National sciences in the Republic of Estonia

In the independent state, a national concept of history could be born. The disciples of Cederberg became representatives of the scientific discipline which continued to model the national identity of Estonians for decades. Among historians, Hendrik Sepp (1888-1943) and Hans Kruus (1891-1976) deserve recognition. It was Hans Kruus who opened up the history of the Estonian national movement. Later, history provided Hans Kruus with an opportunity to participate in the development of the history of Estonia. Hans Kruus was one of the ‘June communists’ who played a major role in the development of the ESSR Academy of Sciences and the promotion of historical research in the post-war period.

Tallgren’s followers in archaeology provided the first answers to questions about the early history of Estonians. Harri Moora (1900-1986) wrote about the early Iron Age of Estonia and that of Latvia as well. Richard Indreko (1900-1961) provided an integrated overview of the settlement of Estonians on the coast of the Baltic Sea (a theory which is presently in dispute).

Notable progress was made in the study of the Estonian language, national culture and folklore. While the first professor of Estonian in the national university was the czarist censor Jaan Jõgever (1860-1924), at the end of that period Estonian and West Finnish languages were studied at a considerably high academic level. Andrus Saareste (1892-1964) and Julius Mark (1890-1959) may be mentioned in this context. Gustav Ränk (1902-1998) was a leading researcher of national culture, and Oskar Loorits (1900-1961) and Uku Masing (1909-1985) added, in addition to a scientific approach, a certain postmodernist accent to the national identity.

In some domains the humanities reached an international level in Estonia, as for example with folklorist Walter Anderson (1885-1962), the first researcher of fairy tales, whose approach to the ‘town legends’ has retained its relevance to our days because of its methodology and content. An important phenomenon was the foundation of the chair of Judaistics at the University of Tartu in 1936 (Professor Lazar Gulkowitsch, 1898-1941), one of the first of its kind. This cause found moral support also from Albert Einstein.

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