The place folklore of Siberian Estonians today. Reflections of adaptation

Astrid Tuisk

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 publications.

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.

Upper-Suetuk. Papimägi 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:

  1. Tales about places in Estonia or the so-called folklore that has been brought along;
  2. Folklore borrowed from neighbouring peoples;
  3. 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 important:

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 from Estonians.

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 1960: 81).

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 (1976).

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 from disappearing.

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
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.

Landscape cultured by Estonians near Upper-Suetuk. Pille Niin, the folklore collector, is standing. Photo: Astrid Tuisk 2000. ERA colour photo 3609.


Place names

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 given.

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 familiar.

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 (1976).

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 (pereselentšeskii utšastok), 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 Latõševo - 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 'Latvian village'.

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).

Estonian village 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 conditions

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 settled.

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 river Yenisei.

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 at all.

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 foll.).

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 degree.

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 survived longer.

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 settlement.


In conclusion

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 ethnoromantic names).

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 1981: 21).

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

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References from text:

(1) 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

(2) oblast - administrative territorial division. Back

(3) 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

(4) 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), Matitšülä was named after the Mati, the man who had built the first house there (Västrik 1999: 78). Back

(5) 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

(6) 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, Latvians, Russians. 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