uralic and Altaic Studies (today’s Department of Central Eurasian Studies) and became the leading center for Finno-Ugrian Studies in North America. Over the years Raun published a bewildering array of magisterial studies on Finno-Ugrian and general linguistics, as well as important work on Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian and Mordvin. Meanwhile, Felix Oinas wrote prolifically on Finnic and Slavic folklore and his Basic Course in Estonian (1968) and Estonian General Reader (1972) saw numerous editions and were widely used for teaching the language. It is a testament to the dedication of these scholars that long after their retirement (Professor Raun in 1975 and Professor Oinas in 1981), they continued to publish a body of work impressive both in quantity and quality.

Work at Tartu University centered on the activities of the energetic linguist Ariste, the person most responsible for the re-establishment of Finno-Ugrian Studies in Soviet Estonia. Ariste trained entire generations of linguists at Tartu and has been called an “awakener” of Finno-Ugrian peoples, for many of his students came from the smaller Finno-Ugrian nations of Russia as well. In 1965 Ariste founded the journal Sovetskoe finno-ugrovedenie, which since 1990 has borne the title Linguistica Uralica. Despite the name and the large number of articles published in Russian, that journal was and remains primarily the work of Estonian linguists and is the most important journal in the field today. The inauguration of the International Finno-Ugrian Congresses after World War II was in large part due to the efforts of Paul Ariste and his Hungarian and Finnish colleagues. Since 1960, the congresses have taken place every five years, and the original idea was to hold them in Hungary, Finland and the Soviet Union on a rotating basis. One impressive achievement, a seemingly small detail but one which must have required enormous effort, was changing the venue of the Third Congress in 1970 from Moscow to Tallinn. This small but psychologically significant victory was a result of the perseverance of Paul Ariste and his colleagues. Ariste retired in 1977, but like his colleagues here in Bloomington continued to publish articles, in fact right up until his death in 1990. The language center at Tartu University bears his name today.

After the restoration of Estonian independence in August, 1991, it might have been understandable if Estonians had turned their backs on their former fellow Soviet citizens and looked exclusively towards the West. To their credit, this has not been the case. Noteworthy is the number of institutions, either restored or newly established, which serve to strengthen and promote cultural ties among Finno-Ugrian peoples. For example, the Fenno-Ugria Institution, originally founded in Tallinn in 1927 to promote cultural relations between Estonia and other kindred peoples (and shut down by the Soviet authorities in 1940), was reestablished in 1991. It now serves as an umbrella organization for dozens of organizations and institutions. Also revived were the Pan-Fenno-Ugrian Days, which had been cancelled in all three Western Finno-Ugrian lands during or after World War II. Pan-Fenno-Ugrian Days have been held in Estonia since 1988, and the custom has spread to the Finno-Ugric Republics of Russia as well. The Information Center of Finno-Ugric Peoples or SURI (Soome-ugri Rahvaste Infokeskus) is also based in Estonia and has been in operation since 1993. It promotes Finno-Ugrian Studies as a discipline and collects and transmits relevant news and information. SURI maintains an informative website and publishes newsletters as well.

One important aspect of Estonian efforts in a Pan-Finno-Ugrian movement which should be highlighted is the opportunity for Eastern Finno-Ugrians to study in Estonia. Although some FU had been allowed to study at Tartu University under Ariste before 1991, agreements signed between Estonia and the various autonomous republics in the 1990’s have led to a sizeable increase in the number of students from these areas. Their studies are no longer restricted to philology but encompass a wide range of subjects.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Estonians can look back with pride at an impressive tradition of scholarship. Now that Estonia, along with Hungary and eight other states, has joined the European Union, it will be interesting to see what course the Pan-Finno-Ugric movement, greatly dependent on Estonian participation, will take. One may wonder whether acceptance into a large and powerful union of states will eventually diminish for Estonians the significance of belonging to the larger Finno-Ugric family. Hopefully Estonians, Finns and Hungarians, joined together in the European Union, will work even more closely to assist their kin to the east. I feel sure that Professors Raun, Oinas and Ariste would be appalled by the continued demographic decline of the Eastern Finno-Ugrians as well as the recent renewed crackdown on their culture activities. My belief is that Estonians as much as anyone else appreciate just how fragile independence can be, and for that reason they will continue to bring to our attention the plight of those Finno-Ugrian peoples who are not free to nurture than own language and culture. Tänan väga. Thank you very much.

Original article in Russian in Pravda
Article in English

Baltic Republics Will Be Offered to Return Soviet Investments
Economic Claims of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are a bomb to the relations between Russia and the EU

This story ran on page A32 of the Boston Globe on 11/24/2002.

Latvia shining example for new NATO nations

By Charles M. Sennott, Globe Staff and Brian Whitmore, Globe Correspondent, 11/24/2002

PRAGUE - There was a long list of dignitaries in the hallways, conference rooms, and state dinners at last week's NATO summit who had done so much to usher Eastern Europe from its dark history and into its brighter future.

There was the feted host, the playwright and Czech president Vaclav Havel, who led the Velvet Revolution, sweeping out a Soviet-backed regime. On the fringe of the meeting, there was a quiet newspaper editor wearing a beat-up suede jacket named Adam Michnik, who spent years in communist jails for his role as an underground leader of Poland's Solidarity movement.

But it was President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia - with a moving speech and her dramatic narrative of fleeing her country in World War II, only to return to it a half-century later into the Western alliance - who seemed to embody the history in the making at the gathering.

''Our people have been tested in the fires of history, and they have been tempered in the furnaces of suffering and injustice,'' Vike-Freiberga, 64, said Thursday in her speech. ''They know the meaning and the value of liberty; and they know that it is worth every effort to support it, to maintain it, to stand for it, and to fight for it.''

Senior White House officials said President Bush was profoundly moved by her words, and as she spoke without any prepared text before the other 25 heads of state, the room was still and the leaders listened. The US ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Nicholas Burns, said: ''You could feel what she was saying. There was absolute silence in that room. President Bush was very moved by it, and I believe it was one of the finest speeches I have ever heard in Europe.''

Thursday night, at the heads of state dinner, Vike-Freiberga was invited to sit at the head table with Bush, Havel, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, and President Jacques Chirac of France.

Like neighboring countries Estonia and Lithuania, also invited to join NATO at the summit, Latvia had long been a historical stomping ground for Europe's great powers. In the 20th century, the country fell victim to two of history's most murderous regimes: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union.

And after the fall of the Soviet Union, they waited for a decade as Western powers, leery of offending Moscow, hesitated to invite them to join the alliance.

As president, Vike-Freiberga has had little patience for Moscow's objections to Latvia joining NATO. She said she would like Latvia to ''get rid of the tag'' of being called a ''former Soviet country'' forever. But she has also reached out to the country's large Russian minority.

As a young girl, Vike-Freiberga witnessed both the Russian and German invasions of her homeland, which she fled with her family in 1944 ahead of the advancing Red Army. Officials attending the NATO summit say her history, and that of her country, reflects the message of overcoming tyranny with hope they wished to convey at the two-day meeting in the Czech capital.

She has recounted vivid memories of her family's escape: an allied air raid, the loss of a 6-month old sister to pneumonia, and the sight of a girl who had been gang-raped and mutilated by Soviet soldiers.

Her family first stayed in a disease-infested refugee camp in Germany, lived briefly in Morocco, and eventually settled in Toronto.

Vike-Freiberga's first job was as a bank teller. She eventually earned a doctorate from McGill University and became a professor of psychology at the University of Montreal. She returned to an independent Latvia in 1998 and won the country's presidency in June 1999.

''My personal history is with hundreds of millions who suffered a similar fate,'' she said Friday as the summit ended. ''Millions have been submitted to the tyranny of totalitarian powers. And we have to remember that it happened here in Europe, in civilized Europe.''

BBC story:
Northern Ireland-Lithuanian labour trafficking exposed
Full article

Article from the CITY PAPER - Baltic States
Stalin World in Lithuania

It combines the charms of a Disneyland with the worst of the Soviet gulag prison camp.

This website is produced by the No. 1 Baltic news and tourist magazine, CITY PAPER.

CITY PAPER reports on an unlikely theme park in Lithuania that is provoking laughter, and outrage.

You may have thought Disneyland and Stalin-era mass deportations had nothing in common. But thanks to enterprising Lithuanian Viliumas Malinauskas, they do now.

The 60-year-old canned mushroom mogul recently opened an odd-ball, park that mimics a Soviet prison camp. The facility^×part amusement park, part open air museum^×is circled by barbed wire and guard towers, and dotted with some 65 bronze and granite statues of former Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, and communist VIPs.

Organizers say it's the first and only Soviet theme park in the world. Officially, the 30-hectare complex is called the Soviet Sculpture Garden at Grutas Park. But residents of the nearby village of Grutas have dubbed it Stalin World - a name that's stuck.

During a recent gala opening, thousands of invited guests were greeted at the gate by an actor dressed as Stalin; a Lenin look-a-like, complete with a goatee and cap, sat fishing by a nearby pond. Guests were invited to drink shots of vodka and eat cold borscht soup from tin bowls, while loud speakers blared old communist hymns. Nearby, red, Soviet-era propaganda posters read: ^ÓThere^Òs No Happier Youth in the World Than Soviet Youth!

It combines the charms of a Disneyland with the worst of the Soviet gulag prison camp, Malinauskas told assembled journalists, including a handful from abroad who'd flown in to report on the bizarre spectacle.

The park was opened on April 1, April Fool's Day, but it's a dead serious business venture. Malinauskas, considered one of the wealthiest men in Lithuania, launched his Stalin World project in earnest after he won a nationwide competition three years ago for rights to use the scores of Soviet-era statues that had been taken down from squares following the restoration of Lithuanian independence, and then mothballed.

Malinauskas argued that the fun-loving atmosphere around the park demonstrated Lithuanians had a healthy view of history and were finally putting the tragic Soviet past behind them. He added that he wants to develop the site, in which his Hesona mushroom company has invested some 1 million dollars, into a major tourist attraction.

Stalin World, with an admission price of about 2 dollars, also has a café, playground and small zoo.

Not everyone is laughing along with Malinauskas and his supporters, however. Some have bitterly criticized the park as tacky in the extreme and an affront to hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians who were deported, shot or repressed in other ways during 1940-1991 Soviet rule.

Many Lithuanians were particularly incensed by plans to build a mock railway that would carry visitors in cattle wagons from Vilnius to Stalin World, a la some Mickey Mouse train ferrying tourists from one attraction to another at Disneyland. The idea, say park developers, would be to give younger Lithuanians a hint of what it^Òd feel like to be deported.

But Leonas Kerosierius, a strong critic of the park who has spoken out on behalf of some 60,000 survivors of Stalinist deportations still alive in Lithuania, said the facility makes light of some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

Imagine that in your country, one day armed KGB men come to your door. They beat your neighbor, rape your sister, your mother, kill your brothers. They exile your family, Kerosierius was quoted by The National Post newspaper. ^ÓAnd now someone is building monuments to these killers, these rapists? No country has ever built monuments for tyrants. Are there any monuments for Hitler or Goebbles?

But Malinauskas, who said his own father and several other relatives were also deported, has been undeterred by the criticism. He^Òs even been quoted as welcoming it, saying it's drawn even more publicity to the grounds and is contributing to its future success.

He said he hopes to attract at least a million visitors a year to the park, which would make it one of the most visited sights in the country.

For more about the controversial artist who made some of the statues at Stalin World see From Lenin to Zappa. For other related articles, see Jailed, Stalin's Agents, The Centurians and The Forgotten War.

Stalin World is on the edge of the village of Grutas, 120 kilometers southwest of Vilnius, and a few kilometers from the town of Druskininkai. From Vilnius, take the A-4 highway. The park's open from 9:00-19:00. For more info, call tel. 33-55511, with area code 370 from abroad and 82 from within Lithuania; hesona@druskininkai.omnitel.net; also see the website^× www.travel.lt/grutas.

Check out the following book in your local bookstore:
Art of the Baltics: the struggle for freedom of artistic expression under the Soviets, 1945-1991.
A.Rosenfeld and N.Dodge,
Rutgers Univ. Press, 2001
476 pp., ill, 80 dollars

Here are the words and music in Latvian and English to "Puhu tuul", "Put vejini":