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The need for homeland 25 years later



Ever since the 19th century Estonian literature has been strongly connected with the Estonian nationalist myth, which helped to create and keep national identity. The latter continued to be the main task of Estonian literature during Soviet occupation (1940–1991). 

The poet Sven Kivisildnik (b. 1964) has so far had a reputation of rather an ignorer of the nationalist myth. In the early 1990s Kivisildnik made a name for himself as a radical reformer of poetry as well as a scandalist. The frequent denials of earlier Estonian classics in his oeuvre actually led to the greatest scandal in the literary life of the newly independent Estonia, namely, in 1996 Hando Runnel (b. 1938), the symbolic figure of literary resistence to Soviet occupation, sued Kivisildnik for an insulting poem. 

Since the 1990s, however, the socio-political significance of Estonian literature has diminished and thus Kivisildnik has become a symbol of the new era, being regarded as a destroyer of the national task and myth. 

The article is an attempt to demonstrate that the current interpretation of Kivisildnik’s poetry is somewhat lopsided, moreover, his oeuvre has strong relations with the nationalist myth cultivated in Estonian literature. The cue concept is need for homeland. Over the recent decade in particular Kivisildnik’s poems have persistently kept laying bare the issues that are vitally dangerous to Estonian national high culture. 

The basic method used is comparative analysis of the poems of Kivisildnik and Runnel. It is shown that contrary to the popular belief Kivisildnik uses the same content elements as did Runnel in his patriotic poems of the 1970s and 1980s. The article starts with an analysis of the social context, explaining why a poem with social ambitions has to employ different figures of speech than those used 30 years ago, in a totalitarian society. Next it is demonstrated how Kivisildnik’s poetry has changed and gained in focus over the recent decade. The second half of the article compares the thematic figures revealing the need for homeland in the oeuvre of either poet. The conclusion reads that as far as the need for homeland is concerned the two poets are extremely similar.