Indiana University Bloomington
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U320 Old Barny, the Czar´s Madman and Estonian Survival

The course will explore the unique culture of Estonia by asking: what are the values, ideas, strategies and energy sources that have made it possible for the culture of the small nation to survive centuries under foreign rule and oppressive power to become one of the most dynamic modern states of the European Union? Who are the heroes of this Finno-Ugric-speaking group of people on the Baltic Sea? We will see that the sword-wielding giant Kalevipoeg of the 19th century national epic is not a typical warrior hero, and moreover, he might not be the best survivor hero at all. He is offered strong competition by smart peasants and trickster barn-keepers, who know how to handle goblins, speak to the snakes and deal with the devil, the Baltic German nobleman who is clearly crazy as he married an Estonian woman and dares to tell the Czar how to run the country, a booze-loving village bell-ringer who insists of telling the truth against all odds, and most improbably, a wandering medieval knight and his fair lady, who travel the silver screen in 1960s hairdos seeking freedom and truth for themselves and their people, oblivious to the censorship of Brezhnev´s Soviet regime. We will explore a variety of texts including folklore, fiction, rock lyrics and advertising copy, watch films and read two short modern novels to trace the characters and symbols important in Estonian culture, to understand what motivated and will motivate Estonians to keep and develop their unique heritage. The Estonian example will also serve to highlight the issues a small nation faces in trying to preserve its cultural identity.

There will be a midterm exam and a final essay as well as short weekly quizzes.