The place folklore of Siberian
Estonians today. Reflections of adaptation
In the second half of the 19th
and the beginning of the 20th century Estonian settlements were
founded in Russia, and also in Siberia. Today about thirty of
them still exist. The number of Estonians who lived in Siberia
in 1939 (33,600) has decreased by half.
In the following article I
aim to study the associations between the place of living and
the place folklore of the Estonians in Siberia. As research material
I have used the materials of field trips of the Estonian Folklore
Archives from the years 1991-2000, the writings by Rosalie Ottesson
of Upper-Bulanka village of the 1970s, the records of the linguistic
expeditions of the Institute of the Estonian Language and other
For comparison I have chosen
the place folklore of the Russians who settled in East-Siberia
in the 16th-18th centuries (the so-called Starozhils or
Chaldons) and Old Believers (Starovers or Semeiskis)
(see Eliasov 1960). The above-mentioned Russian settlers differ
from Estonians mainly in that the former went to Siberia nearly
three centuries earlier (starting from the 16th century). Also
they communicated closely with the native inhabitants - the Buryats,
Yakutians and others - and borrowed lots of stories about the
natural conditions and nations of Siberia from them. So the place
tradition of the earlier Russian settlers includes much more
legends than that of Estonians. Tales have been collected from
East-Siberian Russians since the 1930s. I am also going to draw
some comparison with the folklore of the Kveens who migrated
from Finland to Norway (see Saressalo 1996).
The place and tradition
The problem of how folklore
changes in the course of migration is an interesting one for
folkloristics. And especially so in those genres, which inherently
have to be definite (like place-related tradition) and which
cannot just be 'taken along' (unlike, for example, songs, games,
etc.), because in such a transfer their original meaning would
be lost. We are looking for an answer to the question how folklore
connected with a new environment is created.
This analysis is primarily
based on the tradition in the exile villages of Upper-Suetuk
(founded probably in 1850) and Upper-Bulanka (founded probably
in 1859) - the tradition, that excels in its elaboration and
originality. Also, folk tales belong to the active tradition
there. It must be once more emphasised that this is what place
folklore is like today, earlier the situation might have been
different. The interviewees are people born in Siberia already,
belonging to the third, and in the older villages, to the fifth
generation of immigrants.
on the left, the schoolhouse in Mägiküla on the right,
Altküla street in the foreground. Photo: Pille Niin 2000.
ERA colour photo 3593.
Place folklore is shaped by
the environment, that is connected with the narrative: definite
geographical places, events, people. Therefore the place folklore
of each nation is different, yet borrowings can be found. A folk
narrative is, for example, taken over from one nation in such
a way that traditional, often even internationally well-known
plots and patterns are associated with specific places and people.
Lauri Honko calls it adaptation (Honko 1979: 60), in a given
case adaptation to a place.
People who have moved from
their place of living have several possibilities to create folklore:
to adapt the old tradition to new conditions and places; to create
a new folklore; to borrow place-related or other tradition from
the local inhabitants. The recorded place folklore of Estonians
in Siberia may be divided into three:
- Tales about places in Estonia
or the so-called folklore that has been brought along;
- Folklore borrowed from neighbouring
- Place folklore created by
the Siberian Estonians themselves.
The tales from the first subdivision
are not in active use. The place-related folklore taken over
from other nations (Russians, but also other local ethnic groups)
is to a large extent incidental. The folklore belonging to the
third subdivision is abundant and will be dealt with at length.
1. Tales about places in
Estonia lost their
actuality after emigration. Talking to a few people who emigrated
in their childhood, I heard emotional remembrances of their home
in Estonia. They treasured the memory of the land of their ancestors.
They paid particular attention to the nature, to their nostalgia
for homely places. Most probably the settlers and exiles spoke
legends associated with their lost homes. Unfortunately these
people are not alive any more, their children and grandchildren
still tell a couple of stories they have heard about life in
Estonia, but their knowledge of the situation in Estonia is scanty,
usually they do not know the geography of Estonia. In addition
to the knowledge of landscape, place folklore requires some knowledge
of the history of Estonia, for instance the stories about the
plague, the legend of the treasure of the Swedish king, etc.
It seems that the perception of time was disrupted when the settlers
left Estonia, chronology does not reach any earlier than the
time of emigration. Nevertheless, people know about the hard
life in the manors in Estonia, which was the reason for emigration.
So it might be considered rare that people who have never been
to Estonia, still tell stories of the places and bygone times
in Estonia (see also Piho 1995: 215). (1)
To a certain degree, the following
example could be considered a local legend, although there is
no specification to the place in the text, presumably it is not
vital to the narrator, the place connected with parents is more
Mamma said that somewhere
there had been a rock. And in that rock it was said that there
was an impression left by the God. And when it rained, they went
there and brought that water [from
the print] as medicine. But I don't know where that rock was.
But she said that there was a rock. FAM 10 (8) < Tomsk
oblast (2), Kaseküla village - K. Peebo
< Minni Erikson, b. 1914 (1993).
2. Borrowings from peoples
in the neighbourhood.
Under this heading among more widespread folklore, I have placed
texts about the origin and settlement of other nations, mainly
natives, events that took place in Siberia before the Estonians
came, the origin of place names in the surrounding settlements,
etc. There are local legends explaining the origin of both Russian
and Tatar names. Often there is only one variant of a story recorded
For example they speak about
the origin of the name of the grove near the neighbouring village
(Besboinaya, there those whites and reds started fighting),
of the district centre Kalachinskoye (Kalachik, they made
a lot of kalachiks [a kind of doughnut] there), the
name of the river flowing nearby:
As [the Russians] started war here they started
war with whom. Yeah, they started war. Yermak's war that was,
yes. And so the Russians had taken and driven them [Tatars]
there into the water. [---] The Tatars went into the river
one after another and shouted: "Ui-ui-ui-ui!" And so
the river was named Uyu and now it is Uyu because that Tatar
said so. Well. And that's it. Nothing else. FAV 90 < Omsk
oblast, Lilliküla village - A. Jürgenson, A. Tuisk
< Jelisaveta Kakk, b. 1926 (1996).
The story was told by Liisa
Kakk from Lilliküla and she had heard it from a Russian
man called Mishka, who had teased the Tatars: "And how the
Russians drove you into the water and you yelled 'Ui-ui-ui-ui!'
" Uy is a tributary of Irtysh and it is known to mean a
house, home in the Tatar language.
The legends of burial mounds
and barrows were adapted more successfully into Estonian folklore.
Barrows can be found for example in a field near the village
Estonia in Altai territory and behind the cemetery of Upper-Bulanka
in Krasnoyarsk territory. The location near the village surely
helped the related legends to enter the tradition. This is an
extremely widespread nomadic legend of the self-burial of the
Chudes. It is spoken by local ethnic groups (Hakasses, Tyvas,
Yakuts, etc.) and by Siberian and European Russians, associating
it with different patterns (white trees starting to grow; mining
of copper and silver; suffocating oneself under the house) and
different nations (the Chudes, Kirghizes, Bargutians). The following
narrative has been recorded near Chita in 1941:
It seems it was not that
long ago, maybe half a thousand years ago, when a nation called
Chudes lived here before the Russians and Tunguses. They were
a healthy and strong nation, they turned round large chunks of
land barehanded to get the copper and silver. They evidently
got much of this ore; they built furnaces and melted it. They
must have been skillful, after their time there have not been
such masters. When they knew that new peoples were coming there,
they left of their own free will. But God knows where they went.
The Tunguses have not met them since, neither have the Russians
seen them (Eliasov
It is believed that the tales
about the Chudes have reached the folklore of Siberian Russians
from the natives, or in other words this is the folklore the
newcomers borrowed from the local inhabitants, because these
tales are connected with specific places in the Siberian landscape
(Eliasov 1960: 80-83). At the same time Russian settlers from
Altai brought along epic songs about the Chudes (Grünthal
1997: 156). These tales are unknown in Estonia. Felix Oinas thinks
such adaptation of this international legend can be caused by
the situation where the new settlers find fragments of graves
with human bones and utensils and they associate the find with
real or fictitious nations (Oinas 1979: 122).
[Near the hills] Some archaeologists
had been excavating there. But those hills were not to be touched,
it was forbidden. Some rich people were buried there. Õie
Ups, about 50 yrs., oral report < Tallinn < Altai territory,
Estonia village (2000).
From Upper-Bulan the road
takes to Lower-Bulan. In the land of Upper-Bulan by the road
there are barrows, [---]
high mounds, which prove that some kind of residential rooms
have been in those places. Our parents told us that these were
the places of Tatar yurts. Once the Tatars lived in the land
of Upper-Bulan, just in that place the Tatar yurts had been.
For some reason the Tatars let down the ceilings of their yurts
and left the place. Where they went, nobody could explain us.
Some old people knew that
earlier the Tatars had such a custom. When somebody in the yurt
died, they went and built a new yurt in a new place. But they
let the ceiling of the old yurt down on the dead body. Buried
the corpse under the yurt.
RKM II 318, 327/8 < Krasnoyarsk territory, Upper-Bulanka village
- Rosalie Ottesson, b. 1899 (1976).
[---] under the hills of
the Tatar yurt there are people's bodies. Once in a village men
had dug one of the hills open. They had found human bones there
in the earth, also utensils and a steelyard. They had left everything
as it was and filled it up with earth. So that under the hills
of the Tatar yurts there are the dead bodies of Tatars. It is
forbidden to dig those hills. RKM II 318, 347/8 < Krasnoyarsk
territory, Upper-Bulanka village - Rosalie Ottesson, b. 1899
These tales were written down
by Rosalie Ottesson in Upper-Bulanka village in the 1970s, but
also decades later the inhabitants of Upper-Bulanka know this
legend. Maybe the reason for the popularity of this tale was,
besides the familiar pattern and the location of the hills close
to the village, the singularity of the place, its sacredness
- barrows were regarded as inherently sacred. Here one of the
tasks of place-related legends becomes manifest - the warning
(Remmel 1994: 28), which is also rendered by the narrator of
the sample text. The serious recommendation to keep away from
the slightly frightening, strange place, will make our contemporaries
sooner explore it with excitement, just as the members of the
folklore expedition did in the village of Estonia, led by local
people. (3) Anyway, the place keeps folk tales
Like already said, beside the
historical and etymological tales of their own settlement, the
folklore of older Russian villages of Eastern Siberia includes
numerous stories about the history of Siberia, the nations who
lived there, their descendance, migration. The origin of natural
objects (for instance Siberia, Lake Baikal, the Sayan Mountains)
and/or their names is explained, several stories from the folklore
of different local nations have been joined together (Eliasov
1960: 39). In the local legends of Siberian Estonians only few
bits of these can be found. To a large extent the Estonians have
no legends concerning the remarkable objects further from the
village (mountains, fortresses, rivers, etc.) and events that
took place before Estonians settled there. When a place associated
with a legend was close to the Estonian settlement (e.g. the
barrows), the legend could be taken into use. Place folklore
is not connected with the place only; it rather reveals and explains
the link between the place and the person. The place tradition
of native inhabitants and settlers is intrinsically diametrical,
because their connection with the territory is intrinsically
different. For the natives the place serves as a time frame and
vice versa, the immigrants are still shaping their traditional
relationship with the location.
The success of the adaptation
of new folklore is dependent on the natural and cultural environment,
the former tradition and the views of the users (cf. Honko 1972).
Estonians have not carefully studied the landscape marked by
other nations, nor have they borrowed the related tradition into
their use. The corresponding processes of mutual influence are
slow by nature and folklore needs time to shape. Also the local
inhabitants remained strange for the Estonians, the villagers
often cannot tell the difference between them (cf. Viikberg 1997:
41-42; Tuisk 1999: 91; 101). From the above it can be concluded
that the landscape further away from the village and the events
that had taken place 'before their time' (i.e. before they came
there), were not important for the Estonians. Another reason
may be that the folklore of a strange nation represents strange
identity, and they tried to keep it away from their own. Estonians
drew a line between their world and the strange world - they
did not reflect on the history of the origin and settlement of
the natives. They managed without the strange culture.
3. Place folklore created
by Estonians themselves
by Estonians near Upper-Suetuk. Pille Niin, the folklore collector,
is standing. Photo: Astrid Tuisk 2000. ERA colour photo 3609.
Naturally it is inconceivable that Estonians would have borrowed
the local legends or would not have created their own. That would
have been impossible, because the places Estonians settled were
scarcely populated, in some places it was the land of wandering
shepherds. The Estonians themselves cultured the landscape of
their village environs - they cut the forest, made the land arable,
built the houses, gave names to the places and created their
own place folklore.
The bulk of the local narratives
of Siberian Estonians consist in the folk etymology of toponyms.
Part of the microtoponymy of the environs of the settlements,
of the names of mountains, fields, etc. is in the Estonian language.
These names are spirited and humorous, like their explanations
(Tondilossi [haunted castle] swamp - earlier there
were tall trees, then it burned down). Lauri Honko (1979:
62) points out that those toponyms retain the folk tales that
are connected with landscape and keep them in use. The studied
material serves as evidence to it. Most of the toponyms are associated
with a story, most frequently a notice or sometimes a longer
story. Among the mentioned stories there were no legend types
of international circulation.
The Estonian settlers also
explain toponyms in the foreign language, proceeding from the
history of their settlement. The explanations of the names of
current and earlier Estonian settlements may be based on reality
or fantasy, but often both are combined (see also Hiiemäe
1978: 62-64). Within one village the explanations may vary and
even contradict each other.
Below the five most characteristic features of place names are
I. The name may be derived
from the characteristic feature of the place. Geographical places, mountains, hills
are named according to their shape (for example Sadulamägi
'Saddle Hill', near Suetuki). Forests and swamps, but also Estonian
settlements are called according to natural objects or birds
(Marjasoo 'Berry Swamp', Lilliküla 'Flower
Village', Kaseküla 'Birch Village', Kullisaar
'Hawk Island'). This type of naming has been productive but it
does not often include a lengthier explanation. Just mentioned
Sadulamägi - 'like on a saddle', etc.
II. The name may be given
after a certain event.
For example: Kahrusaar 'Bear Island', because kahr
[a bear] killed a horse. Social-historical events are
hardly ever found in toponyms.
III. Most often the name
is given after a person connected with the place. The name was not given after a ruler
or a commander-in-chief or a nation who lived in the same place
earlier, but most often after an Estonian landowner, who was
The name is given after the
'first' inhabitant: the ones who cleared the fields or owned
land, the founders of farms or villages, the first one buried
on the cemetery, etc. The farms of the immigrants or hutors
(in Russian 'scattered farms') were destroyed when the kolkhozes
were founded in the 1930s, but the places are still called after
the families who lived in the hutors.
The mountains and fields
bear the names of earlier farmers. I mention some mauntains and
steppes where the owners earlier farmed. Four kilometres from
Bulan in the direction of Karatoos is Nugis mountain, Nugis steppe
and the river Nugis. The land where Nugis farmed and made hay
bears his name to this day. In the neighbourhood of Nugis the
farmer was Habe, J. This place bears the name of Habe: Habe mountain,
Habe steppe, the river Habe. The river Bulan flows by their fields
to Bulan. Bears the name of these farmers. The part of river
that flows by their fields. To this day these fields, mountains
and rivers have not got new names. The men left this world long
ago. The lands were taken to the kolkhozes. Now they are in sovkhozes.
But the lands still bear the names of their former owners. RKM II 318, 322/3 < Krasnoyarsk
territory, Upper-Bulanka village - Rosalie Ottesson, b. 1899
In the Far East even the Russians
called the bays - for example Alviuse, Valtoni puht
- by the names given by Estonians (Mäger 1970: 216).
Today the names of the fields
have survived and older people still remember the people whose
names these are but who are rarely described. The facts have
been preserved but there are no situations connected with them
that could be narrated.
The same tendency - to associate
places with local people who really existed - can be seen in
the names of graveyards. For example a graveyard in a grove near
Orlovka is called Kuke kolk ('grove' in some Russian dialects).
Kukk was to brew beer for
the October celebration; he would make good wort and beer. And
the horse started to bolt, don't know why, usually it was a quiet
tame horse. Started to bolt, pots fell down and wood and tramped
through his leg and stomach. He was the first then to be buried,
it is now called Kuke kolk
[a graveyard in Orlovka]. EFA I 20, 75 (3) < Omsk oblast,
Ivanovka village < Orlovka village < Omsk oblast, Finnõ
village - E. Vahtramäe < Semjon Jurjev, b. 1928 (1997).
According to other data the
graveyard in Orlovka had been founded in 1944 to bury the victims
of a lung disease (Viikberg & Vaba 1984: 213).
The graveyard of the village
of Yuryev is called Kübara mägi 'Hat Hill' after
a former villager's name, not after the shape of the hill. Also
the Kveens from Pyssyjoe have named a graveyard after the first
person that was buried there: the graveyard founded in 1908 is
called Anna after Anna Eriksen - the dead people are taken
to Anna (Saressalo 1996: 139). This is an interesting and old-fashioned
way of denomination. Usually graveyards are managed by churches
and therefore they are named after saints.
A separate group of reports
give information about villages named after the first inhabitant,
of a different nationality, but a real person. For example, the
Russian names Ivanov, Kovalyov, Pardinov, Afanasyev, Semyonov,
Nikolayev, Ryzhkov, the German name Rosental. These communities
were founded to settle the immigrants on the land specifically
measured out for that purpose (pereselenteskii utastok),
and these plots needed a name. In some cases the plot already
had a name and this name could be replaced or retained.(4)
In addition to official names
the villages could also have parallel names like Kirbuküla
'Flea village' (officially Uus-Viru - 'New-Viru'): the first
inhabitant had been a man called Kirp/the first inhabitant had
had a lot of fleas.
Among the names of the Russian
villages in East Siberia the largest group is also formed of
those named after the founder. A parrallel may be drawn: in almost
all Kveen villages the founder of the village is known. According
to the tradition there are even two men who are likely to be
the founders of Pyssyjoe, a village founded two and a half centuries
ago, Sammeli Kippainen and Erik Juntinpoika. Similar events are
associated with either of them and the families of both men are
competing for the honour of the founder (Saressalo 1996: 139;
207). In Estonia it is also thought that the place name has often
been designated by the founder, the name of the church by the
builder, etc. (Viidalepp 1959: 440). Similar cases of the origin
of village names are also known by other Estonian emigrants,
for instance by the Black Sea (Võime 1980: 17; 21) and
on the Volga (Võti 1984: 124).(5)
IV. Immigrants typically
give their villages names which are brought along from their
former home and which hint to their origin. For example places named after a specific geographic
location (Yuryev, Orava, Rõuge, Latvians
have used Liepaja, Kurzeme, Daugava, the
Ukraininas have used Smolenka, Orlovka, Poltavka,
Kievka). Also the name of the home country is used (Estonia,
Estonka, Novaya Liflandia, Liiviküla
'New Livonia', but also Latõevo - from the
Russian name of Latvia). A village could also be called after
an ethnonym, which in some places is used as a parallel name
to this day - Viruküla 'Estonian village', Lätiküla
V. Ethnoromantic names,
which supported the idea of belonging together.
While no folk tales were created in connection with the above
village names, it was done in the case of these names:
This name - if I am not
mistaken, here was a big river, then a man named Vambola had
come through that river and had been drowned in the river and
then the village had got its name from that. Grandmother told
me when I was maybe 10 years old or so. RKM II 466, 51/2 (2) < Tomsk oblast, Vambola
village - M.-A. Remmel < Klara Peri, 67 yrs. (1995).
There's a book "Vambola".
Once he had been an Estonian hero.
RKM II 466, 90 (3) < Tomsk oblast, Vambola village - A. Korb
< Evald Voormann, b. 1918 (1995). Commentary of a long-time
schoolteacher at Vambola.
The disappearance of information
concerning name etymology is connected with poor knowledge of
the history of Estonian culture and geography and changes in
the ethnic identity. The myths from the period of National Awakening
are not recognised and the ethnoromantic symbolic names (Vambola,
Linda, and Koidula) have lost their meaning due to education
and media in the Russian language. According to a survey conducted
in the 1980s 8.2% of the interviewees knew the epic Kalevipoeg
and 5.5% knew Lydia Koidula (Lotkin 1996: 242; 240). Of course,
for the one who does not know Estonian language it is difficult
to associate the names Vambola and Koidula with the official
names of the villages Vambalõ and Kaidulõga (both
with a stress on the second syllable). Typically to socialist
countries, the local kolkhoz in Vambola carried the name of a
revolutionary and in front of the office of the kolkhoz there
is the bust sculpture of Viktor Kingissepp (revolutionary in
Estonia). So the next explanatory version makes a logical conclusion:
(in Russian, 'Koidula was an Estonian revolutionary, Lidia Koidula,
named in her honour') RKM II 466, 256 (3) < Tomsk oblast,
Vambola village < Kemerovo oblast, Koidula village - A. Tuisk
< Elfriede Roomet (1995).
names in Siberia. Uusküla. Photo: Astrid Tuisk 1999. ERA
colour photo 1728.
In a way it is characteristic
that the name of the Yuryev settlement is not associated with
Tartu, explanation of this word is not attempted. There were
at least five villages called Linda, in Canada there were communities
named Linda and Kalev. According to popular belief one of the
Linda settlements had got its name not after Kalevipoeg's mother,
but after a person who had lived there. It is also known that
for a short period a place near the Estonian settlement in British
Columbia was called after its founder, Admiral Pitka's daughter
- Linda River (Raag 1999: 57). This proves that information must
be carefully collected when interpreting names, because with
reference to folklore, the desirable name could be chosen after
a specific person.
Place folklore and local
The names of settlements make
it particularly clear that the tradition of the history of settlements
changes quickly depending on the local conditions. In the tales
real events are entwined with fantasy. Times, events, things
and people from the distance of a hundred to a hundred and fifty
years are better known, that is why these stories are truer to
fact. But there are plenty of complicated situations that influence
tradition: sometimes the founder of the village is not known;
at the same time several families from different places settled,
besides that the Estonian names could cause difficulties in the
official bureaucracy in the Russian language. The explanations
of some village names have not survived due to different reasons.
Local folklore changes quickly as generations change and villages
become empty. Rosalie Otteson in the 1970s and linguistic expeditions
in the 1980s have recorded many vivid stories, which could not
be written down any more in the 1990s folklore field trips (e.g.
the name Orlovka after the first inhabitant Urg).
In 1996 in Mikhailovka, however,
the legend of the origin of the village (formerly Pardinova)
was recorded from several narrators. (6) To
the well-known pattern - the village has got its name after the
first inhabitant - specific explanations are added. For example
one version regards the first inhabitant as the founder, another
speaks of a landowner or civil servant, in whose land they had
Most of the village names of
the East Siberian Russians have also got their names namely after
the founder, moreover, the stories vary considerably. Lazar Eliasov
comments: "In summary the divergence of the variants does
not consist in different understanding of the history of the
name, but in the different conception of the life of the person
after whom the place had been named. Some regard him a voluntary
settler, others maintain the founder had been an exile or a refugee,
third ones say he had been here to dig secretly for gold or hunt
for valuable fur, etc." (Eliasov 1960: 210-211). The popular
version that village lands belonged to manor lords is not true,
because manor estates are known not to have existed in Siberia.
As time passes, facts become
gradually vaguer, tradition is assimilated. For example, one
generally used explanation begins to dominate. The tradition
of the first inhabitant will suit for any toponym that includes
a person's name, even in cases it is explicitly wrong (Vambola,
Mikhailovka). Also the 'source person' of the toponym will lose
his individuality, becoming just 'a man': he or his life story
cannot be described (for example Andresejärv 'Lake
Andres', at which a miller Andres had lived with his family,
nothing more is known about him). However, such gradual change
of narratives over generations, in transition from one stage
to another is well known in folklore.
Place folklore of Upper-Suetuk
The exile village in Upper-Suetuk
has been in a favourable position as for the origin and survival
of local narratives. The stories about the origin of names are
closely connected with stories about the history of foundation
and origin and starting a new life. Traditional history also
involves the origin of the village name. The name Upper-Suetuk
did not come after a founder, but the legend skilfully associates
the name with the foundation of the village.
There were no matches [---] could not get those anywhere.
But then he [the founder of the village Kuldmäe, an
ancestor of the narrator] had made a big hole there in the
bank and he put wood in there and
there it was. And when
here was a village already, many people already came. Had no
matches, then came to him: "Let's go to 'soojatuki' [hot
firebrand]." Well, so they came to take those matches,
or, those brands there. So it finally was Suetukk. RKM, Mgn
II 4384 (2) < Krasnoyarsk territory, Upper-Suetuk village
- A. Tuisk, K. Peebo < Anna Koolina, 76 yrs. (1992).
This tale clearly originates
from Estonian settlers (the Estonian interpretation of the words
soe tukk - Suetuk), today several versions close to this
one circulate in the village. Actually Suetuk is the name of
river, which flows through the village, the tributary of the
Historical sources prove that
the founder of the settlement was really Jüri Kuldmäe
(Viikberg 1988: 286) and his first homestead is called Vana-Jüri
mägi 'Old Jüri's Hill'.
Kuldmäe Jüri was
the first man here, three of them came here. My grandmother is
Kuldmäe's sons' daughter. Kuldmäe Jüri lived to
be 102 years old, the hill here is Vana-Jüri mägi. RKM II 449, 115/6 (52) < Krasnoyarsk
territory, Upper-Suetuk v. - A. Korb < Anni Uhvelt, 69 yrs.
and Eduard Uhvelt, 70 yrs. (1992).
The patterns are combined and
for example the name legend of Suetuk may not mention the founder
My grandmother's grandparents
were exiled here. Three years they came. Grandmother was born
on the way. Grandmother's parents were from Sweden. As there
was nothing else here but barely a hot brand (soe tukk) smoldering,
they called it Soetukk.
RKM II 449, 645 (1) < Krasnoyarsk territory, Upper-Suetuk
village - K. Peebo, A. Tuisk < Linda Orlik, b. 1920 (1992).
The tales about Old-Jüri
are limited to brief information only - the first place of Old-Jüri
(isbuska, koobas 'cave') was on the hill slope or he built
the first house in the village. The message may be supplemented
with illustrating fillers, poetic developments, description of
the first place where the founder had lived, etc. Both texts
may become contaminated by other, generally known narratives
about the first inhabitant or the arrival of ancestors. Similarly
to place legends, definitions of time, person and place are also
considered important in settlement narratives (cf. for example
the settlement stories of Lapland in Simonsuuri 1951: 15 and
The family tradition of Old-Jüri's
descendants is richer in facts and events. This could be expected,
because the story of the exile or emigration of one's ancestors
is known more thoroughly than the origin of the village (see
for example Korb 2000). The stories give various reasons why
Old-Jüri was exiled (would not give false evidence; hit
the overseer), the number of his children varies, as well
as his relation to the narrator (grandma's grandfather; grandmother's
husband), description of his journey to Siberia, and the
family name of Old-Jüri.
According to folklore Old-Jüri was a significant man in
the village: he lived to be 102 years old, he sang well and was
a strong man. A couple of texts raise doubts if they speak about
the Old-Jüri whom the narrators today do not remember personally.
Maybe the narrators just follow the logic of tradition, describing
Old-Jüri as they do, adding features of other traditional
figures to his personality. Old-Jüri, being fixed in the
tradition as a vivid personality, supported the rise of tradition
related with the history of the settlement.
For those who know the folklore,
all the knowledge about the founding of the village, the names
of the hills and the first inhabitants merges and forms a unified
whole knowledge of home, its environs and history. Which part
of this knowledge is being narrated, depends on the circumstances.
To strangers, for example to the collectors of folklore, well-known
stories are told in answer to questions.
Jüri Viikberg's and the
local researcher Aleksander Pool's versions of the history of
the settlement vary in details. The local men know particularly
well about the latter variant. There is no village museum in
Upper-Suetuk (in several settlements this institution enlightens
people about the village history) (see Korb 2000). Local schools
give some information to the pupils about the local history.
The work of a local researcher influences the folklore to some
Let us point out the individuality
of the place folklore of Upper-Suetuk compared to that of other
settlements and exile villages. In Tsvetnopolye, like in some
other settlements, people can occasionally mention the name of
the first Estonian and show the location of his house. But today
it is not part of the active tradition, because the settlement
there has not been so steady. In certain settlements (for instance
Upper-Bulanka, Vana-Viru) the former existence of local folklore
may be inferred, but in connection with the decrease of population
it is noticeable that the narratives are rapidly disappearing
from the tradition. Upper-Suetuk is situated in the foothills
of the Sayan Mountains, surrounded by natural landscape with
numerous hills, rivers, mountain ridges, lakes, springs, logad
(in Russian 'hollow'), etc. In the places where the territory
populated by Estonians was larger and other villages were further
away, the place names and tradition emerged more easily and also
The place folklore of Upper-Suetuk
is more developed and integrated than the folklore of other villages.
The toponyms have a fixed role in retaining the history of the
The stories of the origin of
villages are better preserved in those settlements where they
have obtained the narrative form. People who really existed,
either rulers or locals could serve as prototypes to the characters.
Toponyms that are associated with a person's name are more binding
to the stories if there is further information on that person
(biography, nationality, name, the location of the first house,
etc.). Even more important is how the narrators comprehend themselves
through him/her (cf. Latvala 1999: 73). Memory selects and retains
only the most important. The miller Andres, the man called Kübar
who lived in the site of Juryev graveyard, etc., do not have
such relevance for the local folklore as Old-Jüri, the founder
of the village. Exceptional are such characters with whom well-known
folkloric patterns and themes are associated, for example the
hearty eater. It can be supposed that in places where such folklorisation
did not take place, the stories explaining the settlement names
were lost too.
Lassi Saressalo calls the tales
of the founders of the Kveen communities 'myths' (Saressalo 1996:
207). It is customary to name the emerging settlement after the
first inhabitants, later it is important for the identity of
the community to remember the founders. This is especially true
in case the founder did not only start a village but also became
the symbol of the homogeneity of the whole ethnic group. Estonians
needed their new identity - we are Estonians in this Siberian
land - and this required the corresponding tradition to be created.
The disruption of the continuity
of memory is considered normal when people change their place
of living. What is relevant here is the sense of the new beginning:
as a rule the narrative of one's origin begins with the 'new
start' or if the story emphasises the locality, with a time expression
of the range of memory (Jaago 2000: 174). Moving in the Estonian
settlements in Siberia one notices the 'disruption of time'.
On the other hand, the life and culture of one's village is well
known, which is usual in non-moving village communities.
'The disruption of time' may
be seen in local narratives, which are associated with Siberia,
with the journey there and the difficulties with settling in.
These may be stories about the first inhabitants, natural conditions
and the name given after the local nature (Lilliküla
'Flower Village'). Anything connected with the former homeland,
Estonia, will be left in the background when interpreting village
names (like it has happened in the settlements with Estonian
Demographers argue that the
localisation of an ethnic group can start from the third generation
(Katus 1999: 401). Today in the Siberian Estonian settlements
the third generation and in the villages of Estonian exiles the
fifth generation of Estonians and their descendants live. It
seems that they have come to a certain stage of localisation
and obtained a link with their environment. In the narratives
it is not so important what Siberia was like before Estonians
came there. Although microtoponymics in Estonian and explanations
of the origin of place names exist, on a large scale there are
no stories in the folklore about Estonian and Russian traditional
history or legends of places that are further away from the village.
The place folklore that has
emerged on the basis of Estonian names may be observed as a developing
and changing tradition. The boundary between the folklore in
other languages is relatively fixed and it does not allow taking
over the earlier local history and place folklore dealing with
farther areas. The place folklore of Siberian Estonians in the
form it is described characterises the tradition of the older
generation but as such, it is gradually withdrawing from circulation.
It may be said that Siberian
Estonians are culturally isolated, that they set themselves in
contrast to other local ethnic groups. At the same time just
this isolation may have facilitated the survival of the ethnic
group and prevented it from merging with other emigrants. Of
course, only on the basis of place folklore no final conclusions
can be made about the openness or isolation of an ethnic group.
Ethnocentric communities create cultural contacts in three ways:
by rejecting anything unfamiliar; by assimilating it; by adapting
unfamiliar elements into their culture and taking over new influences
(see Saressalo 1996: 55). It can be stated that toponymical narratives
were undoubtedly created to mark one's territory, one's leeway.
It helped to lay the borders between one's own and unfamiliar
space, one's own and strange activities and to emphasise one's
difference from others.
Stress should be laid upon
the importance of common historical experience in joining the
group. The task of the studied folklore has also been to preserve
the history of the ethnic group: information on the foundation
of villages, knowledge about people who 'have left this world
long ago', who lived in these places, etc. For creating the sense
of ethnic identity and national homogeneity, group identity with
an orientation to the past is vital. In this group identity 'roots'
become important: common ethnic origin (see Allardt & Starck
In the Estonian settlements
in Siberia remarkable place folklore was created. In the truest
sense of this word the landscape-related tradition keeps the
footprints of Siberian Estonians in it. And the other way round
- the Estonians living in Siberia hold in them the landscape
and the events that took place during their settlement.
Translated by Ann Kuslap
Estonian Folklore Archives:
- EFA - The collection of manuscripts
of the Estonian Folklore Archives (from 1996).
- FAM - The collection of stero
recordings of the Estonian Folklore Archives (from 1996).
- FAV - The collection of analogue
video recordings of the Estonian Folklore Archives (from 1990).
- RKM - The collection of manuscripts
of the folklore department of Estonian Acad. Sci. Fr. R. Kreutzwald
Museum of Literature (1945-1996).
- RKM, Mgn - The collection
of analogue cassette recordings of Estonian Acad. Sci. Fr. R.
Kreutzwald Museum of Literature (1953-1993).ð
Allardt, Erik & Starck,
Christian 1981. Vähemmistö, kieli ja yhteiskunta.
Porvoo & Helsinki & Juva.
Eliasov, Lazar 1960. Russkii
folklor Vostochnoi Sibiri, Vol. 11. Narodnye predania.
Grünthal, Riho 1997. Livvistä
liiviin. Itämerensuomalaiset etnonyymit. Helsinki.
Hiiemäe, Mall 1978. Kodavere
pajatused. Kujunemine ja koht rahvajututraditsioonis. Tallinn.
Honko, Lauri 1972. Perinne-ekologiaa
- miten ja miksi? - Sananjalka nr. 14, s. 95-04.
Honko, Lauri 1979. Perinteen
sopeutumisesta. - Sananjalka nr. 21, s. 57-75.
Jaago, Tiiu 2000. "Esiisa
" Kodukoha mõiste päritolujutustustes.
- Jürgenson, Aivar (koost. & toim.). Eestlane ja
tema maa. Konverentsi "Kodumaa ja kodupaik: eestlase territoriaalne
identiteet" (16.-17. november 1999) materjale. Tallinn,
Katus, Kalev 1999. Rahvus ja
vähemusrahvus. - Jüri Viikberg (koost. & toim.).
Eesti rahvaste raamat. Rahvusvähemused, -rühmad
ja -killud. Tallinn, lk. 400-406.
Klintberg, Bengt af 1989. Legends
today. - Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdorf, H. K. (eds). Nordic
Folklore. Recent Studies. Indiana, pp. 70-89.
Korb, Anu 2000. Ajalugu ja
pärimus: Siberi eestlaste jutud oma esivanematest. - Mäetagused
nr. 15, lk. 48-64; http://haldjas.folklore.ee/tagused/authors/anuk.htm.
Latvala, Pauliina 1999. Soomlase
elu kujutamine pärimuslikus ajaloos. - Mäetagused
nr. 11, lk. 72-87; http://haldjas.folklore.ee/tagused/nr11/latvala.htm.
Lotkin, Ilya 1996. Sovremennye
etnicheskie processy u latyshei i estoncev Zapadnoi Sibiri.
Mäger, Mart 1970. Eestlased
Kaug-Idas. - Saaremaast Sajaanideni ja kaugemalegi. Tallinn,
Oinas, Felix 1979. Tuudide
endamatmisest. - Kalevipoeg kütkeis ja muid esseid rahvaluulest,
mütoloogiast ja kirjandusest. Toronto, lk. 117-127.
Piho, Mare 1995. Siperian setukaiset.
- Saarinen, Tuija & Suhonen, Seppo (toim.). Koltat, karjalaiset
ja setukaiset. Pienet kansat maailmojen rajoilla. Kuopio,
Raag, Raimo 1999. Eestlane
väljaspool Eestit. Ajalooline ülevaade. Tartu.
Remmel, Mari-Ann 1994. Ega
asjale kasvab sammel pääle (Käina). Mõtisklusi
muistenditõest ja kohajuttudest. - Oras, Janika (toim.).
Loomine. Pro Folkloristica II. Tartu, lk. 26-31.
Saressalo, Lassi 1996. Kveenit.
Tutkimus erään pohjoisnorjalaisen vähemmistön
Simonsuuri, Lauri 1951. Kotiseudun
Tuisk, Astrid 1999. Siberi
eestlaste kujutlused ümberkaudsetest turgi keeli rääkivatest
rahvastest. - Kalmre, Eda (toim.). Kuuldust-nähtust.
Tänapäeva folkloorist IV. Tartu, lk. 87-107.
Viidalepp, Richard 1959. Muistendid.
- Viidalepp, Richard (toim.). Eesti rahvaluule ülevaade.
Tallinn, lk. 425-446.
Viikberg, Jüri & Vaba,
Lembit 1984. Siberi põhjaeestlasi kõnetamas II.
- Keel ja Kirjandus nr. 4, lk. 210-223.
Viikberg, Jüri 1988. Vanematest
eesti asundustest Siberis. - Keel ja Kirjandus nr. 5,
Viikberg, Jüri 1997. Eesti
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References from text:
The Setu people who emigrated to Siberia remember events that
took place and people who lived in Estonia more than a hundred
years ago. While the Setus regard themselves as Swedish, they
know legends speaking of the Swedish times, also legends connected
with places (The Swedish king threw a stick in the yard of the
Pechory monastery: "When this stick blossoms, I'll get my
people back!"). Why is the tradition of the Swedish times
better known in Siberia than in the mother country may be explained
by the ethnic origin and self-determination of the Setus, the
confirmation of one's identity is known to be especially important
for emigrants. Back
oblast - administrative territorial division. Back
Bengt af Klintberg argues that the reason for the vitality of
the ever popular ghost stories is not their mythological background,
but their entertaining function (Klintberg 1989: 87). Back
It is human and understandable that the first inhabitants leave
their traces on the landscape, their own place names. On the
other hand, the origin of place names is traditionally associated
with the first settlers. In the legends of different nations
a mythical or historical founder gives his name to the village.
For example in Votia the Savvokkala village had got its
name from a hero called Sava who lived in that village (Sava
geroi, boxatteri), Matitülä was named
after the Mati, the man who had built the first house there (Västrik
1999: 78). Back
The Estonian settlements of Salme and Sulevi in Caucasia are
believed to have got their name from the deck officer Jüri
Ponomar or Toomas Olev; the Estonian settlement on the Volga,
Goretski (Khorechki in Russian) is thought to have been
named after Gorechki, the local steward of state lands. Back
The examples come from Mikhailovka, formerly Pardinova village.
The village was founded in about 1906 and today there live Estonians,
Russians and Finns. The foundation of the village requires additional
research, it was not mentioned in the survey of Estonian villages
in Russia, published in 1918 by August Nigol. It is possible
that this had been a mixed-nationality village from the beginning.
Only one of the following narrators was born in the same village,
others are immigrants.
Earlier here was a landlord
- Pardinyov, his house is there in another street. He left but
the name Pardinova remained. Afterwards was named Mikhailovka,
but some still call it Pardinova. When we came it was a small
village. EFA I 17,
85 (1) < Omsk obl., Mikhailovka v. < Omski obl., Illarionovka
v. - A. Korb < Senni Lange, b. 1913 (1996).
Here a kind of landlord
had lived - Partinyov. After him the village became Pardinova.
Afterwards was called Mikhailovka. Here were lots of Estonians,
EFA I 17, 113 (1) < Omsk obl., Mikhailovka v. < Omski obl.,
Estonka v. < Omski obl., Suur-Selimi v. - A. Korb, A. Tuisk,
A. Jürgenson < Liidia Stjuff, b. 1926 (1996).
Pardinova was the name,
here we came in fifty-one, written was Mikhailovka, but called
Pardinova. Even now they call. Here was a manor lord Pardinyov,
it was all his land, after him it was called. Before kolkhozes
or how, I don't know. He had servants and a horse stud and cowhouse.
Don't know where he lived, servants were here. But when the order
changed, then he disappeared, to America or where. EFA I 18, 100 (18) < Omsk obl.,
Mikhailovka v. < Omski obl., Liflyanka v. - E. Vahtramäe
< Maria Maasik, b. 1937 and Vladimir Maasik, b. 1934 (1996).
Pardinova was, the village name was changed. Some kind of
Russian he was, Pardinyov first man. EFA I 17, 106 (3) <
Omsk obl., Mikhailovka v. < Omsk obl., Tara district - A.
Korb < Ella Maran, b. 1927 and Juhan Maran, b. 1927 (1996).
Dad was a servant in Estonia.
Heard that in Siberia there is lots of land. But here a manor
lord lived. One house only was here, beautiful house. It was
first Pardinova, called Pardinova. That landowner, who lived
here, knew that the reds will take control. Partnyov was his
surname, but I don't know what his name was. My father Kokk Pjotr
Karlovich, Oruvere August and Stjuff bought all the landlord's
Pardinova for 30,000 roubles.
EFA I 17, 89 (1) < Omsk obl., Mikhailovka v. - A. Korb <
Eduard Kokk, b. 1916 (1996).
Mikhail was the first name,
it was called after that.
EFA I 18, 54 (6) < Omski obl., Mikhailvoka v. < Omsk obl.,
Illarionovka v. - E. Vahtramäe, A. Tuisk, A. Jürgenson
- Volli Stjuff, b. 1941 (1996). Back