Speaking about Siberia at Tartu College

December 18, 2012

The exhibit “Siberian Estonians” opened at Tartu College in Toronto in September 2011. The exhibit portrayed Estonian emigrant communities in Siberia.

The opening event for the week was a lecture by Dr Raimo Raag from Uppsala University in memory of Dr Vello Soots. Dr Anu Korb (Estonian Literary Museum), one of the exhibits’ curators, talked about the lives of Siberian Estonians. Together with students from the Toronto Estonian School, we watched documentary films in the Estonian House about Siberia. A reading of “Siberian Estonian Lives and Tales” was performed at both Tartu College and Ehatare retirement home. The exhibition was both beautiful and informative, and we received a lot of good feedback. “Siberian Estonians” was exhibited at the Immigration History Research Centre in Minneapolis and at the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto.

VEMU/The Centre for Estonian Studies continued on the Siberia theme this year. Another travelling exhibit arrived from Estonia called “A Harsh Spring.” This exhibit talks about the deportations in March of 1949 of peoples in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The exhibit was completed in 2009 at the Estonian National Archives, and was curated by Peeter Kenkmann and Tiit Noormets. Tartu College’s 42nd anniversary and the official start of the 2012 autumn season coincided with the opening. The exhibit will remain open at Tartu College until the middle of January.

The seminar “Misplaced People. Stalinist Repressions in the Baltic, 1949-1951” was held at the University of Toronto on September 21. Lynne Viola (Professor of Russian History, University of Toronto) opened the seminar and was followed by the lectures of Dr Vello Salo, Dr Jüri Kivimäe, and Dr Tiina Kirss, as well as Dr Aigi Rahi-Tamm, a researcher of Soviet repressive policies, and researcher Lelde Neimane from the Latvian Occupations Museum. There were many people in attendance from the public, including many Estonians and Latvians. The seminar was organised in collaboration with VEMU and the Elmar Tampõld Chair of Estonian Studies at the University of Toronto.

On the evening of the same day, similar themed films were screened at Tartu College. The Latvian Occupations Museum produced documentary — “Deportation in Latvia March 25 1949. Away from Home” (2009) is compiled of life story interviews, which the Riga museum has been doing for many years now. And the second film, Rao Heidmets’ animation “Life Stories” (RHF Stuudio, 2007) is based on biographical sources, written and recorded by Estonians. L. Neimane and P. Noorhani commented on the film.

Dr Vello Salo presented another lecture commemorating Dr V. Soots on September 22, called “The Legacy of Evil Times. Losses in Population 1939-1949.”

Tartu College, the Elmar Tampõld Chair of Estonian Studies at the University of Toronto, Eesti Kultuurkapital, and the Latvian Occupations Museum funded the events.

Photos of the events can be viewed at: www.vemu.ca/index.php/et/fotogaleriid#.UImL4oa5XAI

Piret Noorhani