Abstracts for Akadeemia 3/2006

Kalev Katus & Allan Puur
Demography and turning points in Estonia’s demographic development. II

The second part of the article (continued from Akadeemia 2/2006) describes the demographic development of Estonia in comparison with Europe, explains the significance of the Balto-Scandinavian region and discusses the peculiarities of Estonia. Because of demographic crises, the size of the indigenous population in Estonia today is smaller than before World War I or World War II, which is in contrast to the situation of European peoples excluding Latvians. As a result of World War II, Estonia lost four of its five ethnic minorities, but conditions turned favourable for immigration. Present-day Estonia, similarly to Luxembourg, is characterized by a very high proportion of foreign-born people (36 per cent). Among the EU member states, Estonia has the highest percentage of immigrants from the so-called third countries. In order to understand Estonia’s demographic development, Estonian- and Russian-speaking communities should be discussed separately, as there is a gap of nearly half a century in their development. Finding a solution to the demographic problems that are similar to the rest of Europe but more acute is hindered by the weak economy, which is a legacy of the Soviet occupation.

Indrek Jääts
Censuses and ethnic policy: Finno-Ugrians of Russia in 2002

The article describes the situation of Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia according to the data of recent censuses and studies the relations between censuses and ethnic policy.

The central authorities of Russia and part of academic circles seem to wish to transform the multiethnic population of Russia into one Russian political nation. They would like to decrease the role of ethnicity in society and to abolish the system of ethnic territorial autonomies inherited from the Soviet system. Non-Russian elites rightfully fear that in the long term this would mean linguistic and cultural Russification of non-Russian ethnic groups. Non-Russians are supported by part of the Russian elite who find that Russia should continue as a multiethnic country.

The controversies described here also found their expression during the 2002 census. If the census studies the ethnic composition of the population, as it was done in the Soviet Union and is done in Russia, then, to some extent, the census is also a means for influencing the population’s ethnic composition. Obviously, the advocates of the Russian political nation attempted to use the last census in their own interests, although without much success, as the inertia of Soviet ethnic policy and census tradition is strong and protests of non-Russian elites also had to be taken into account.

A few examples: defining one’s ethnic identity was considerably freer than in the Soviet times. The last census recognized ethnic groups whom the Soviet ethnic policy considered to have assimilated among their “own” peoples (eg Bessermen among Udmurts, Izhma-Komi among Komi). Non-Russian elites saw this liberalization as a plan to fragment the non-Russian peoples and to diminish their influence. If so, then the advocates of the Russian political nation were unable to defend their positions to the end. During data analysis, the responses to the question about ethnic origin were arranged into 142 ethnicities and 40 ethnic groups within them. Although the Izhma-Komi were also shown separately, they were still counted among the Komi. Only a few ethnic groups who were counted among another ethnicity during the previous censuses were now recognized as separate ethnic units (eg Bessermen were separated from Udmurts).

The question about mother tongue also caused much controversy. During the preparation for the census, the question, “What is your mother tongue?” was replaced with a question about the command of Russian and other languages. The explanation was that the responses to the earlier question reflected people’s linguistic identity rather than their real command of the language. As non-Russians protested strongly, the question about the mother tongue was still included at the last moment. Such inconsistency created great confusion and had a negative influence on the quality of census data.

The picture the census given about the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia is far from optimistic. The population size and mother-tongue command of most Finno-Ugric peoples has dropped considerably from 1989-2002. The exceptions are the Khants, Mansi, and Sami, who have been given the status of “small indigenous peoples of the Northern areas”. Their number has grown as inclusion in this group gives them advantages in managing local natural resources. The percentage of mother-tongue speakers among them has, however, dropped more drastically than in other peoples. Assimilation of Finno-Ugrians is particularly rapid outside their autonomous territories. Thus, the system of ethnic territorial autonomies dating back to the Soviet times should not be abolished, as it is conducive to preserving non-Russian ethnic groups.

Maris Saagpakk
“We and they” in Baltic Germans’ unpublished memoirs

The article discusses changes in Baltic Germans’ attitudes to Estonians and Latvians in the revolutionary years of the early twentieth century. The author relies on texts unknown to the wider public – Baltic Germans’ unpublished autobiographies that are preserved at Herder Institute in Marburg and the archives of Carl Schirren Society in Lüneburg, Germany. Most of the texts under discussion were written after World War II. When analyzing Baltic Germans’ texts, we can find attitudes and mindsets characteristic of their era and personalities, which contain information essential from the viewpoint of the history of mentality.

When studying the depiction of Estonians and Latvians in Baltic German autobiographies, we have to consider whether the times depicted in the texts are comparable and whether the moments when the text were written are comparable. It is clear that Baltic Germans’ relation to indigenous peoples at the beginning of the twentieth century was different from what it was after the events of the 1905 revolution and later – during World War I, in the Republic of Estonia, or at the time of their resettlement. In the Baltic German texts of the nineteenth and the turn of the twentieth century, Estonians and Latvians take the role of minor characters who are only introduced in order to provide contrasts or show the peculiarities of local life. They get a somewhat more central role in a few examples describing the fears and uncertainties that Baltic Germans felt towards Estonians and Germans. The following motifs can repeatedly be found: diligent and striving students from simple Estonian families whose attitudes are contrasted to the decadent and debaucherous lifestyle of Baltic German students; peasants’ strength and suppressed blind wrath that Baltic Germans witnessed in the revolutionary year of 1905; factory workers, propagating the spectre of Communism, who were considered the root of all evil.

When writing about the time after World War I and the proclamation of independence by Estonia and Latvia, Baltic German authors’ tone changes. Baltic Germans’ self-image as mentors and fatherly supporters of the indigenous peoples received a blow when Estonians and Latvians, becoming mentally independent, ceased to need Baltic Germans’ protection and even opposed themselves to it. Among Baltic Germans, these processes caused embitterment. They seem to have assumed a defensive position when depicting not only the contemporary situation but also the past.

From the present-day viewpoint, it is essential that most probably Baltic Germans’ accommodation to new circumstances greatly depended on the character of a concrete person and on the people they contacted. Although the treatment by authors may be relatively different, I would argue that certain changes that took place in the depiction of Estonians and Latvians were a natural result of new relations between these peoples and Baltic Germans.

Hellar Grabbi
A visit to Estonia in 1988

The émigré Estonian author residing in the US describes his journey to Estonia in the revolutionary period when the tools meant for saving the Soviet empire – perestroika and glasnost – were used by nationalist circles in Estonia for political organization of the people. The Popular Front founded in spring had chosen the path of reforms and set its aim as sovereignty within a confederation based on a union agreement. The radical trend in the national liberation movement was represented by the Estonian National Independence Party. Founded in August, it supported the idea of the legal continuity of Estonian independent statehood. Initially, it had fewer supporters than the Popular Front. To oppose the nationalist movement of Estonians, the International Movement of the Workers of the ESSR emerged. Supported by Moscow old-timers and under the pretext of defending socialism, they opposed making Estonian the official language and the institution of Estonian citizenship, and demanded for non-Estonian immigrants the right of veto in Estonian affairs.

In this turbulent atmosphere, Grabbi sets out to travel around Estonia. He leaves the capital Tallinn for the seaside resort of Pärnu. On his way, he visits Kurgja in Pärnu County, which was the home of C. R. Jakobson (1841-1882), one of the leaders of the national awakening in the nineteenth century and the first Estonian politician in the modern sense of the word. In Pärnu, he attends a meeting of Estonian heritage clubs. The Estonian Heritage Society, which had been founded a year earlier as a non-governmental organization, had already become clearly politicized and the presentations at the conference – mostly on the themes of the past, for example, on the fate of cadre officers of the Republic of Estonia – clearly hinted at strivings for independence. The author’s father, Colonel Herbert Grabbi, had also died in Norilsk prison camp in Russia. Simultaneously, another remarkable event took place in Pärnu – a propaganda rally of the Popular Front. The Estonian Heritage Society and the Popular Front were two competing organizations – innovators and restorers, the former transforming Estonia and the Soviet Union; the latter, bringing back the Republic of Estonia. Both of them were strongly Estonian-minded. The author also meets representatives of the Estonian National Independence Party and participates in unveiling a memorial tablet on the pedestal of the monument to Konstantin Päts (1874-1956), President of the Republic of Estonia. The monument itself had been demolished by Communists.

In the university town of Tartu, meeting the alumni of the Rotalia student fraternity, he proposes that the student organizations banned by the Soviets should be restored. In the South-Estonian town of Põlva he meets Ain Saar, leader of the Free Independent Youth Column No. 1. The young people of Võru were the first to display the Estonian blue-black-and-white flag in public in those years of national upsurge. In Tallinn, he visits the editorial offices of the cultural journals Looming, Vikerkaar, and Keel ja Kirjandus, which continue to be published at present, and the newspaper Sirp ja Vasar (now Sirp). He also meets Arnold Rüütel, then Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR, now President of the Republic of Estonia.

On 16 November 1988, three weeks after Grabbi’s departure from Estonia, the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR adopted the sovereignty declaration of the Estonian SSR, by which the Supreme Soviet proclaimed itself the highest authority in Estonia and declared the supremacy of Estonian laws over the laws of the Soviet Union. The status of Estonia in the Soviet Union was to be defined by a union agreement. This sensational act attracted attention everywhere in the world and marked the beginning of the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Mihkel Veiderma
The Estonian Academy of Sciences as a publisher of university textbooks 1938-1940

After the University of Tartu became the Estonian national university in 1919, the need arose for university textbooks in Estonian. First they were published by Loodus, who launched the series Academic Textbooks and Manuals (Teaduslikud õppe- ja käsiraamatud), later by Akadeemiline Kooperatiiv. More than 80 textbooks were published before 1940. The publishers, however, ran into difficulties as sales revenues and bank loans did not cover the expenses. Books piled up in warehouses; debts to the banks were growing. In order to improve the situation, the government started supporting publication of university textbooks in 1938, directing the arrangement of their publishing to the newly founded Estonian Academy of Sciences. To that end, the Academy of Sciences established a committee for publishing university textbooks. The committee collected proposals from universities, arranged reviewing of manuscripts, decided whether they should be approved or rejected, and found under-bidders who would publish them. In less than a year (until the annexation of Estonia), the committee managed to publish five textbooks under the heading Publications of the University Textbooks Committee at the Academy of Sciences. The committee prepared five more textbooks for publication, which were already issued by Teaduslik Kirjastus (Science Publishers), a publishing house founded by the new regime. Publishing of university textbooks in Estonian is still a topical issue – it should guarantee the availability of literature for students and contribute to the development of Estonian scientific terminology.

Marika Mikkor
Placenta eating in present-day Estonia and the world tradition: Taboos in research and life

For twenty years, the author has been collecting data on birth rites from Estonia, Estonians living in the Caucasus, Erza Mordvinians, Izhorians and Ingrian Finns.

Eating of the placenta was remembered by Erza Mordvinian interviewees in the late 1980s as a custom of the recent past; placenta pie was eaten as a cure against childlessness. The custom that then seemed a curiosity to the author had parallels in old medical literature. The author grasped the real meaning of the phenomenon when she watched the behaviour of guinea pigs – these vegetarian animals turned out to always eat their placentas. In the late 1990s, the author heard in casual conversation with a friend that placenta eating had spread as a marginal trend in Europe. The supposition that the custom could also be spread in Estonia was a taboo in Estonian academic literature and an object of ridicule in the media. In conversations, people revealed that they were embarrassed when even using medicines produced from the placenta.

In 2001, having learned about the home birth movement, the author found that placenta eating in its different forms was quite well known in some circles. Without exception, the data were gathered in the course of informal conversations. Some material was also collected by e-mail from friends in several countries.

The custom of placenta eating revived in the West among some people who practised alternative natural lifestyles in the 1970s-1980s and it is rather well known there, although not widely spread.

When questioning women from the Caucasian Black Sea coast to Estonia, the author met women who, when giving birth in hospital, did not even know what the placenta is, women who remembered placenta eating from the recent past as an old custom, and finally people among whom it had spread as a fashionable trend. In Mordvinia it was remembered in the 1980s as a custom of the recent past, but in the West it was spreading at the same time as a scandalous modern trend, which somewhat later reached Estonia.

Most of the helpful material was obtained from informal conversations; questionnaires were used only in the final phase of the study. Pressure from the public makes people hide their convictions and ways of behaviour. It also became evident that academic research gives a rather narrow picture of real life.

Clarence Irving Lewis
The given element in experience

In a chapter from Mind and the World-Order (1929) Lewis proceeds from the following ideas:

1. The two elements to be distinguished in knowledge are the concept, which is the product of activity of thought, and the sensuously given, which is independent of such activity.

2. The concept gives rise to the a priori; all a priori truth is definitive, or explicative of concepts.

3. The pure concept and the content of the given are mutually independent; neither limits the other.

4. Empirical truth, or knowledge of the objective, arises through conceptual interpretation of the given.

5. The empirical object, denoted by a concept, is never a momentarily given as such, but is some temporally-extended pattern of actual and possible experience.

6. Hence the assignment of any concept to the momentarily given (which is characteristic of perceptual knowledge) is essentially predictive and only partially verified. There is no knowledge merely by direct awareness.

7. Actual experience can never be exhaustive of that pattern, projected in the interpretation of the given, which constitutes the real object. Hence all empirical knowledge is probable only.

8. The mutual independence of the concept and the given, and the merely probable character of empirical truth, are entirely compatible with the validity of cognition. The problem of the “deduction of the categories” can be met without any metaphysical assumption of a pre-established amenability to categorical order in what is independent of the mind.

9. More explicitly, any conceivable experience will be such that it can be subsumed under concepts, and also such that predictive judgments which are genuinely probable will hold of it.

This chapter is devoted to the distinction of the two elements in experience, and to the defence of this distinction from various common misinterpretations.

John McDowell
Experiencing the world

In the author’s opinion, the wish to ask the transcendental question, “How is empirical content possible?” expresses an attraction to a pair of thoughts whose implication, if taken together, is that empirical thought is impossible. The thoughts impose a requirement for there to be empirical content, but ensure that it cannot be met. He considers it necessary to rid oneself of the concept that gave rise to the question, stating that the idea of an impression can be both the idea of a kind of natural happening and an idea that belongs in the logical space of reasons (Sellars’ image). Impressions can fit in the logical space of reasons because impressions can be actualizations of conceptual capacities.

When explaining the specifics of the conception of experience, McDowell employs the Kantian idea of receptivity in operation, an impression that itself has conceptual content, the conceptual content that would be the content of the counterpart judgement – the judgement one would be making if one actively exercised the same conceptual capacities with the same togetherness.

Identification of a relevant kind of capacity can allow for cases in which capacities of that very kind are not exercised, but are nevertheless actualized, outside the control of their possessor, by the world’s impacts on her sensibility. That is how McDowell recommends conceiving of experience.

Minutes of the foreign affairs and national defence committee of the Riigivolikogu as a historical source. VII

According to the new constitution of the Republic of Estonia that took effect on 1 January 1938, the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) was to consist of two chambers – Riigivolikogu and Riiginõukogu. The elections of the Riigivolikogu were held on 24-25 February 1938, and its first session was on 21 April. On 5 May, the Riigivolikogu elected a nine-member foreign affairs and national defence committee that included eight members supporting the government (M. Hansen, A. Jürima, V.-G. Kadarik, A. Karineel, J. Nyman, O. Pukk, R. Riivik, L. Vahter) and the former foreign minister, A. Piip, as a representative of the opposition. When issues of greater significance were discussed, leading statesmen, including the opposition leader J. Tõnisson, participated at the meetings of the committee.

In March 1940, when the Soviet occupation of Estonia was impending, the minutes of the foreign affairs and national defence committee were sent to the Estonian embassy in Sweden. The last of the minutes were returned to Estonia in 2002, but the fate of some of them is still unknown.

The minutes differ in how detailed they are. In some cases, particularly after the conclusion of the mutual assistance pact between Estonia and the Soviet Union, the information shared at the meeting was considered so sensitive that the content of the discussion was not recorded in the minutes.

The most essential historical sources are the minutes that have recorded leading Estonian public officials’ and opposition representatives’ views on Estonia’s security. These explain the transition from the policy of collective security to the policy of neutrality and shed light on the circumstances that led to the conclusion of the Estonian-German non-aggression pact and the Estonian-Soviet mutual assistance pact.

From spring 1939, the committee’s assessment of international situations in Europe turned increasingly pessimistic, and on 13 April, Foreign Minister K. Selter stated that war could start in the nearest future. The government and the army general staff were of the opinion that the main threat to Estonia was the Soviet Union; the opposition, particularly J. Tõnisson, found that the main threat was Germany.

The minutes of the joint meeting of the foreign affairs and national defence committees of both houses of the parliament of 8 June and 20 September 1938 reflect the considerations why Estonia abandoned the obligation to impose sanctions against the aggressor as stipulated by Article 16 of the League of Nations Pact and adopted the policy of neutrality.

On 25 May 1939, a heated discussion took place about concluding the Estonian-German non-aggression pact. Foreign Minister K. Selter substantiated the need for concluding the pact; J. Tõnisson and A. Piip, however, argued against it. J. Tõnisson warned against the threat coming from Germany and claimed that Estonia had nothing to fear from the Soviet Union. He also insisted on close cooperation with Britain and the Nordic countries.

The most tragic question for the parliament, the government, the military leadership, and the whole nation was the conclusion of the Estonian-Soviet mutual assistance pact. V. Molotov had proposed it to K. Selter on the evening of 24 September. On 26 September, the government decided to start negotiations about the conclusion of the pact, trying to achieve as favourable conditions as possible. The same issue was discussed on the afternoon of 26 September at the joint meeting of the foreign affairs and national defence committees of both houses of the parliament. A number of leading public officials and higher military officers were present; all the speakers at the meeting considered the conclusion of the pact inevitable. Later it was revealed that their considerations – refusal would mean war, while no help could be expected – were justified.

The ratification of the pact concluded on 28 September was discussed on 2 October. The participants expressed intriguing opinions about Estonia’s situation and future prospects and demanded the government’s resignation. The minutes of the following meetings (the last meeting was held on 10 April 1940) are of less interest for researchers.

It is obvious that the information presented to the committee by the foreign minister and some other officials was one-sided, and the committee was not informed about all the considerations of the government and about some foreign political measures taken by it.

Published 7 March 2006
Original in English

Contributed by Akadeemia © Akadeemia Eurozine


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