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Book: Contesting Authority

Chapter: In-between the national narratives: Vernacular Victory Day celebrations in Tallinn

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.29206


Official and vernacular discourses can swap places when revolutions happen and new regimes take over. When Estonia restored its independence, official holidays of the Soviet rule lost their institutional grounds and authorized meanings. Several of them continued to be celebrated informally and some have acquired new meanings since, while also giving rise to new commemorative practices. Observed officially in Russia but ignored or disapproved of by the Estonian state, these vernacular holidays are characterised by ambiguity.
The most visible and controversial vernacular holiday of this kind in contemporary Estonia is Victory Day or the 9th of May that was introduced after WWII to commemorate Nazi Germany’s capitulation to the Soviet Union. Informal Victory Day celebrations in Estonia gathered momentum in 2007 in response to controversies surrounding a WWII memorial known as the “Bronze Soldier” and the government’s decision to relocate it from the centre of Tallinn.

The article describes and analyses vernacular Victory Day practices and discourses in Tallinn, drawing on author’s long-term ethnographic fieldwork. The focus lies on the ability of individuals and groups to generate their own messages that contest the authority of monologues produced by the Estonian and the Russian state.

Chapter Contributors

  • Elo-Hanna Seljamaa ( - ehseljamaa) 'University of Tartu'