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The poetics and politics of Estonian historical fiction

Introduction



During the past 150 years historical fiction has been one of the key „memory forms” contributing to the making and consolidation of Estonian cultural memory and national history. Nevertheless, it has rarely been studied from that perspective. The introductory article to the special issue on the Estonian historical novel and cultural memory firstly gives an overview of the concept of cultural memory and discusses the perspectives it opens up for the study of the Estonian historical novel. It also suggests some new ways to explore the relationship of historical fiction with other media of cultural memory such as historiography, politics of history, and visual culture. Secondly, the article places the Estonian history of the genre in an international context, giving a brief overview of its development during different periods of Estonian history and concentrating in particular on the link between the historical novel and nation building. Alongside many similarities with the developments in other literatures, the article highlights some considerable digressions from the European mainstream, namely, the eminent role of the historical novel in the newly established Estonian nation state in the 1930s and during the late Soviet period in the 1970s.