AuthorOjamaa, Triinu
PositionNarrating Migration and Diaspora - Musicians who fled from Estonia to Sweden - Report
  1. Introduction

    World War II advanced the formation of multicultural societies, yet along with this acculturation problems arose, which are discussed in the article, based on the example of the Estonian refugees who belonged to the cultural elite. About 80,000 people fled Estonia for the West for political reasons. (1) The receiving countries were Sweden and Germany; later on part of the refugees moved on to some other countries. 22,000 Estonians resided in Sweden permanently, constituting the most numerous World War II refugee group (Reinans 2008a:1028). The average Estonian refugee had a secondary education and came from the coastal region, as they had good opportunities for an overseas trip (Raag 2004:181, Kumer-Haukanomm 2014:51). However, people of other backgrounds also escaped to Sweden, including more than 1,000 persons who had occupied leading positions in political, economic, and cultural life (Horm 1960:7, 1961:4-5).

    The problem of immigrants' adaptation appeared on anthropologists' agenda long before World War II. In their memorandum for the study of immigrants' acculturation, Redfield et al. (1936:150) describe various sources, which can be employed in acculturation studies. They do not mention life writing, yet it is valuable material for the study of migration processes and adaptation strategies in post-World War II period. Memoirs, diaries, letters, and other life writing texts show what refugees felt and how they tried to behave when they had to contact with domicile population, and whether these so-called personal strategies resulted in overcoming the cultural barrier or not.

    Refugees' adaptation to host countries is an acculturation problem, therefore the research is based on the works elaborating the definition of Redfield, Linton, and Herkovits, according to which acculturation comprehends those phenomena that result when groups of individuals, having different cultures, come into continuous first-hand contact (Redfield et al. 1936:149). Berry (2001:619) differentiates four group-level acculturation options: assimilation (immigrants do not maintain their cultural heritage and seek interaction with other cultures), separation (immigrants maintain their culture of origin and avoid interaction with others), integration (immigrants are interested in both maintaining their culture of origin and engaging in interactions with other groups), and marginalization (immigrants have little interest in cultural maintenance as well as in having relations with other groups). My earlier research (Ojamaa 2011, 2012) shows that a great part of Estonian refugees preferred integration, this way choosing a two-dimensional model in which preservation of their culture of origin and adaptation to the host society can coexist independently (Phinney et al. 2001:495).

    Based on Estonian material, one can say that memoirs are a genre specific to political refugees. Compared to voluntary immigrants, whose main aim in most cases is to achieve economic welfare in another country, political refugees are characterised by a strong emotional connection with the lost homeland (Pennar et al. 1975:vii-ix, 85). Usually authors begin their reminiscences with descriptions of happy youth in a safe home, and then continue with horrors related to escaping from the war, and economic hardships in the new country of residence. For the writers themselves memoirs were important for several reasons: through these the older generation tried to preserve the younger ones' historical memory in exile, yet the writing process also enabled them to ease the pain of losing their homeland. From the point of view of cultural history, Raag (2004:188) regards as the most valuable sources the memoirs of politicians and leading cultural figures. The axis of the following discussion is the memoirs of Juhan Aavik, who belonged namely to this group.

    Juhan Aavik was born in Estonia in 1884. He graduated from St. Petersburg Conservatory under world-famous composers, such as Lyadov, Vitols, and Glazunov (EMIC). Very soon Aavik became the leading figure in Estonian music life. In January 1944, cultural and political circles celebrated the maestro's 60th birthday in the most representative concert hall in Estonia, yet in September of the same year he became a refugee, carrying a suitcase with only a few personal items and some sheets of music paper to complete the piece started at home. Aavik was convinced that Estonia would be free soon, and he would return to his ordinary daily life. This never happened, and he died in exile in Stockholm in 1982.

    The aim of the analysis carried out using close reading is, on the basis of Aavik's memoirs, to deduce new knowledge about (i) what were refugees' integration motivators; (ii) which circumstances supported and which hindered their adaptation in host countries. As additional material, memoirs of Aavik's fellow sufferers have been used (Nielander 1982, Allas 2001, Kures 2008, Toona Gottschalk 2013, Libe 2014,and Jurison 2016).

    Aavik wrote his memoirs Muusika radadelt: Malestusi ja molgutusi eluteelt (On the Paths of Music: Reminiscences and Reflections on a Life) in Stockholm in 1954-1972. The memoirs covered all his life and were planned to be published in six volumes. The first one, covering his reminiscences of childhood, was published in Toronto in 1959 (Aavik 1959). The Orto Publishing House concluded a contract with Aavik for publishing all the volumes, yet terminated it as in the 1960s the readers' interest in memoirs gradually started to wane--Estonians in exile were more interested in the future, and were willing to move on with their lives. In spite of this, Aavik continued work on his manuscript, believing that one day it would reach the reader. Aavik's hopes did not come true, but his manuscripts are preserved in the Swedish National Archives. (2) This study is based on the last volume titled Rootsis (In Sweden) (Aavik MS), which is comprised of 1276 handwritten pages, including chapters "Elutsemine laagrites" ("Life in camps"), "Arhiivitoo ajajark. Uppsala-Bergsbrunna" ("Era of archival work: Uppsala-Bergsbrunna"), and "Stockholmis" ("In Stockholm"). Aavik tells about pieces of music composed in exile, attempts to establish working relationships with Swedish colleagues, Estonians' music activities in exile, and contacts with fellow countrymen who had emigrated to other continents. These topics help to reflect the adaptation process of a creative person of high social status in a new environment.

  2. Analysis of Juhan Aavik's memoirs

    2.1. Aavik's expectations for the host society and striving for integration

    Aavik went into exile from the position of the director of the Tallinn Conservatoire; the wider public knew him as the chief conductor of song festivals (3) . Already in the 1920s, song festivals started to acquire, besides national importance, also international dimensions. For the last pre-war song festival in 1938, singers gathered from all over the Baltic Sea region: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland (Poldmae et al. 2002:106-107). It was not only Aavik's idea; it also points to the foreign policy interests of the Republic of Estonia. In addition to choirs, the organisers invited politicians and journalists, trying to generate a regional feeling of belonging. The song festivals enabled the musicians to establish cooperation contacts with the western neighbours, on which later on, while in exile, they tried to base their adaptation strategy.

    Many years prior to the Great Escape, in connection with Gustaf V's state visit in 1929, Aavik had composed a piece "Puhendus Rootsile" (4) ("Dedication to Sweden"). It was an exceptional political event for the young Republic of Estonia (est. in 1918): the Swedish king was the first head of an 'old historical state' who visited Estonia. The reception ceremony took place in front of the Parliament building, where a mixed choir conducted by Aavik sang a song, the words of which emphasised friendship and cultural closeness of the two nations; the score was given to the king as a present (Rebane 1929:1, Kaja 1929:3). When the maestro reached Sweden as a refugee, Gustaf V was still in power. Memories of the personal contact with the king and convictions about good relationships with the neighbouring country made Aavik optimistic about the near future.

    While arriving in Sweden, Aavik had to face the reality, which turned out to be quite different from his imaginations. Before World War II, Sweden had been culturally homogeneous; it was a country with more emigrants than immigrants. According to the law on immigration, passed in 1937, Sweden committed itself to receive political refugees. They came from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, thus the Baltic refugees were part of those who opened up Sweden to immigration (Koll 2015:428). When the war ended, the number of refugees had risen to 185,000 (Bystrom 2008:66). Due to the unexpectedly great influx of refugees, an article was added to the law about detaining the refugees in quarantine camps (Kangro 1976:43). When Aavik reached Sweden, he was accommodated in a camp together with other refugees who did not belong to the elite, and he was subjected to the same rules than any other immigrant (Aavik MS:1-57). In spite of that, Aavik behaved as a person of high social status and considered himself the official representative of Estonian composers in Sweden. Aavik decided to establish working contacts with Swedish music institutions. He was convinced that Estonian composers, whose oeuvre belonged to the Nordic cultural space, might enrich Swedish music with their own contribution. On the other hand, Aavik expected that integration would help him find professional work and guarantee that his subsistence needs were met.

    A few weeks after his arrival at the quarantine camp, Aavik turned to the authorities with a request for an official permit to leave the territory of the...

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