Accepted paper:

"The homes are golden there, the lands are good": kolkhoz folklore from early Soviet Estonia


Kaisa Kulasalu (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

Sovietization of Estonia changed the ways of dwelling: collectivization of agriculture restructured the farms and villages, increased urbanization and therefore reshaped the meaning of home. Kolkhoz folklore from 1950s reflects these changes through the crooked mirror of Soviet ideology.

Paper long abstract:

Estonia as a nation state was founded when most of the Estonians lived in the countryside. Estonian Republic was an agricultural country where farms were the typical living environments. Farms are economical units, but at the same time places for dwelling. The collectivization of agriculture in early Soviet Estonia meant that the private farmers only had a right for a small piece of land for themselves and their families. This created a different relation to the land and to the borders of the area that one would call home.

Already in 1950, a year after most of the farms had rapidly been collectivized in Soviet Estonia, first folklorists and students were sent out to collect kolkhoz folklore: songs, tales, sayings, but also factual data about the collective farms. The process of collecting kolkhoz folklore had twofold importance. To start with, collecting materials about collective farms showed the contemporary nature of folkloristics and its importance for cultural politics. At the same time, the term "folklore" has connotation of traditionality and collecting folklore about kolkhozes made them appear more traditional.

Kolkhoz folklore was actively collected for less than ten years. The impulse of collecting was loaded with ideology and the more critical voices were rarely represented. Kolkhoz materials are peripheral in the Estonian folklore archives due to their ideological load and sociological nature. Nevertheless, they represent an interesting document of the times of changing lifestyle and of the ideological influences on folklore collecting.

panel Arch01
Dwelling in the cultural archives I: traces, experiences and meanings