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Posted on Jan 21, 2015

An Oral History of Second Generation American Estonians

After doing extensive archival research on American Estonians at the Immigration History Research Center and Archives as a University of Minnesota Fulbright scholar, Maarja Merivoo-Parro realized the need to do interviews as well. A 2014 AABS dissertation grant will allow Maarja, a PhD candidate at Tallinn University, to conduct an oral history project with Estonians living in the states of California, Oregon and Washington. My research is focused on the second generation of refugee Estonians in Cold War America. I am interested in the people who had no memories of Estonia proper but were taught everything they knew about the country and its people through formal, informal and non-formal educational activities. Some of these activities were community-based, others relied on relationships within the family, and yet others were more individualized. I chose the Pacific coast because it is an underrepresented region in the context of Estonian diaspora...

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Posted on Dec 8, 2014

Blended Families: Researching Estonian-Russian Intermarriages

Uku Lember received the 2012-13 AABS Dissertation Grant to complete his dissertation, “Silenced Ethnicity: Russian-Estonian Intermarriages in Soviet Estonia (an Oral History).” The AABS Dissertation Grant was crucial to his research — it enabled him to conduct and transcribe the follow-up oral history interviews that form the empirical basis for his work. Uku defended his dissertation at Central European University (Budapest) in Fall 2014. My doctoral dissertation historicizes the tense coexistence of Estonians and Russian-speakers in Estonia. It is based on semi-structured life-story interviews with representatives of families that blended “Estonian local” and “Russian newcomer” backgrounds. My research traces the emergence and existence of two parallel but intermingled linguistically marked societies in Soviet Estonia. My dissertation highlights interactions, exchanges and negotiations in multi-cultural settings in favour of nationally bounded explanations; it seeks to flesh out concrete and diverse individual lives by looking at identifications with culturally available patterns. The work focuses on the period of “late socialism” – the time between Stalinism and perestroika. Uku was the Telluride Association...

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Posted on Nov 19, 2014

Art Patronage of the Tallinn Brotherhood of the Black Heads

Lehti Keelmann, an Art History Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, received a 2014 AABS Dissertation Grant. She is investigating art patronage of the Tallinn Brotherhood of the Black Heads during the 15th and 16th centuries.  Single, and ambitious, these young, wealthy men sought to make their mark. The Brotherhood consisted mostly of sons of town councilors who maintained an active role in the town’s cultural landscape, whether through equestrian processionals or setting up a “Christmas tree” in Tallinn’s town square.  The Brotherhood was deeply ingrained in the social fabric of the town, charged with defending the town as its militia, sponsoring local monasteries and churches as a confraternity, brokering trade as a merchant organization, and ultimately, participating in the business of acquiring luxury articles such as altarpieces. Lehti’s research trip to Tallinn allowed her to finish the principal archival research for her dissertation and to complete essential visual analysis on the two altarpieces co-commissioned by the Brotherhood of the Black Heads. The art commissioned by...

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Posted on Nov 6, 2014

Latvian Emigrant Identity and Ideas that Shape the Latvian State

Iveta Kesane, recipient of the 2014 Grundmanis Postgraduate Fellowship, is completing her PhD in Sociology at Kansas State University.  She is currently conducting field work for her dissertation, carrying out public narrative analysis and interviews with people who emigrated from Latvia in the last two decades, as well as those who have remained in Latvia. For my doctoral studies I study emigration phenomenon from Latvia. In order to understand particular contexts in which emigrants have been articulating their self and identity, my dissertation will look at the state of Latvia itself, the ideas on which it has been rebuilt, how these ideas shaped particular loyalties of the state towards people and various organizations (e.g. national, global/international bodies), and how this has influenced the negotiation (relationship) between the state and its people/citizens. I seek to find out whether discrepancy between meanings which guide the conduct of the state and meanings which guide the conduct of people/citizens has shaped emigration not just as a socio-economic phenomenon but also as a cultural...

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Posted on May 27, 2012

Agrarian Nationalism in Interwar Latvia — AABS Dissertation Grant

Jordan T. Kuck was the recipient of the 2011 AABS Dissertation Grant. He used the prize to fund the archival work for his dissertation, which is titled “The Dictator without a Uniform: Kārlis Ulmanis, Agrarian Nationalism, and Interwar Latvia.” His work focuses on the themes of democracy, nationalism, and authoritarianism and analyzes the relationship and continuities between these key historical forces, using the case study of Latvia to argue that the upswing in virulent ethnic nationalism and the surprisingly thin line between democracy and authoritarianism led to a sort of transnational path to dictatorship which shaped the interwar period. Jordan conducted research at the Latvian State Historical Archive (Latvijas Valsts vēstures arhīvs), the Latvia State Archive of Audiovisual Documents (Latvijas Valsts kinofotofonodokumentu arhīvs), and the National Library of Latvia (Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka). He has presented his work at the First Congress of Latvian Historians (Latvijas vēsturnieku pirmais congress) and will also give a talk at the upcoming 23rd AABS conference in Chicago. Jordan is a PhD candidate in Modern...

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Posted on May 27, 2012

Language Policy in Estonia — AABS Dissertation Grant

Delaney Michael Skerrett, Ph.D. Candidate and Associate Lecturer at The University of Queensland, received an AABS dissertation grant in 2011. He updates AABS on his research outcomes in this report: I carried out a critical analysis of language policy and planning (LPP) in Estonia using two main methods of data collection: language diaries and interviews. The aim of language diary component was to obtain personal, naturalistic data about everyday language encounters. Participants were required to log, for a period of four weeks, details of their interactions with staff members in public and private organisations as they naturally occurred. The log had two central questions, one concerning the Estonian ability of the staff member, the other about the successfulness of the interaction, to which participants responded along a Likert-type scale. Participants also recorded numerous other variables related to the situation and the interlocutor. Interviews were conducted with various key ethnic Estonian and Russian-speaking figures in the field of LPP, including representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Language Inspectorate, the...

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