Accepted paper:

Contesting national history and folklore: alternative rhetoric of the Estonian maausulised movement

Author:

Ergo-Hart Västrik (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

In this talk some ideological statements of maausulised (the adherents of Estonian native faith) contesting mainstream views on Estonian history and folklore, will be addressed. These ideas were mediated by the Estonian press over the last two decades and have received positive media coverage.

Paper long abstract:

An analysis of media texts about the adherents of the Estonian native faith (maausulised) in the Estonian press over the last two decades indicates that a functioning alternative religious movement has developed. In this talk some ideological statements of maausulised, contesting mainstream views on Estonian history and folklore, will be addressed. The wider ideological framework of the maausulised movement was formulated during the Soviet occupation, in the 1960s and 1970s, when essays criticizing the mainstream western orientation of Estonian national culture were disseminated among students and the literati. Since its institutionalization two decades ago, members of the movement have been active in public discussions on such issues as religious freedom and religious education, safeguarding historical sacred sites, and evaluating Estonia's national and cultural heritage using opportunities offered by the Internet and mass media. Despite the fact that the movement represents a quite specific nationalist discourse in public statements, it has generally received positive media coverage and the ideas of the maausulised have enjoyed unprecedented popularity in recent national surveys. In public statements maausulised spokespersons constantly highlight the continuity and local specificity of this religion, its essential relationship with vernacular languages, and its roots in indigenous ethnic traditions and customs. Invoking linguistic affinity and common origin, maausulised relate their religious principles to the analogous traditions of kindred peoples - ethnic groups whose languages belong to the Finno-Ugric and Uralic language families - and have not sought connections with similar Baltic, Slavic and Germanic modern Pagan movements in neighbouring countries.

panel P003
In search of concealed truth: revealing, unraveling and debunking