To mark July as the Local Governments Month of the 90th Anniversary Year of the Republic of Estonia, Juhani Püttseppa tells the story of two truly peaceful men. Aare Hõrn, the King of the Seto Kingdom, says that he became who he is thanks to his grandfather, who was named Ol’oksa Rahusoov.
A whole night spent talking in the Seto hut, until the matters of the world were clearer
Little Aare was packed underneath the fur coats, the horse borrowed from the stables pulled the sleigh, and the ride took them from one Setomaa village to another, from Antkruva to Tiirhanna, to grandfather Ol’oksa’s (or Aleksei). Today, Aare Hõrn, who is the King of Setomaa, does not remember much more about that ride except that the road took them through the forest and over a high hill at one place.
He remembered more and more from his visits to grandfather Ol’oksa, who was called the Living Seto Encyclopaedia, when he was a bit older and went to Tiirhanna on his own. Not just went, but drove.
The riches of the Soviet era, or the money from the piglets sold at the Petseri and Pskov markets, allowed the family to at first buy a blue IŽ-Jupiter motorbike with a sidecar, and after that, in the middle of the 1970s, a yellow 40 horsepower “soap box”, Zaporozhetz.
Aare, «with his poor vision», was not able to get a driver’s license, but on the dusty and curvy village roads of Setomaa it was something he could do without, at the time. In his shaping of who he is, it is the visits to his grandfather and other old Seto men that Aare appreciates the most. «I kept asking and exploring»!
Aare wrote down what he heard, and half-secretly also recorded the traditions and songs of his family. It was in this manner that the Meremäe choir was able to later supplement their repertory.
The Northern Sons stayed at Tiirhanna forever
Before World War I, grandfather Ol’oksa first began working in a shop in Riga, where the Seto boy learned to speak Latvian. In 1917, he was a lathe operator at the Putilov plants in the town of Neva. «During the time of the October riot» order was lost both in the plant and on the streets of St. Petersburg. «Men with red ribbons ran back and forth in the streets».
It was too much for the quiet grandfather; he returned home to Setomaa and took over the management of a small farm. It was a long time before peace was found – Tiirhanna changed hands four or five times during the War of Independence, which had just started. At the time, the Reds were in power in the village, when a rumour began circulating around the farms that the Northern Sons had arrived on the front.
«Finnõ prizli, ubivajut nozom» («the Finns came, they are killing with knives»), said the soldiers of the Red Army, frightened – none of them wished to leave this world with a knife in their chest.
In the visitor’s room of the Seto Community Centre, over a mug of coffee and a plate of country cheese with caraway seeds, National Defence League Company Sergeant Aare Hõrn explains to us how five Finns attacked the machine-gun of the Reds: “The Finns were really wild. Five of them took on the machine-gun, three Northern Sons were left lying on the field, but two bayoneted the machine-gun to the ground”.
19 soldiers of the Finnish voluntary battalion gave their lives for Estonia near Meremäe.
In heaven, together with the pastor of Tailova
After the end of the War of Independence, Ol’oksa or Aleksei Grigoryevich, who had formerly been known only by his first and father’s name, adopted the family name of «Rahusoov» (Wish for Peace) and wed Mar’o or Maria from a neighbouring village.
The beautiful family name had meaning as well. «Grandfather was a tall and peaceful man, who wanted to get along with everybody,» said Aare Hõrn.
Ol’oksa Rahusoov was an authority in Setomaa. He could carry an almost hundred-kilogram bag of rye on his back, but did not abuse his strength. He liked to discuss the matters of the world.
If a friend sat down at the front of Ol’oksa’s hut in the evening, then by morning one knew everything that the other knew, and vice versa, including Russian language BBC and radio Svoboda news.
When Ol’oksa died in 1981, Aare took some presents to the church on his funeral day, according to tradition. It was then that the wife of Nikolai Verhoustinski, the pastor of Tailova, who had passed away earlier, told him an amazing story.
The honourable priest, the deceased, had appeared to her in a dream a couple of weeks ago and complained that he had no friends in heaven.
«You don’t happen to know who is coming?», Nikolai Verhoustinski had asked his wife.
«No, but who would you like to come?», had the wife asked then.
«I’d like Aleksei Grigoryevich to keep me company,» said the pastor.
A couple of weeks after this conversation that took place in a dream, Ol’oksa Rahusoov passed away.
In the film on the War of Independence, wearing grandfather's coat
“You look like your grandfather,” people say to Aare, and not only because of the number 47 shoe size that he inherited from Ol’oksa. His wife, Riekka, says that Aare is “peace himself”. The Seto’s have elected Aare Hõrna as their King.
When Petseri County became a footnote in history in 1944, the Seto’s no longer had their own county or rural municipality; but since 1994, there is a unique association of local governments, which crosses county boundaries – an association of rural municipalities (Meremäe, Värska, Misso and Mikitamäe). Aare is a cultural advisor there. “I deal with substantive and forward-looking matters”.
A lot of this future is based on preserving the old ways.
Aare treasures Ol’oksa’s sweater, which still has some grey beard hair in it. Grandfather also bequeathed to his grandson his size 47 felt boots and black coat, with which Aare Hõrn participated in the shooting of the film «Names in Marble». Among the attacking mob, he ran out wearing it, on the side of the Republic of Estonia, of course.
Story of the Month, marking Estonia 90 anniversary year