Bird Droppings from Estonia: Indiana U, Finno Ugric studies (1)
Arvamus 13 Feb 2018 Hilary BirdEWR
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(excerpt from BD #144, February 11, 2018)

Now, about Slavica Publishers, who will publish my “Introduction to Estonian literature” (now in its final edit). Slavica is a division of Indiana University's Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures and “the leading U.S. specialty press devoted to scholarly monographs, collections of research articles, textbooks, reference works, and journals serving the field of Slavic languages and literatures, as well as Slavic and East European studies in general.” I am thrilled to be associated with Slavica and was eager to see their HQ. // It’s in an old bowling alley – this may sound odd but the premises are ideal for a roomy combination of office space and warehouse.

On the last day Vicki took me to the Bloomington campus of Indiana University (IU). It did not disappoint. And, yes, it’s big! American “big.” Bloomington is only one of eight IU campus sites. According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the value of IU and its affiliates was over $1.986 billion in 2016. The annual budget across all campuses totals over $3 Billion. It’s a public university with more than 110,000 students, of whom approximately 46,000 are enrolled at its flagship Bloomington campus. IU Bloomington is home to many premier schools, including a department of the School of Global and International Studies – the Department of Central Eurasian Studies - that teaches Finno Ugric studies. Areas of study include the languages and cultures of Hungary, Finland and Estonia and other smaller Finno Ugric peoples.

The department of Central Eurasian Studies has rather a curious history. It was created in 1942/3 during WWII as an "Army Specialized Training Program for Central Eurasian languages". It provided training in several Eurasian languages, including Russian, Turkish, Finnish and Hungarian. It became a Department (of Uralic and Altaic Studies) in 1965 and it has been known as the Department of Central Eurasian Studies since 1993. The department's studies program emphasizes language proficiency and familiarity with indigenous cultures. Several distinguished scholars of the Estonian Republic were associated with IU after fleeing the Soviets in 1944. These include:

Ants Oras (1900-1982) of Tartu, Oxford (UK), Helsinki and Florida Universities. Ants Oras is the man who compiled (in 1938 in Estonia) the enormously influential collection of poetry by the “Arbujad,” “the Augurs.” The group included Alver, Talvik and Merilaas. Oras later edited a definitive IU anthology “Estonian literary reader” (1963).

Felix Oinas (1911-2004) of Tartu, Budapest and Indiana Universities was professor of Uralic and Altaic Studies and Slavic Languages and Literatures at Indiana from 1950 until 1981. An elected fellow of several scholarly organizations, including the American Folklore Society, Felix was an active researcher, educator, administrator, editor, and writer. He was the author of more than 400 books, articles, reviews, and other contributions on folklore, literature, and linguistics.

Alo Raun (1905- 2004) of Tartu, the Baltic University (a joint Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanians university in German Displaced Persons Camps, 1946-1949) and Indiana University. Alo, a linguist, was professor emeritus at IU 1952 - 1975. The Alo Raun Prize is named after him and rewards student excellence in Estonian and/or Finnish Studies.

Toivo U. Raun (b. 1943) of Indiana, Princeton, California and Toronto Universities, is Alo’s son. He was born in Tartu and was educated in the USA. He is currently a professor of Central Eurasian studies and adjunct professor of history at Indiana specialising in modern Baltic and Finnish history. Toivo has been president of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies and editor-in-chief of “Journal of Baltic Studies 1981-1985.” Most scholars of matters Estonian will know Toivo Raun as the author of the indispensable “Estonia and the Estonians” text book that has solved many a problem for me in its time. Jackie Collins it ain’t but it’s impeccably reliable being well researched and well organised.

Estonian academics are currently represented here by Piibi-Kai Kivik a graduate (linguistics) of Tartu, Cambridge (UK) and Indiana.

Indiana University came into being in 1839. It was originally the Indiana State Seminary established in 1820. The university has grown slowly but surely over nearly two centuries but Bloomington has remained the core campus. Its area today is 1,933 acres or 7.82 km2) Many of the buildings, especially the older central buildings, are made from limestone quarried locally and very handsome they are too! Sandstone is a very pleasing light coloured sronr, the architecture is functional but elegant and the grounds green and spacious. A pretty little creek - the “Jordan River,” named after a 19th century ichthyologist and botanist - runs through the centre of the campus. The core of the Bloomington campus was built in the 1930’s as part of a public building program of the New Deal initiated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945). The aim of the New Deal was to alleviate the privations of the Depression and almost every community in the USA got a New Deal park, bridge or school. Another FDR initiative that helped IU to grow was the G.I. Bill (the Serviceman's Readjustment Act 1944). The GI Bill enabled access to higher education for soldiers who had fought in WWII. Tuition fees and living expenses were paid by the government. Provision was also made for low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business and there was one year unemployment compensation. Students who were products of the post WWII “baby boom” further swelled IU enrollment in the 1960s – matriculation went from 5,403 in 1940 to 30,368 in 1970. //

// Vicky took me to look at the auditorium at IU Bloomington to see the “Social and Industrial History of Indiana,” a huge mural painted in 1933 by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975). Benton travelled around Indiana for six months before painting two series of murals depicting the transformation from a wilderness to a cultivated agricultural and industrial state. One mural shows cultural activity and the other industry. As a work of art the mural is surely impressive and painted in a modernist representational style (similar to the UK’s Stanly Spenser) that I like very much. One panel, however, is causing controversy. A student petition is calling for a depiction of the Ku Klux Klan to be removed. In response, the school has stopped holding classes in the room where the mural is situated, the largest lecture hall on campus. I was rather surprised to hear about the KKK in Indiana as the state has rather a good record, at least from 1816 onwards, for civil liberties.

The Indiana KKK was organized in 1915 to affect public affairs on issues of Prohibition, education, political corruption, and morality. It was strongly white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and opposed to immigration from southern and eastern Europe after decades of many arrivals from that area. The best that can be said about such an odious organistion, and it is damned with faint praise, is that the Indiana KKK used intimidation rather than racism and terrorism against minority ethnic and religious groups. The state had the largest organization in the USA when David Stephenson (1891 –1966) was appointed Grand Dragon (state leader) in 1922. A peak of power followed when the KKK had 250,000 members, an estimated 30% of native-born white men. By 1925 over half the elected members of the General Assembly, the Governor of Indiana and many senior officials were members. In 1925, however, Stephenson was convicted for a particularly vicious rape and murder of a young schoolteacher. A sharp drop in membership followed. Denied pardon, in 1927 Stephenson began to talk to the Indianapolis Times giving lists of those in power who had been bribed by the KKK. The Indianapolis Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its press investigation that effectively ended the power of the Klan. By 1930, the Klan was down to about 4,000 members. Efforts by some to revive it in the 1960s and 1970s were unsuccessful. One can’t help but wonder how similar present-day investigations of corruption in the corridors of power in the USA will fare …

The Klansmen in the IU mural are seen alongside a reporter, photographer, and printer— a reference to the journalists who broke the KKK. In the foreground a white nurse cares for an African American child. James Wimbush, the university’s vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, opines that the murals do not “ glorify or celebrate this particular dark episode … but instead shows that the state’s past has shameful moments the likes of which we do not want to see again, ever ... It’s important to understand the state’s history—the good and the bad.” The petitioners acknowledge that Benton intended to denounce the Klan, but point out that the KKK is still active in the state today and state that “these are in fact modern depictions and not just depictions of a historical time in Indiana.” Complicated. Here is the painting. Make up your own mind.

I cannot leave Bloomington without a mention of Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1961) born in Bloomington and a graduate of IU. He began to compose songs and perform regularly with his first band, Carmichael's Collegians, at university. Many of Hoagy’s songs become American jazz standards, including "Stardust," "Heart and Soul" and "Georgia on My Mind." My favourite is “Skylark” – listen at
. Hoagy, in a bronze work by sculptor Michael McAuley, now tinkles the ivories in perpetuity in the centre of the IU Bloomington campus. He and his piano were covered in snow when I saw him. McAuley said it took about a year to work out how to make the piano look realistic and determining how to handle the shrinkage that occurs when bronze heats and cools.

Well, to quote Bugs Bunny, “that’s all folks!” My tale is told. I am back in tiny Tartu with my cat, Jelli, who is having a fine time sniffing my suitcase ... my memories will linger too … I would really like to go back … A New World indeed ...
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Ära postita roppusi, ärireklaami, autorikaitse alla kuuluvaid materjale või teksti mis halvustab põhjendamatult teisi isikuid. EWR jätab endale õiguse kustutada mistahes kommentaari. Kommentaarid esindavad kirjutaja isiklikke seisukohti.
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