Estonian deaf biographies. The making of studies

Liina Paales

Today several branches of science are interested in studying the origin and identity of human being and the continuity of the humankind. In some respects human genetics, a branch of the highly popular gene technology, may be regarded as mapping of the physical memory of human being, as a result of which the gene map of an individual will become as natural in the future as a family tree based on genealogical data is today.

Folkloristics is interested in issues connected with the mental continuity of an individual or a group: with memory and remembering. How time and events are stored in the human mind and the regularities and peculiarities how they are transmitted and presented may be clarified, for instance, by studying family tradition and biographies. The range of interest of folklorists and ethnologists also extends to some so-called marginal groups, different minorities or otherwise special people. One of the topical issues is concerned with norms established in the society and deviations from these norms. This article deals with one of such areas: the deaf are observed as a cultural-lingual minority group.

Attitudes to deafness have varied over different eras and cultural areas. Deafness has been accepted as normal or abnormal, but also a phenomenon related to divine predetermination. The interpretation of hearing disability is dependent on several aspects (economic, social, cultural, etc.) and varies on the scale unwell-well. (1)

Today in handling the problems of the history, sign language, education and other areas related to the deaf, a new viewpoint is gathering popularity: deafness is not seen as a disability only, but also as specificity of human capabilities. The visual-gestural communication or sign language and other outputs of deaf culture are considered as diversifying the human culture (Carmel 1996).

The aim of this article is to analyse the prerequisites and possibilities of studying the life stories of the Estonian deaf. In this task I rely on my earlier research in the field of Estonian deaf tradition. (2) In the following I am going to treat the deaflore from the point of studying biographies, searching for the possibilities that arise from the mentioned viewpoint. I am primarily interested in Estonian material. On the basis of theoretical literature on deaf research published in America and England I am going to introduce the specifics of studying the biographies of deaf people. I also present a survey of Estonian sources that include biographical materials of people with hearing disability. The term 'biography' will be treated in a broader sense, meaning different types of biographical material (reminiscences, narratives about biographical incidences, fragments, etc.). In the article I handle selected texts published in written media between the years 1935-1996.


About deaf biographies research

The narrative tradition in sign language forms one of the most varied and abundant part of deaf folklore. The places of narrating are any places where the deaf meet: schools, camps, clubs for the deaf, different public and family events, etc. Some of the stories in sign language are biographical stories. The biographical aspect, depending on the aims and intentions of research, may be the life stories of deaf individuals or also the social structure and life of the deaf community as a whole.

The term narrative as a text should be defined relatively broadly when the deaf are concerned, i.e. it cannot be limited to a text expressed in the heard or written word. When studying the biographies of the deaf, also such means of expression like a videotaped text in sign language must be considered. I have met some illiterate and non-speaking elderly deaf people, who have learnt to use the sign language from other deaf, so they can still express themselves.

In order to deal with the folklore of the deaf one has to know sign language. This leads to the discussion whether only the deaf or also hearers can handle deaf folklore (see Möbius 1992: 395). It is stated that a hearer researcher can never interpret the material as thoroughly as a deaf would, because he/she lacks the experience of being deaf. At the same time - the interested deaf lack theoretical knowledge how to collect material, study and interpret their culture. The worst option would be the deaf being passive recipients of information, and the information being transmitted to them by hearers from their point of view.

Another group of problems is connected with the practice of collecting. The informants should definitely be interviewed in the sign language. It is possible to record the text on videotape. With information in the sign language serious language problems arise, because in written record of the text the components of storytelling and individualities caused by the visual nature of the sign language will be lost.

Of course, there are no single and correct methods of collecting the life stories of the deaf. For example, in the collection of biographies Being Deaf: the Experience of Deafness published in England in 1991 by George Taylor and Juliet Bishop different methods were used: some wrote down their life stories, others were interviewed, while the interview language varied from spoken language to signed spoken language and sign language. In a few cases sign language interpreters were used.

It is obvious that the collection method significantly influences the interpretation of biographies: depending on the applied method, the focus of the information delivered by the deaf differs (for example the biography of a deaf in writing may prove much more formal than in sign language, on the other hand he/she might be annoyed by filming).

An important part is also played by the person to whom one's biography is told (written) and the by motive why it is told (written). Depending on that choices are made, what is revealed of one's life story and how.

The third significant problem area proceeds from interpretation. It is substantial how the deaf person him/herself interprets his/her course of life: it may markedly differ from how it is done by his/her close ones (family members, relatives, acquaintances), especially if they are hearers. The latter fact must not be disregarded when discussing material obtained from hearers.

The biographies of the deaf reflect how they have managed in the world of hearers, how they have arranged their life and solved their language problems, etc.


Deaf biographies research in Estonia

The Estonian Literary Museum started collecting biographies systematically in autumn 1989. In order to co-ordinate the collecting and research of biographies and create a biography bank the Society of Estonian Life Stories was founded at the Literary Museum in 1996. Several thematic competitions have been organised (for example "The fate of me and my kin in the turns of history", 1997; "A hundred biographies of the century", 1999; "The Life of myself and my family on Estonian SSR and the Republic of Estonia", 2000-2001) to which written narratives were sent by correspondents from all over Estonia and outside Estonia. Collections of the contributions have been published (Annuk 1997; Karusoo 1997; Hinrikus 1999 and 2000).

Although in Estonia attempts have been made to render the collecting of deaf biographies important, actually the specific collection and research of deaf people's biographies is still non-existent. There are different sources that include interesting data and biographical events about deaf people, but these are not systematised. In the following I deal with what was done at the end of the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s, activities which unfortunately were not continued.

The first step in this area was a call for collecting historical material related to the Estonian deaf and deafness. The call was presented on the initiative of the Estonian Deaf Association in connection with the preparations for the 70th anniversary of the Estonian Society of Estonian Deaf-Mutes in 1992. From this action the organisation of collecting, storing and using of deafness-related material was to start, also an overview of teaching, employment, servicing, etc. of Estonian deaf and hearing-impaired people in the past and today was to be compiled. A request was made that all documents and other materials belonging to the educational establishments of the deaf (both comprehensive and vocational) and to the societies of the deaf-mute be donated to national museums. Estonian National Museum, Literary Museum, Health Museum, Sports Museum and the Museum of Pedagogy were interested in materials about the deaf and deafness. Among other activities already then attention was drawn to collecting the biographies of deaf photographers, craftsmen, hawkers, sportsmen, leaders of the deaf movement, etc.

The most remarkable result of this initiative from the aspect of deaf history is Eesti kurtide elu ajaraamat [The Chronicle of the Estonian Deaf Life] (1997), a three-volume chronicle compiled by experienced teachers of the deaf, Juta and Kaarel Kotsar. It was published in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Estonian Deaf Association, and treats the life of the Estonian deaf in the years 1920-1950. (3) It is a so-called imaginational chronicle, which deals with the organisation of the Estonian deaf and the main events of their social life in chronological order. The three volumes of the work describe the life of the Estonian deaf in the earlier period (19th century), the striving of the Estonian deaf-mutes for organising their joint activities, culture and daily routine (economic activities, education, sport, social life, publications, celebrations, symbols, relations with the church, relationships with the organisations of the deaf-mutes in other countries, etc.) in the 1920s-1930s in the Republic of Estonia before World War II, and later in the 1940s-1950s during the Soviet period.

From the aspect of this article the chronicle is of interest mainly because it includes absorbing biographical notes about the most significant activists of the Estonian deaf movement (for example A. Jegorov, who is one of the most well-known deaf artists in Estonia, K. Luht, O. Suits, et al.).

The second step in spreading information about the collecting of the deaf biographies was in my opinion the appeal by the editorial of the newspaper Kurtide Elu [Deaf Life]. The February issue of 1990 (No 31-32, p. 5) published Vidrik Siim's brief reminiscence of deportation, more exactly, how his family managed to escape from deporting.

I remember the day of deportation.
It was 25th March 1949. I was a 13-year-old boy. I was at home in Hageri for holidays. Before lunch I saw many trucks on the road, driving towards Kohila. There were women, children, 4 soldiers with bayonets in the truck bed. Mother and brother went to the village and came back quickly. We dressed, there was no time to eat. The neighbour helped us go to Kohila through the woods, we went with a horse. We were scared. There were many people with us. We went to Tallinn to our aunt. In the morning I went on to Porkuni school. Two girls from my class were missing. They had been deported to Siberia. After Stalin's death one of the girls came back together with her mother, the other stayed in Siberia.
Alda Toplan's family was deported from near Haljala on 25th of March. Came back from Siberia. Married, lives in Rakvere. Her son works in Haljala and daughter entered the University of Tartu. Mother lives and remembers.

In connection with Vidrik Siim's contribution, the editorial board of the newspaper, consisting of hearers, made a proposal to send any information about the violation of the human rights of the deaf: "At first we focus our attention on deportation to get answers to questions who and how many of the deaf in Estonia were deported, what their life was like in exile and later, etc. As this may grow into quite a wide-ranging work, it would be good if some reader (preferably deaf) found time and chance to do it [---] We are also grateful for any information from those deported or those who just remember." The memories of the deported deaf were published in the column Live and Remember, which was evidently named after the final sentence of Vidrik Siim's writing.

In the above-mentioned column of the following couple of numbers the Kurtide Elu newspaper published memoirs of some people who had been deported.

The third step is the appeal by Eike Surva to record the biographies of the deaf in connection with the idea of founding a deaf museum in Estonia: "Now that here and there the question of founding a deaf museum and of collecting and storing ethnic material is under consideration, the more literary deaf might start writing down their life stories. Those who are younger and smarter, please help the older ones record their memories of the past and compare the past times with today! Who does not remember the past, will live without the future" (Surva 1990: 5). This appeal was published in the newspaper Kurtide Elu under the heading My, Your, Our Biography.

Written self-expression is complicated for inborn deafs because of poor spoken language skills (of course, there are exceptions). It is usually not a problem for people with acquired deafness, who managed to learn to speak before losing audition. Therefore it is understandable that the link between the editorial board of the newspaper, expecting contributions, and the readers, who communicate in sign language, did not become as strong as anticipated. It is likely that quite few of the deaf who use sign language only dared to write down their biography. As far as is known to me, special biographical interviews have not been made in the community of the deaf in Estonia.


References including biographical material about the Estonian deaf

Family tradition. One of the sources of the history of the deaf is deaf folklore. The biographical substance emerges just in family narratives. The carriers of the narrative tradition are 1) families of the hereditary deaf (deafness reaches over several generations); 2) the so-called mixed families (mostly hearers, including some few deaf relatives). From the linguistic point of view, regarding the above groups, the stories in signed language can be distinguished as those which are told among the deaf relatives and transferred to the deaf of the next generation, and those which are spoken by hearers about their deaf family members.

Such family narratives include, for example, stories about deafness in one's family (how it started), about deaf ancestors, how to cope in the hearers' world (relations with hearers-neighbours, relatives), stories about family events (marriage: who is suitable, who is not; the birth of children, principles of child-rearing in deaf families, etc.), in other words - the transmission of origin and wisdom between generations. As regards the Estonian deaf, this whole area is still waiting to be studied.

Archive materials, manuscripts. There are interesting materials in archives (e.g. in History Archives, the Estonian Folklore Archives and Cultural History Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum, Estonian National Museum, etc.), but these are not systematised.

Genealogical sources (family trees, church registers, etc.) are interesting in relation to hereditary deafness. In Estonia the proportion of hereditary deafness is the highest on one of the islands in western Estonia, Hiiumaa (see Saar & Tarvel 1988: 54-85).

Materials in handwriting (correspondence, notes) may be found with people who are in touch with the deaf (family members, relatives, sign language interpreters, teachers, etc.).

Literature. Biographical data about the significant leaders of the deaf movement (e.g. Karl Luht, Andrei Jegorov, Eduard Kalm, etc.) can be found in the book Eesti kurtide elu ajaraamat by J. and K. Kotsar.

The monograph Andrei Jegorov (1878-1954). Elu ja looming [Andrei Jegorov (1878-1954). Life and Creation] by Boris Enst has been published about the deaf artist Andrei Jegorov. Exciting biographical fragments about the life of A. Jegorov can also be found in Pirnipuu, pronks ja marmor: Jutustus Amandus Adamsoni Paldiski aastaist (1918-1929) (4) [Pear-tree, Bronze and Marble. A Story about the Paldiski Years of Amandus Adamson] by Hans Laar.

A. Jegorov and A. Adamson communicated in writing. A. Jegorov was born in Estonia, but educated in Russia according to the mimic-gesticulative method. He could not articulate, that is why he communicated with people by means of a pencil and paper.

The school memories of many deaf persons are found in the collection published for the 100th anniversary of the Porkuni Deaf School 100 aastat Eesti kurtide kooli. Porkuni Kurtide Laste Internaatkooli almanahh [A 100 Years of Estonian Deaf School. Almanac of Porkuni Boarding School for Deaf Children].

Newspapers and magazines. Large amount of biographical material about the deaf has been published in the written press, both in their own publications (for instance in the newspapers Kurttummade Hääl [The Voice of the Deaf-Mute], Kurttummade Sõber (a, b) [The Friend of the Deaf-Mute], Kurtide Elu [Deaf Life], Silmaring [Horizon] (5), but also in national periodicals.

The texts published in the deaf publications are mainly autobiographies, but there are also biographical descriptions and interviews. The texts in the hearers' periodicals are mostly descriptive or commenting articles (the narrator is not in the first person) or dialogues in the form of the interview (the first person form of the deaf interlocutor has got lost to some degree). Usually a sign language interpreter has been used for communication.

The biography of Karl Luht, which was published on the newspaper Kurttummade Sõber in 1935 titled Mina ja Vändra kool [Me and the Vändra School] (6) (Luht 1935: 11-13) is very interesting. Stylistically the biography written by K. Luht is adorned, including abundant biblical verse and religious reflections. K. Luht preaches the Christian congregation of Estonia to pay attention to the deaf-mutes, to provide school education and Christianity to them, so that they did not remain pagans. He urges his fellow people not to tease or laugh at the deaf-mute, but to live side by side with them in Christian love.

Karl Luht was born in 1871. He was the chairman of the Society of the Estonian Deaf-Mutes in 1922-1924 and 1927-1928. He was a hawker by profession, travelling continuously all around Estonia. That is why his possibilities to lead and develop the society were limited, but it was better, however, for creating contacts with the deaf-mutes living in different places (Kotsar & Kotsar 1997: I, 19, 22).

K. Luht is known to have lost hearing at the age of three because of a disease (according to some data, because of a startle) and his speaking skills were good, quite similar to a hearer (Kotsar & Kotsar 1997: I, 25). He regards the lack of hearing ability very tragic:

I lived like in dark ignorance, because no ray of light or reason reached my emotions. My mind was in ashes and could not get to deep spiritual light or rise up to see the love and grace of God. Only as far as the deaf-mute sees, as great and wide is his horizon. The stores of the treasure of knowledge, the books are quite locked up for him. Words and sentences cannot broaden his scope. Voice has no control over him.

Karl's wife Marie (born in 1875) lost her hearing at the age of 5 after encephalitis. Both went to Vändra Deaf-Mute School and were among the most educated deaf-mutes at that time (Kotsar & Kotsar 1997: I, 58).

Osvald Suits' autobiography, which was published in the newspaper Kurttummade Sõber in 1935 titled Kuidas jäin kurttummaks [How I became deaf-mute] is quite original. As by the time he became deaf, O. Suits had already years of experience in speaking and writing, his biography is fluent both in style and wording. He concentrates on his development, describes how he joined the deaf community (Suits 1935: 38-40).

O. Suits was born in 1904 as a hearer. He studied successfully in Tallinn Nikolai Gynasium (later Gustav Adolf Gymnasium). He developed deafness at the age of 15 as a result of otitis media. Born a hearer, his hearing impairment was a painful blow for him: "I envy many deaf-mutes, who can hear a little, but cannot appreciate it. If I heard even as little as loud radio music - I would be happy."

He studied to become a shoemaker and joined the society of the deaf-mutes at the age of 21. Osvald Suits was the clerk of the Society of the Estonian Deaf-Mutes (1928-1939) and achieved great authority among the society members (Kotsar & Kotsar 1997: I, 5). According to O. Suits: "Since the time I have communicated only with deaf-mutes and the deaf, they have become close to me and I have become completely their man."

In addition to the above stories from the 1930s I have selected others from the 1990s, from the Kodutohter magazine. The article Tavapäraste arvamuste hajumise päev [The Day Stereotypical Opinions Faded Away] was published in the column Saatust trotsides [Challenging One's Destiny] (Johanson 1996: 44-47). The journalist Mall Johanson interviewed the deaf from two families using a sign language interpreter. The journalist's questions were answered by Liilia Kurg, Janne ja Irina Kankkonen.

The first person of the interviewees has got lost, at the same time it is interesting to follow the author's, a hearer's, reflections on attitudes to deafness. She expects to find miserable and embittered people, but discovers that the deaf form a close-knit community with their language and traditions.

Although the deaf in this story admit that there are several obstacles for them to take full part in public affairs in Estonia, they are happy about many new technical facilities that make communication between themselves and with hearers easier (e.g. communication by mobile phones' SMS-function, fax machines, electronic mail, etc.).

One of the journalist's interlocutors, Janne Kankkonen, who comes from Finland and lives in Sweden, declares he does not want to be a hearer. He comes from a family in which hereditary deafness is traced down to six generations. His mother, father, sisters and brothers are also deaf. J. Kankkonen is married to Irina, who comes from Estonia and is deaf too. He wants their children also to be born deaf.

In the above biographical material it is remarkable how the reasons of deafness are unfolded (result of an illness, heredity, etc.), what the attitude is to one's deafness (either misfortune or unique singularity), how it is influenced by the starting time of deafness (childhood, later in life). It becomes evident that the attitude of the deaf to the lack of their hearing ability has changed over the time (compare e.g. Karl Luht, Osvald Suits and Janne Kankkonen), the attitude of fellow people is also changing (experience of the journalist Mall Johanson).

Videos, television programmes. Films and videos include valuable biographical material about the deaf. I refer here to the educational film Vaegkuulja elukaar ja valikud [The Life Curve and Choices Of Hearing-Impaired People] and the TV programme Hääled vaikuses [Voices in Silence]. (7) Biographical fragments are likely to be found also in the television programme Silmside [Eye Connection], directed to the deaf in the 1980s, in Võin ja suudan [I Can and I Manage], for people with different disabilities in the 1990s and the programme currently on Estonian Television, Inimeselt inimesele [Man to Man].

But especially valuable is the material the deaf themselves have recorded of their family events (weddings, birthdays, etc.), activities (camps, outings, trips), etc.


In Conclusion

In several countries, including Estonia, the treatment of the deaf as a lingual-cultural minority is a novel approach, which places the problem of deafness in the sphere of interest of such branches of science, which so far have regarded it an area of medicine, special education and social work.(8) Now also linguistics together with its various branches is interested in deafness, as well as folkloristics, (9) sociology, anthropology, etc.

With respect to treating deafness as a cultural phenomenon we cannot ignore the medical standpoint that handles deafness as a deviation from the norm or a disability. My reference to gene technology in connection with traditional history in the introduction to this article, it was not really a random remark. As deafness has been through years regarded mainly as a disability, efforts have been made to eliminate it, both at the level of folk medicine and today's high level technology of the medical science. Elimination of deafness can also be dealt as an approach to what is considered a norm, i.e. to hearing and a hearer. It is possible nowadays to treat or cure deafness by means of operative procedures, the inner ear implants are more suitable for those who have the hearing experience (i.e. the post-lingually deaf). Operation is followed by hearing, lip-reading and speech training, etc. So far there is no remedy to hereditary deafness. Would it be possible to hamper it at the genetic level? Although the aspiration of the humankind for health and perfection is understandable, the society consisting of the strong and vital only seems a utopia. To a certain degree, attitudes to handicapped people also reflect the humanity of the humankind. In this sense the deaf are a borderline group - they are as if disabled and yet they are not. (10) Just the sign language and their culture based on visual perception of the world distinguish them from other groups of disabled people. Therefore the cochlear operations have caused extensive polemical arguments on the ethics of medicine.

From the point of tradition, elimination of deafness may be to a certain degree seen as interference in the memory and traditions of the deaf, in the opinion of the radical deaf even an invasion to their culture. Now already the deaf communities in some countries have established groups to fight against the cochlear implant. (11) Among the folk tales in the sign language there are already stories about the harmfulness of the inner ear implant. In this sense the biographies of those who have undergone operation seem interesting. In my opinion also the so-called mixed marriage group is interesting, i.e. in which one in the couple is deaf, the other a hearer. Such families are also interesting from the angle of opposing public attitudes and moreover, because of the linguistic environment that develops in the family, etc. (12) All the above topics and problems are reflected in the deaf folklore.

On the basis of the aforesaid it can be stated that the deaf are not as eager to write their biographies as the hearers are. Yet some of them (usually those who have become deaf at a later age) have made biographical notes or let their close ones, sign language interpreters or other people connected with the community do it. Autobiographies of the deaf are rare. Mainly the biographical material of the deaf has been recorded by hearers and published in articles. Therefore, to add to the collected material, attention should be paid to the folklore of the deaf community from the inside, i.e. to the narrative tradition in the sign language, in which biographical stories are handed over from one generation of the deaf to the other.

The collecting process should take more use of filming, because in this way the linguistically primary source is recorded. The so-called more literate deaf should definitely be encouraged to write down their biographies. In order to study, how deafness (both inborn and acquired) has influenced the life of the deaf in Estonia as well as their relatives, collecting of biographies should be initiated under a project targeted particularly at the deaf. Another and a broader approach is to follow the life of deaf people in different periods in history (in the Republic of Estonia before the World War II, during the Soviet period, after Estonia regained independence in the 1990s, etc.). The interpretation of the biographical material of the deaf will provide an overview of the changes in the mentality of both the deaf and hearers. This will reveal the choices that the deaf have made themselves or that have been made for them. In Estonia all the above-mentioned aspects are still in need of study.


The cochlear implant is perceived by many Deaf people as the negation of their culture and identity - Cartoon balloon, "Come here! I will operate on you to become hearing." "Never! Crazy! I prefer to be deaf!"

Cartoonist: Olivier Waegemans, Belgium

Translated by Ann Kuslap



Annuk, Eve 1997 (koost.). Eesti elulood. Naised kõnelevad. Tartu.

Carmel, Simon J. 1996. Deaf Folklore. - Brunvand, Jan Harold (ed.). American Folklore. An Encyclopedia. New York & London, Garland Publishing, pp. 197-200.

Carver, Roger J. Attitudes Towards the Deaf: A Historical Overview.

Carver, Roger J. Attitudes in Ancient Times Towards Deafness.

Eesti Kurtide Spordiliidu infobülletään 1997. (18. Kurtide Maailmamängud Kopenhaagenis 13.-27. juuli 1997). Tallinn.

Enst, Boris 1987. Andrei Jegorov (1878-1954). Elu ja looming. Tallinn.

Hinrikus, Rutt (koost.) 1999. Eesti elulood. Me tulime tagasi. Tartu.

Hinrikus, Rutt (koost.) 2000. Eesti rahva elulood I. Tallinn.

Johanson, Mall 1996. Tavapäraste arvamuste hajumise päev. - Kodutohter, nr. 5, lk. 44-47.

Karusoo, Merle (koost.) 1997. Eesti elulood. Kured läinud, kurjad ilmad. Tartu.

Kotsar, Juta & Kotsar, Kaarel 1997. Eesti kurtide elu ajaraamat I-III. Tallinn.

Kroonika 1996. - Eesti Naine 1997, nr.1, lk. 18-19.

Kurttummade Hääl 1928, nr. 1-3.

Kurttummade Sõber (a) 1900, nr. 4, 6; 1901, nr. 4, 5.

Kurttummade Sõber (b). 1934-1935; 1936, nr. 1-5.

Laar, Hans 1998. Pirnipuu, pronks ja marmor: Jutustus Amandus Adamsoni Paldiski aastaist (1918-1929). Tallinn.

Luht, Karl 1935. Mina ja Vändra kool. - Kurttummade Sõber, nr. 1 (2), lk. 11-13.

Luts, A. 1989. Kõrva-, nina-, neelu- ja kõrvahaiguste vältimine. - Harri Jänes (koost.). Tervise teejuht II. Tallinn, lk. 228.

Möbius, Ulrich 1992. "Deaf history" - Forschung. 1. - Das Zeichen, Nr. 22, S 388-401.

Paales, Liina 1999. Miks puu ei kuku maha, miks lind ei lenda ära ehk kurtide viipekeelsest folkloorist. Summary: Why doesn´t the tree fall, why doesn´t the bird fly away - on the sign language folklore of the deaf. - Eda Kalmre (koost.). Kuuldust-nähtust. Tänapäeva folkloorist IV. Tartu, lk. 61-86, 238-240.

Paales, Liina 2000. Eesti kurdipärimuse piirjooni maailma kurdipärimuse ja rahvaluuleteooria taustal. [An Outline of Estonian Deaflore against the background of International Deaflore and Folklore Theory] Master's degree thesis. Tartu. Manuscript in the University of Tartu, Dept. of Estonian and Comparative Folklore. Summary in English: http://www.ead/index1/html.

Paales, Liina 2000a. Biographies of the Deaf as a Part of Sign Language Narrative History. - Seminar "Oral History as the Reflector of Societal Change and Emerging Cultural Differences and Values". Abstracts in English and in Estonian.; (Videos).

Paales, Liina 2001. Kas viipekeeles saab laulda - ehk kurdipärimuse liikidest eesti viipekeelse rahvaluule näitel. - Hiiemäe, Mall & Labi, Kanni (koost.). Klaasmäel. Pro folkloristica VIII. Tartu, lk. 129-148.

Paavel, Valdeko 1992. Sotsiaaltöö võimalusi Eesti kurtide probleemide lahendamisel. Master's degree thesis. Tartu. Manuscript in the Library of the University of Tartu.

Pihus, Ene 1990. Ela ja mäleta. Tiina Tillison. - Kurtide Elu, nr. 34-35, lk. 5.

Rutherford, Susan D. 1993. A Study of American Deaf Folklore. Linstok Press.

Saar, J. & Tarvel, J. 1988. Eesti NSV kuulmispuuetega elanikkonna sotsiaalne portree. - Kuulmispuuetega inimesed ja nende probleemid Eestis. Tallinn, lk. 54-85.

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Siim, Vidrik 1990. Kurtide Elu, nr. 31-32, lk. 5.

Suits, Osvald 1935. Kuidas jäin kurttummaks. - Kurttummade Sõber, nr. 3 (4), lk. 38-40.

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References from text:

(1) About attitude to deafness see for example the article by Roger J. Carver Attitudes Towards the Deaf: A Historical Overview in the Internet, and the brief survey Attitudes in Ancient Times Towards Deafness Back

(2) Thesis for the Master's Degree Eesti kurdipärimuse piirjooni maailma kurdipärimuse ja rahvaluuleteooria taustal [An Outline of Estonian Deaflore against the background of International Deaflore and Folklore Theory] (Paales 2000), see the summary in English at The Deaf community and their folklore has also been introduced in my articles (Paales 1999, 2001). Back

(3) The three-volume chronicle is based on extensive source material: correspondence between deaf people, minutes and other documents of the Society of Estonian Deaf-Mutes, which would require thorough study to give an analytical and conclusive review about the history of the Estonian deaf community and its major events, so that it could be used in reference books, etc. Back

(4) Adamson, Amandus Heinrich (1855-1929), Estonian sculptor. Back

(5) Silmaring is a Christian magazine of the Estonian deaf. For biographical material it is interesting because of the religious experiences of the deaf and the respective descriptions. Back

(6) The first Estonian deaf school, founded by Lutheran pastor Ernst Sokolovski in Vändra in 1866. In 1924 the school was moved to Porkuni, where it was named the State Deaf-Mute School. Back

(7) Fragments of the videotaped materials can be seen at: (Paales 2000a). Narrators V. Ilves, who works as a furniture renovator and M. Mändsoo, who works as a teacher of physical education in Tallinn Deaf School. The text in Estonian Sign Language is subtitled for the Estonian-speaking audience. Back

(8) See for example V. Paavel 1992. Back

(9) For the first time the folklore in sign language was treated more thoroughly in the 1970s by the researchers of the USA on the example of the community there (e.g. Rutherford 1993). Back

(10) The international association of the deaf (CISS - Comité International des Sports des Sourds) is the oldest sports association of disabled people (founded in 1924 in Paris). Since 1986 CISS has been part of the sports movement of disabled people - with the exception that the deaf and hearing impaired do not compete in the Paraolympic Games, which take place in the same places as the Olympic Games. The World Games for the Deaf are held a year later, being in essence the Olympics of this minority group. These quadrennial contests are acknowledged by IOC and so the five-ring Olympic flag is hoisted at the World Games for the Deaf (Eesti Kurtide Spordiliidu infobülletään [Information bulletin of the Sports Association of the Estonian Deaf] 1997, p. 12).
The physically impaired deaf athlete Anneli Ojastu, who took part in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, was due to her remarkable results awarded the title of The Woman of the Year in Estonia (Kroonika 1996. - Eesti Naine, January 1997, pp 18-19). Back

(11) Cochlear implant is the prosthesis of the inner ear, which is suitable for those who have been hearers. Cochlear implant was used for the first time in the world in 1978. The owner of the implant has to wear a speech processor on the waist and a transmitter. The speech processor, which is connected through electrodes to the auditory nerves in the inner ear, it converts sound signals into electrical impulses, which have direct impact on nerve fibres. The first cochlear implants in Estonia were implanted in 2000.
The following example explains that the deaf do not consider their deafness a disturbing factor, but the implant intended to eliminate it "I have heard from the deaf who live abroad that the cochlear implant is not harmless. Having undergone such operation, you cannot go to the sauna, swim or sunbathe. I haven't inquired if it is true. I was told that a deaf person, who had undergone this operation, was paralysed later in life, just on the side of the face where the implant was in the head." (Paales 2000: 206). Back

(12) In an Estonian medical handbook of the 1980s the following prophylactic advice is found: "To avoid deafness refrain from marrying a person, in whose family deaf-muteness has occurred" (Luts 1989: 228). In daily life medical as well as other prescriptions are ignored. In families with hereditary deafness an absolutely opposite rule is applied - you should marry a deaf person, because there will never be such mutual understanding between a hearer and deaf as between two deaf people (and not only because of different language systems). Back