One of the SPECTRESS partners – Professor Aditya Mukherji – told me about the project and encouraged me to apply for funding so as to complete my on-going research on Baltic folkloristics. I received support for my research on the history of the discipline of folkloristics in Estonia from 1945 to the present. My complete research project was concerned with all the three Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The support I received from SPECTRESS project enabled me to spend three months in 2016 and five weeks in 2017 in the University of Tartu, Estonia, and this was further complemented by leave granted by Jawaharlal Nehru University. I benefited from being a part of the wonderful University of Tartu and its Departments of Ethnology and Comparative Folkloristics. The cooperation of the SPECTRESS partner Ene Kõresaar was extremely important in more than one way, particularly in introducing me to cultural trauma in Estonian history of the second half of the twentieth century. University of Tartu was a considerate host and provided me with all the research facilities. I also received the cooperation of many faculty members across the disciplines. All these factors greatly impacted my research in Estonia and I am thankful to SPECTRESS.
The importance of the theme was that folklore was central to the national-cultural identity of the Baltic countries ever since they gained independence for the first time in 1918. Major achievements were made in all the three countries by the time the World War II came to an end. Things changed at this time as all the three countries were occupied by the Soviet Union. It is the period under the Soviet Union, that is, from 1945-1991 that was the main focus of my research. I had set out to understand how the institutions for the study of folklore: university departments and archives fared under the Soviet regime. The importance of this is embedded in the fact that while a socialist state considered itself the champion of the ordinary people, but folklore (the cultural expression of the ordinary people) does not always fit the socialist state’s imagination of the people. So the treatment of folklore study and research under the Soviet rule in the Baltics transformed both. As my research progressed and I became aware of the cultural trauma that the people in the Baltics suffered during this time, I was able to juxtapose the history of the discipline to the life of the people and reach new conclusions. Methodologically, this creates a paradigm shift in the way disciplinary history of folkloristics is conceived.
I am happy to conclude this brief report by saying that my research is now a book length manuscript that has been accepted for publication by University Press of Mississippi, USA. It will also be the first work on Baltic folkloristics as a whole.