In-between the national narratives: Vernacular Victory Day celebrations in Tallinn

Contesting Authority - Vernacular Knowledge and Alternative Beliefs - Marion Bowman

Elo-Hanna Seljamaa [+-]
University of Tartu
Elo-Hanna Seljamaa Elo-Hanna Seljamaa (Ph.D. in Comparative Studies, The Ohio State University) is a folklorist working at the University of Tartu. She has published several articles on ethnicity, nationalism and integration in post-Soviet Estonia and continues to explore these topics.


Official and vernacular discourses can swap places when revolutions happen and new regimes take over. When Estonia restored its independence, official holidays of the Soviet rule lost their institutional grounds and authorized meanings. Several of them continued to be celebrated informally and some have acquired new meanings since, while also giving rise to new commemorative practices. Observed officially in Russia but ignored or disapproved of by the Estonian state, these vernacular holidays are characterised by ambiguity. The most visible and controversial vernacular holiday of this kind in contemporary Estonia is Victory Day or the 9th of May that was introduced after WWII to commemorate Nazi Germany’s capitulation to the Soviet Union. Informal Victory Day celebrations in Estonia gathered momentum in 2007 in response to controversies surrounding a WWII memorial known as the “Bronze Soldier” and the government’s decision to relocate it from the centre of Tallinn. The article describes and analyses vernacular Victory Day practices and discourses in Tallinn, drawing on author’s long-term ethnographic fieldwork. The focus lies on the ability of individuals and groups to generate their own messages that contest the authority of monologues produced by the Estonian and the Russian state.

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Seljamaa, Elo-Hanna. In-between the national narratives: Vernacular Victory Day celebrations in Tallinn. Contesting Authority - Vernacular Knowledge and Alternative Beliefs. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2021. ISBN 9781781792377. Date accessed: 08 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.29206. Oct 2021

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