On April 26th, historians Maarja Merivoo-Parro and Sander Jürisson hosted a book launch at the Museum of Occupations and Freedom (Vabamu) in Tallinn for “Eestlased Ameerikates: Estonians in the Americas,” a new photo-rich tome focussing not just on diaspora Estonians in the Americas — but specifically those who arrived and lived there before World War II.
Relying heavily on archival materials, the Estonian Diaspora Academy’s bilingual book “Eestlased Ameerikates: Estonians in the Americas” introduces readers to Estonians who lived in North and South America. What makes it unique, however, is that the focus is not on World War II-era refugees and their descendants this time, but rather the 19th Century through World War II. The tome introduces the stories and history of early Estonians not just in the US and Brazil, but also Canada, Argentina and Uruguay, for example.
“While in our theses we are detailed and try to say as much as possible about very little, this narrative photo album gave us the freedom to do the exact opposite — to paint with a broad brush, and say a little about a great many things,” Dr Merivoo-Parro said. “Hopefully coming face-to-face with our global compatriots’ past will have a stirring effect, and inspire some to supplement existing understandings about the diaspora Estonian community’s past by means of new research.”
“During the past century and a half, Estonians’ journeys have taken us to all ends of the earth,” Mr Jürisson said. “The journeys and lives of World War II refugees have been better documented, but we know significantly less about earlier Westward migration. With our new book, we offer a quick look at the arrival [of Estonians] in travellers’ favourite destination — the Americas — which should interest both people in Estonia as well as the descendants themselves of these travellers. This is why the book is bilingual in parallel. The tome was translated by our good partner Juta Ristsoo, a diaspora Estonian who has returned home.”
The 360-page publication is dedicated to Estonian archivists worldwide. The authors give special thanks to the workers and volunteers of the National Archives of Estonia and the Estonian Archives in the US, with whose permission all of the photos will reach much broader Estonian-and English-speaking audiences.
Published by the nonprofit Estonian Diaspora Academy, the book was translated by Juta Ristsoo, edited by Kai Nurmik and Derek Saunders, and designed by Kristin Kalamees, with photos digitised by Rasmus Merivoo. Publication of the book was supported by the Compatriots’ Programme of the Ministry of Education and Research.
ERR, Aili Vahtla