United through singing: Baltic German song celebrations as unity-makers
Anna Caroline Haubold
(University of Tartu)
Paper short abstract:
This paper gives insight into the role of Baltic German song celebrations in the creation of a Baltic German sense of togetherness. It outlines the uniting power of comparison focusing on similarities between Baltic Germans living in the Baltic provinces Courland, Livonia and Estonia.
Paper long abstract:
Baltic German male choral societies and song celebrations played an important role in the mid-nineteenth century in the creation of a Baltic German sense of togetherness. By bringing together people from different social classes and the three Baltic provinces of Courland, Livonia and Estonia, joint singing was seen as an opportunity to overcome the isolation and disassociation emanating from social stratification and provincialism. Due to societal, economic, political and cultural changes especially in the second half of the 19th century (e.g. Estonian/Latvian National Awakening, Russification) Baltic Germans had to reposition themselves on the one hand within the Estonian/Latvian-German-Russian triangle of tension and on the other hand between the German Confederation (later German Empire) and the Russian Empire. Class society gradually receded into the background giving rise to an ethnical sense of belonging. As Courland, Livonia and Estonia never constituted an administrative entity, the song celebrations had a wide sphere of influence. The analysis is based on newspaper articles, (un)published descriptions of the song celebrations and archival material of the Baltic German male choral societies. Comparison plays an important role in the narratives as the aim of many speeches and songs was the accentuation of the shared language and heritage as well as the creation of a sense of togetherness. In the course of time, Baltic Germans emphasized the peculiarities of their Baltic Heimat, and as a result, dissociated themselves partly from the German Empire as well as from the Russian Empire.
Comparison as social and cultural practice