Medicine, Science & Technology

In Search of Genuine Religion: The Contemporary Estonian Maausulised Movement and National Discourse

Description
This chapter focuses on the contemporary Estonian maausulised movement whose members claim to be adherents of the Estonian native or ethnic religion maausk. In Estonian maausk literally means ‘the faith/belief of the land/earth’. The derivative
Published
of 24
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Related Documents
Share
Transcript
  Västrik, Ergo -Hart (2015). In Search of Genuine Religion: The Contemporary Estonian Maausulised Movement and National Discourse. In: Kathryn Rountree (ed.). Contemporary Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonialist and Nationalist Impulses. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 130-153. " <CN>Chapter 6 <CT>In Search of Genuine Religion <CST>The Contemporary Estonian Maausulised   Movement and Nationalist Discourse <CA>Ergo-Hart Västrik <A>Introduction This chapter focuses on the contemporary Estonian maausulised   movement whose members claim to be adherents of the Estonian native or ethnic religion maausk  . 1  In Estonian maausk literally means ‘the faith/belief of the land/earth’. The derivative maausulised   means ‘followers of maausk’. From a scholarly or etic perspective, maausk may be identified as a new religion and a manifestation of modern Paganism (Strmiska 2005a; Magliocco 2009: 104). However, it should be acknowledged that from an emic perspective members of the movement do not agree with such labelling and stress the genuineness of their religious tradition. In English translations they call it the Estonian native or indigenous religion and underline their essential differences from Western Paganisms. 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 srcin, 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 contemporary Baltic, Slavic and Germanic Pagan movements in neighbouring countries. The upsurge of the maausulised movement was connected with aspirations relating to a search for cultural roots during the turbulent changes of the mid 1980s to early 1990s. 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 1  In Estonian the word maa has multiple meanings including ‘Earth’, ‘land’, ‘ground’, ‘soil’, ‘earth’, ‘country(side)’ and ‘state’. The second part of the compound, usk  ,   means ‘belief’, ‘faith’, ‘trust’, ‘creed’ and ‘religion’ (TEA 2005: 355, 698). Research for this chapter was supported by the institutional research project ‘Tradition, Creativity and Society: Minorities and Alternative Discourses’ (IUT2-43), Estonian Research Council (grant no. 9271) and the European Union through its European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory, CECT).  Västrik, Ergo -Hart (2015). In Search of Genuine Religion: The Contemporary Estonian Maausulised Movement and National Discourse. In: Kathryn Rountree (ed.). Contemporary Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonialist and Nationalist Impulses. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 130-153. # 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. As an alternative religious movement, maausulised   make up the largest and fastest growing non-Christian denomination in Estonia today (Vakker and Rohtmets 2008: 48; RA 2013). The religious studies scholar Lea Altnurme (2010: 21) claims that these developments no longer allow the conceptualization of maausulised as a marginal, new religious group and challenges researchers to study the meanings that maausk    has in contemporary Estonian society and its messages and functions in the wider cultural context. Compared with studies on analogous initiatives in other Baltic and neighbouring states, the maausulised have not received specialized scholarly attention until recently. 2  In addition to some early attempts to conceptualize this emergent phenomenon in the mid 1990s (Västrik 1996), there have been only a few studies published in English that have concentrated exclusively on the ideas and activities of the movement (for example, Kuutma (2005) on maausulised in the context of Finno-Ugrism and Estonian identity politics). 3  The movement’s status and role in framing the religious landscape of post-socialist Estonia has been mentioned briefly in two recent doctoral monographs in the discipline of religious studies (Altnurme 2005; Ringvee 2011) and in several reviews of religious diversity in Estonia since the 1990s (Au and Ringvee 2000, 2007; Plaat 2002; Altnurme 2011b, 2012). Maausulised activities have been analysed, among other phenomena, in the context of relationships  between the state, new religious movements and mainstream religions (Ringvee 2012; Vakker and Rohtmets 2008), and in the framework of New Age religiosity (Kõiva 2011). This chapter focuses on the self-presentation of the contemporary maausk movement in  public media by its spokespersons. The aim is to provide a wider historical and cultural 2  There are studies on various aspects of modern Paganism available in English about Lithuania (Strmiska 2005b, 2012b), Latvia (Strmiska 2012a) and the Russian Federation (Aitamurto 2011). 3  In Estonian, students of semiotics, theology and ethnology have produced three pieces of research dedicated to modern Paganisms in Estonia. In a seminar paper Auli Kütt (2002) explored maausk as a manifestation of deep ecology; Triin Vakker (2007) wrote her M.A. dissertation on attempts to construct a national pagan religion in the 1920s and 1930s (see also Vakker 2012); and Kaisa Sammelselg’s M.A. thesis (2011) discussed the movement’s views on natural sacred sites.  Västrik, Ergo -Hart (2015). In Search of Genuine Religion: The Contemporary Estonian Maausulised Movement and National Discourse. In: Kathryn Rountree (ed.). Contemporary Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonialist and Nationalist Impulses. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 130-153. $ context for the movement’s emergence, as well as to discuss its relationship with nationalist discourse and earlier initiatives to create an Estonian (pagan) religion. The empirical research material that this article draws on consists of articles, interviews, press releases and other forms of public self-presentation by members of maausk in the media, as well as news about their activities where members were cited. The Web archives of three Estonian dailies (  Postimees ,  Eesti Päevaleht and  Õhtuleht  ) were searched, followed by the Web archives of two weeklies (  Eesti Ekspress and  Maaleht  ). In addition the home page of the official umbrella organization for the maausulised was consulted: 4  this serves as a digital repository for a wide range of materials related to the endeavours of the movement made available online by its members and published, in addition to the dailies and weeklies mentioned above, in a variety of thematic periodicals (among them monthlies dedicated to culture and nature such as Vikerkaar  ,  Kultuur ja Elu ,  Maakodu and  Loodusesõber  ). Together the analysed texts constituted a corpus of more than 350 articles  published between 1987 and 2012. <A>The Cultural, Political and Religious Context of Estonian Nationalism and Paganism Estonia, together with Latvia and Lithuania, is one of the three Baltic states in northeastern Europe that regained their independence in 1991 as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 5  From the thirteenth century up until 1918 the present-day territories of Estonia and Latvia were governed by foreign powers (Denmark, the Livonian and Teutonic Orders,  bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, Sweden, Poland and Russia). The ruling elite during that time was comprised, both in urban centres and in the countryside, mainly of Baltic German nobility (Ringvee 2012: 94–95). 6  During the centuries of foreign rule ethnic 4  See the English version of the site, Maavalla Koda, which contains, however, much less information than the pages in Estonian. http://www.maavald.ee/eng/ Retrieved 15 August 2013. 5  The territory of the Republic of Estonia is 45,277 square kilometres. According to the latest census in 2011, there were 1,294,455 permanent residents, making the country one of the least populous member states of the European Union. Ethnic Estonians make up around 69  per cent of the total population and the largest minority are Russians, making up approximately 25 per cent. Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Estonia (retrieved 15 August 2013). 6  Estonian history evidently shares more similarities with Latvia than Lithuania. However, it should be mentioned that the Latvian and Lithuanian languages belong to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, while Estonian, together with Finnish, Ingrian, Karelian,  Västrik, Ergo -Hart (2015). In Search of Genuine Religion: The Contemporary Estonian Maausulised Movement and National Discourse. In: Kathryn Rountree (ed.). Contemporary Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonialist and Nationalist Impulses. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 130-153. % Estonians, together with other indigenous peoples of the region (Livonians, Latvians), gradually lost their rights and the former local elite was apparently eradicated or Germanized. By the sixteenth century the majority of Estonians belonged to the rural peasantry (referred to as Undeutsch ), who were serfs of their landlords (Raun 2001: 20). Foreign rule also brought Christianization; the territory of Estonia, like that of Latvia, was Christianized in the course of the Northern Crusades at the beginning of the thirteenth century by the Roman Catholic Church. 7  In all probability earlier religions existed for some time parallel to the newly introduced practices of the Catholic creed resulting in various manifestations of religious syncretism, as indicated in historical sources. The Protestant Reformation reached the area in the 1520s and since then the Lutheran Church has been the majority church in Estonia (Ringvee 2012: 95). Through the Lutheran religion, which gradually introduced literacy, and especially through the spread of Pietism from the 1730s, the essentials of Christianity were generally accepted among Estonian peasants by the nineteenth century (Jansen 1998: 811). At the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ideas of Enlightenment and Herderian Romanticism spread among Baltic German Estophile intellectuals who started to idealize local peasants and valorize their pagan past (Jonuks 2013: 146). The most influential  piece of this kind was Garlieb Helwig Merkel’s (1769–1850)  Die Vorzeit Lieflands  (1798), which depicted a ‘golden age’ of local peasants before Christianization and referred to Estonia as an autonomous nation (Raun 2003: 144). As written sources about the ancient religion of Estonians were scarce, it was Baltic German scholars and pastors who formulated the initial ideas about the local pagan religion. The most disputed pagan god in that period was Tharapita, who was   mentioned in the thirteenth-century work  Henry’s Chronicle of  Livonia , the most prominent written source on the history of medieval Estonia. 8  Serfdom was abolished in the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire in 1816–1819, when peasants were allowed to own land or move to the cities (Raun 2001: 45–48). In the 1820s and 1830s the first intellectuals of Estonian ethnic srcin with a keen interest in Romantic ideas and the existence of Estonian pagan gods appeared. The most well known and influential attempt to reconstruct an Estonian pagan pantheon was made by a pioneer of Livonian, Ludic, Veps and Votic, belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family (Marcantonio 2002). 7  For a general overview of the crusade in the Baltic area, see Murray (2009). 8  On the historiography and etymology of Tharapita (referred to as Taara in later interpretations), see Sutrop (2005). For a recent collection of articles on the chronicle  , see Tamm, Kaljundi and Jensen (2011).  Västrik, Ergo -Hart (2015). In Search of Genuine Religion: The Contemporary Estonian Maausulised Movement and National Discourse. In: Kathryn Rountree (ed.). Contemporary Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonialist and Nationalist Impulses. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 130-153. & the Estonian national movement, Friedrich Robert Faehlmann (1798–1850), in his eight  pseudo-mythological legends (  Estnische Sage )    published for the first time in German  between 1848 and 1852 in the proceedings of the Learned Estonian Society. In these scholarly compilations, Taara or Vanaisa (‘Grandfather’) was depicted as the main Estonian god, assisted by several minor deities whose names and functions were apparently adapted from the Finnish national epic  Kalevala . This ‘pantheon’ was widely popularized and disseminated through the publication of the Estonian national epic  Kalevipoeg (‘Kalev’s Son’), finalized in 1862 by another pioneer of the Estonian national movement, Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803–1882), in which Taara, for example, was mentioned around fifty times (Viires 1991: 139). 9  These invented gods and deities were accepted by the emergent nationalist movement as symbols of national mythology, but no contradiction arose with the  prevailing Christian identity of the people leading the national awakening, several of whom were members of the Lutheran clergy. The national epic  Kalevipoeg  played an extremely important role in the process of constructing Estonian nationhood in the second half of the nineteenth century. 10  This was in 1850 when the ethnonym eestlane (‘Estonian’) was used for the first time in an Estonian  publication, marking the beginning of national consolidation for a people who had earlier referred to themselves as maarahvas (‘country people’) (Raun 2001: 55–56; Gross 2002: 344). In the course of the national awakening, several important keywords of the national narrative were formulated, accepted and cemented as elements of the dominant national discourse during the first period of the independent Republic of Estonia (1918–1940). The national narrative included ideas such as an idealization of the ancient past of Estonians, the Christianization of Estonians with ‘fire and sword’ accompanied by hostility against Germans as conquerors, and the persistent resistance of the nation to the ‘700-year night of slavery’ (Karo 2007: 16–27; Jonuks 2013: 151). The latter was conceptualized and developed after the establishment of the Republic of Estonia as ‘The Great Battle for Freedom’ that combined ‘into one coherent plot all of the prominent conflicts with Germans that Estonians have  preserved in their cultural memory, from the crusades of the thirteenth century to the so-called War of Independence of 1918–1920’ (Tamm 2008: 505–506). 9  For the most up-to-date translation of the epic into English, see Kreutzwald (2011). 10  For details on this process, labelled as ‘national awakening’ in Estonian historiography, see Gross (2002) and Raun (2003). Campaigns to collect folklore in order to study the ‘true national history’ of Estonians, including material about pagan religion, were initiated by  principal figures of the nationalist movement (Västrik 2007: 3–8).
Search
Tags
Related Search
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks