Libmonster ID: EE-594
Author(s) of the publication: KARIN HIYEMAA

KARIN HIYEMAA, PhD (History), University of Tartu (Estonia)

Estonia Keywords:African studies, Ethiopian studiesUniversity of Tartu

The history of Estonian African studies dates back to the 19th century. It was founded by Estonian missionaries who worked in Africa in the 19th century. Among them, Gustav Reinhold Nielander (c.1776 - 1825), Hans Tiismann (1829 - 1886), Ewald Ovijr (1873 - 1896), and Leonhard Bloomer (1878 - 1938)made particularly important contributions. 1

Interest in Ethiopian studies at the University of Tartu began in the early 19th century, when Professor of Semitic Languages Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Goetzel (1754-1824) began lecturing on the Ethiopian language (geez)2 (this is how the classical Old Ethiopian language geez is mentioned in Estonian sources-comment by K. Kh.). More seriously, the Ethiopian languages were studied in Tartu in the second half of the XIX century.


Special mention should be made of Alexander Michael Karl von Bulmerink (1868-1938), who was a professor in the Department of Semitic Languages in 1898-1916 and in 1919-1938. During the first Estonian Republic (1918-1940), he taught such famous scholars of Ethiopian studies as the poet, polyglot orientalist and translator Uku Mazing (1909-1985), as well as the linguist and polyglot Pent Nurmekund (1906-1997). U. Mazing continued his studies in the field of Ethiopian studies in 1932. in Tübingen with Professor Enno Littmann 3. Along with listening to lectures, W. Mazing was engaged in research work in libraries and archives, copied many medieval Geez manuscripts. After returning to Estonia, he published reflections on the life and death of the Abyssinian philosopher Zara-Jakob. Unfortunately, his work "Translation of the Book of the Prophet Obadiah (Obadiah) into the Ethiopian language" remained unpublished.

In the 1920s and 1930s, two doctors of Russian origin worked in Africa-Ivan and Dimitri Solomentsev, who were educated at the Medical Faculty of the University of Tartu. Thanks to them, a rare collection has arrived in Estonia. Consisting of 64 objects, it was donated to the Estonian National Museum in 1934 and is one of the most exotic museum collections in Estonia5. It features exhibits, most of which are sculptures created by craftsmen from various Central African nations currently living in Gabon, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These are azande, babembe, mangbetu, mpongwe, bakota and bateke. The collection was partially restored twice (before the exhibitions held before the Second World War, and in 2004), and also exhibited in 1961, 1993 and 2004. Both Estonian historians T. Yullinen, H. Rahkema and the author of these lines wrote about it, as well as Russian historians I. N. Golovanova and Z. L. Pugacheva.

The growth of interest in African subjects in Estonia in the period following World War II is due to the work of linguist Penta Nurmekund.

From the report presented by the author at the international scientific conference "Studying the History of Africa in Russia and Abroad: Stages, Trends, Prospects" held in Moscow in November 2011, dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Center for African Studies of the IVI RAS.

page 53

On October 9, 1962, the Circle of African Studies started working at the University of Tartu. Nurmekund.

The circle's meetings usually consisted of presentations on Africa-related issues, followed by language classes. Taking into account P. Nurmekund's specialty, the main emphasis was still on teaching languages. P. Nurmekund started teaching Arabic in 1957, later Swahili, Afrikaans and Hausa. These classes were especially popular in 1966-1970. True, there were not many students, on average 2-3 people, but they were purposeful people who had a deep interest in languages.7

P. Nurmekund's research interests focused mainly on the historical development of languages, their classification, grammatical structure, as well as on the history of African studies and the activities of Estonian missionaries in Africa.

Missionary work and religion in the 1960s, when P. Nurmekund developed an interest in this subject, were not particularly welcomed in the Soviet Union. In fact, P. Nurmekund was one of the first Estonian researchers in this field. He was motivated to do this by the fruitful and extensive work of the estophilic scientist A. D. Dridzo. While studying the history of Russian relations with Africa, he came up with a topic related to Estonian missionaries.

P. Nurmekund's first published research in the field of African studies dates back to 1969.8 He established and maintained contacts with African scholars from different countries. Having a good command of languages, P. Nurmekund was always a very welcome participant at all-Union conferences on African studies of his time.

The teaching of African history at the University of Tartu was further developed in 1966. Initially, it was held as part of the main course in the history of Asia and Africa. This subject was taught by the grand old man of Estonian History, Doctor of Historical Sciences Olaf-Mihkel Klaassen (1929-2012). Although his Ph. D. thesis, which he defended in 1970, was devoted to the history of Indonesia, his doctoral dissertation (1992,9) also dealt with the history of contacts between Estonia and Africa, among other things. His main research topics include Estonian consular relations with Asian and African countries, Estonian missionaries in Asia and Africa, and the history of the peoples of Ethiopia and Indonesia. Numerous scientific publications of O.-M. Klaassen on the topic of Estonian-African relations, 10 as well as university textbooks compiled by him, 11 were important as works paving the way in this area.

In the late 1980s, the University of Tartu began teaching African history as a separate subject. This course was taught by a young lecturer, Mart Siyroya (1958-1995), who was a graduate student at Moscow State University and published many articles on African studies in both scientific and popular science literature12. Since 1994, the course on African history has been taught by the author of these lines, whose main research interests are Estonia's contacts with Africa, as well as Estonia's relations with Africa. also - perception of Africa in Estonia 13.

Interest in the African continent has been growing all over the world in recent years. In Estonia-also. For example, at the Institute of History and Archaeology of the University of Tartu, an increasing number of bachelor's and master's theses are defended on topics related to the history of Africa. In 2011, one of the students of the history department of the University was sent to study for a master's degree abroad.

* * *

Leaving aside the pressing issue of funding research projects, the future of Estonian African studies is still promising.

1 See for more details: Hiiemaa K. Sudame kutsel: Eesti misjonarid Aafrikas. Tallinn, 2000.

Klaassen O. -M. 2 Etiopistikahuvist Tartu Ulikoolis // Tartu tilikooli ajaloo kiisimusi. XIX. Tartu, 1987. Lk. 71.

Rahkema H. 3 Tartu Ulikool ja Aafrika (1802 - 1940). Master's thesis. Tartu, 2003. Lk. 52.

4 Zar'a Jaa'koobi arutamised: Ohe abessiinia mamhori elu ja motted. Tartu, 1936.

5 Estonian National Museum, pp. 24, 28.

Jullinen Т. 6 Belgia Kongo ja Eesti (1919 - 1939). Graduate work. Tartu, 1986. Lk. 64 - 67; Rahkema H. Op. cit. Lk 112 - 116; Hiiemaa K. Vendade Solomentsevide Aafrikakogu // Tartu tilikooli ajaloo kiisimusi. XXXVI. Tartu, 2007. Lk. 114-125; Golovanova I. N., Pugach Z. L. Afrikanskie kollektsii bratov Solomentsevykh v Tartu [African collections of the Solomentsev brothers in Tartu].

Klaassen O.-M., Hallik M., Hiyemaa K. 7 Estonskiy afrikanist-polyglot (Pent Nurmekund) / / Stanovlenie otechestvennoy afrikanistiki 1920 - e-nachalo 1960-x /otv. red. by A. B. Davidson / / Moscow, Nauka, 2003. p. 180.

Nurmekund P. 8 Die Anfangsgrunde der estnischen Afrikanistik // Wort und Religion. Kalima na Dini. Stuttgart. 1969. S. 139 - 142.

Klaassen O. -M. 9 Eesti Vabariigi konsu-laarpoliitika Aasias ja Aafrikas 1918 - 1940. I-II. Dissertation. Tartu, 1992.

10 См., напр.: Klaassen O. -M. Loenguid Eesti afroasiaatika kujunemisloost. Tartu, 1988; it is the same. Esimesed eestikeelsed geograafiaopikud teadmiste allikana Aasiast ja Aafrikast // Teaduse ajaloo lehekiilgi Eestist. XI kogumik. Geograafia ajaloost Eestis. Tallinn, 1995. Lk. 110 - 128.

Klaassen O. -M. 11 Aasia ja Aafrika 1900 - 1918 ning kontaktid Eestiga. Tartu, 1992; его же. Aasia ja Aafrika 1918 - 1945 ning kontaktid Eestiga. I-III jagu. Tartu, 1990.

12 См., напр.: Siiroja M. Inglise-Buuri soda (1899 - 1902) ja Eesti Uhiskond // Opetatud Eesti Seltsi aastaraamat. Tartu, 1995, lk. 117-131; same name. Mis on Aafrika? // Horisont. 1994. N 3. Lk. 41 - 43.

13 См.. напр.: Hiiemaa К. Aafrika retseptsioon eestikeelses triikisonas (kuni 1917). Dissertationes Historiae Universitatis Tartuensis 12. Tartu Ulikooli Kirjastus, 2006; ее же. The Image of Africa in Estonian Printed Word // Imagology and Cross-Cultural Encounters in History. Rovaniemi: Pohjois-Suomen Historiallinen Yhdistys, Societas Historica Finlandiae Septentrionalis. 2008. P. 161 - 170.


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