Research Projects

Visualising the Nation. Institutional Critique of the Twentieth Century Art and Architecture in Estonia 
Mart Kalm

The general objective of the project is to study the dynamics of national identity in 20th century visual culture and built environment in Estonia. How it has been legitimized and determined by artistic and spatial practices (shift in focus, emergence of the alternative narratives) and systems of knowledge that aim at creating of local representations of the past (i. e. the writing of history).What kind of interpretations of art history could we draw going beyond the nationalistic narrative but keeping local situation in mind and keeping distance to universalistic history of form. What kind of institutional practices formed national-European dialectics in the evolution of Estonian art and architecture? What kind of images and objects were favoured in the limits and possibilities of national discourse during different periods? What is the cultural self-portrait constructed according to canon in the 20th century art?

Orthodox People in Estonia and Orthodox Churches in Estonian Landscape 
(18th-21st Century) 
Jaanus Plaat

The main goal of the project is to conduct an inter-disciplinary study of the Orthodox people and Orthodox churches in Estonia since the 18th c. The study of the Orthodoxy in Estonia during the second part of the 20th c. and in the beginning of the 21st c. is based on ethnological (and sociological) fieldwork and data analysis. The period before the Soviet occupation will be studied using historical methods and archive sources. The fieldwork concentrates on the religion and identity, mutual relationships of Orthodox and other people and other denominations in Estonia. The attitudes toward Orthodox by Non-Orthodox are also to be taken into account. The goal of the fieldwork is to collect oral information and archival data of religious life of Orthodox in the Soviet Estonia and today. The research undertaken will also focus on the influence of the Orthodoxy on an individual. The main aim of the J. Plaat’s planned monograph is to present a historical study of the Orthodoxy and Orthodox churches in Estonia in the 18th-20th centuries and the more ethnological and sociological treatment of the topic in the beginning of the 21st century. The students of the Estonian Academy of Arts will also participate in fieldwork.

Another part of the project will focus on churches as buildings. We will try to map and investigate Orthodox churches (be they working churches or in ruins from Soviet times) from architectural, historical and geographical point of view. We want to document (using photo, video and mapping) all the Orthodox churches and chapels in Estonia, including those in Petserimaa across the border with Russia. One result of this work would be a scientifically commented photo album of Estonian Orthodox churches and tsässons, where we also use the photos from archives (author of texts J.Plaat, compiled by M.Raisma and J.Plaat, photos by professional photographers T.Noorits, A.Maasik, and L.Lepik, J.Plaat and others; maps by L.Lepik, Regio). Other planned publications include two monographs: R.Reinvelt, “My Narva and Yours. Own and Foreign in the Context of Social Change.” (doctoral thesis); J.Plaat, “Orthodox People and Orthodox Churches in Estonian Landscape in the 18- 20th C”; the collection of papers from two international conferences of the project in the series “Pro Ethnologia”; other articles by senior personnel and students involved in the project. Other goals of the project include two international conferences in Latvia and Estonia, exhibition in the Estonian National Museum „Orthodox Churches in Estonia in the 18- 21 Century“ (compilers and curators T.Noorits, A.Maasik, R.Reinvelt, M.Raisma, L.Lepik, J.Plaat), and anthropological film(s) about Estonian Orthodox people and Orthodox churches in the 21 c., which will be produced out of the audio-visual material filmed during fieldwork (authors J.Simm, J.Plaat). The creation of a webpage about Estonian Orthodox churches is also planned (M.Raisma, J.Plaat, Estonian Orthodox congregations, IT company), which is based on the photo material collected from archives and photos taken during fieldwork and scientific text material from participants in the project and other researchers of Estonian orthodoxy. In the framework of the field studies, one goal is to collect objects, photos, audio-visual and archive material for the Estonian National Museum and Estonian Academy of Arts.

Spatial Environment in Estonia as an Object of Art Historical Research 
Mart Kalm

The aim of this research is to analyse the spatial environment in the context of transformed methods of art history after the cultural turn, to focus on new interpretative possibilities of architecture and the built environment as well as to introduce the discipline with new fields of research and archives that have so far been considered unimporant. The spatiality of the environment includes in this particular case the physical space and spatial practices but also representations of spaces and spatial discourses: buildings in the context of their program and economic flows, landscapes in the context of politics and identities, art tied to its institutions and site specificity. Widening the concepts of art and architectural history from the narrow specialist fields engaging in style history, aesthetics and attribution onto the built spatial environment we will try, among other things, to look at processses that produce art and architecture. The latter include political discourses, social values, flows of money and labor, which run into the final object together with the intention of an author and the ideas circling in the institution of architecture. As most of the researchers focus on problems of Estonian architecture and the built environment after the II World War then one of the cruxes in the study becomes the method and possibilities of research of the Soviet period, its dialogue with the growing studies on postsocialism in the West and its adequate translation on both sides. The output of the project would be: research articles in refereed publications, common publications of the researchers, the formation of international research network and a corresponding conference, intergation into postgraduate studies.


MART KALM 2009-2014

Main executors of the research project: Jonathan Blackwood, Jaak Kangilaski, Katrin Kivimaa, Mari Laanemets, Ene Lamp, Andres Kurg, and Epp Lankots.

The main goal of the research project is to concisely research the dynamic of national consciousness raising in Estonia’s 20th-century visual and spatial
culture – how has it become institutionally legitimised and defined in art- and
architecture-related practices (shift in emphasis, appearance of alternative
narratives) and in systematised cognitive models, goal of which is to create
local representations (history writing) of the past? If Estonia’s developmental
models for art culture in the 20th century can be examined using a
national vs. European dialectic, what institutional forms did this dialectic
take in various periods?  What types of visuals and structures did the idea of a national culture favour? What are the new interpretations of art history that could be proposed, if we ignore the dominant framework of a national culture? 
What could the transnational geography of 20th-century art and architecture be like, if it considers the particularities of local development, but does not fall back into the confines of the universal history of form? 

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JAANUS PLAAT (ETF) 2007-2009

Main executors of the research project: Mariann Raisma, Riina Reinvelt, Marge Laast

The main goal of the work is to conduct an interdisciplinary examination of Orthodox believers and Orthodox churches in Estonia from the 18th century to
the present day. The research on Orthodoxy in Estonia during the second half of
the 20th century and the early 21st century is based primarily on ethnographic, and partly sociological, fieldwork and data analysis. The examination of the earlier history of Orthodoxy in Estonia is based primarily on archival materials and the investigation of other sources and literature. 

During the fieldwork, the following topics are being examined: the relationship between religion and identity; the relationship between Orthodox believers and the
representatives of other denominations; the relations between the two Orthodox
churches in Estonia and with the state; the fate of the Orthodox churches
during the Soviet period and in re-independent Estonia; the percentage and
numbers of Orthodox believers in Estonia today; and the attitude of
non-believers regarding the problems of Orthodox believers and others. During
the fieldwork, the objective is to collect both oral and written information
from the respondents (with the help of interviews and surveys) and also
archival information about the Orthodox churches in Soviet Estonia and today. The
interviews will also try to determine the impact of Orthodoxy on individuals.

J. Plaat’s planned monograph dealing with the recent past and present day is based primarily on ethnological and sociological sources. The approach to the history of Orthodoxy and the Orthodox Church between the 18th and 20th century focuses primarily on historical sources. In addition to the main executors of the projects, students from the Estonian Academy of Arts are also participating in the fieldwork. One of the most important sub-themes of this interdisciplinary grant project focuses on Orthodox churches as structures. We wish to

document all the Orthodox churches and chapels in Estonia (including Petserimaa) – be they churches that are active today or ones that have been in ruins since the

Soviet period — by photographing, filming and mapping them. 

Based on the various aspects of art history, architecture and religious history, one of the outputs of the documentation of the Orthodox churches and chapels will be a photo album, with scientific comments, which includes archival photos of
Orthodox churches starting from the 18th century (texts J. Plaat; editors
M. Raisma and J. Plaat; photos T. Noorits, A. Maasik, L. Lepik, M. Raisma, J. Plaat,
R. Reinvelt, and others; maps L. Lepik and AS Regio). 

The second publication is comprised of the following: two monographs (R. Reinvelt, Minu ja sinu Narva. Oma ja võõras sotsiaalse muutumise kontekstis (PhD thesis); and Jaanus Plaat, Õigeusklikud ja õigeusu kirikud Eestis 18.-21. sajandil.),
research articles by the main executors of the project and MA students from the
Academy of Arts related to the topic of the grant project; and a collection of
conference presentations issued as a special edition of the Estonian National
Museum’s series entitled Pro Ethnologia (R. Reinvelt, J. Plaat, M.
Raisma and others). 

There are also plans to organise two international conferences in Latvia and Estonia. And to design a website related to Estonian Orthodox churches (M.Raisma, J. Plaat, Estonian Orthodox congregations, and an IT company), which is based on the photographic materials that are either collected during the fieldwork or found in archives.
The website will also include scientific articles written by the project participants
and other researchers of Estonian Orthodoxy. Other plans include a cultural
anthropological film (or films) on Orthodox believers and Orthodox churches in
Estonia in the 21st century (authors and cameramen J. Simm, J. Plaat;
editing M. Selgmäe and J. Simm); and an exhibition called Orthodox Churches
in Estonia from the 18th to 21st Century
(compilers and curators R. Reinvelt, M. Raisma, L. Lepik, J. Plaat, T. Noorits, A. Maasik). 

In 2009, after the exhibition at the Estonian National Museum closes, there are plans to take it to other locations in Estonia and abroad. One of the most important goals of the fieldwork is to collect items, photos and audio-visual material for the
Estonian National Museum’s collection and also to supplement the National

Museum’s written archives with writings provided by the Museum’s correspondents or people discovered during the fieldwork. 

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Main researchers: Andres Kurg, Epp Lankots

The goal of this research project is to examine and analyse the spatial environment in the context of art history’s altered methods and cultural upheavals. It focuses on the new methods for interpreting the architectural and built-up environment, by employing materials, which in the context of art history, have been considered to be unimportant or not very valuable in the past. 

In the given situation, the spatiality of the environment includes all of the
following: the physical space as well as its practices as a representation and
discourse of the space; the indivisibility of the structures in connection with
their programme and economic context; landscapes in connection with politics
and identity; and art in connection with institutional and place-related
specifics. By expanding the concept of architectural history from the narrow
history of style, aesthetic categories and attributions to a spatially
constructed environment, the topic tries to focus, among other things, on
processes that art and architecture “do”. The latter includes political
discourses, social values, cash flows and labour issues; which flow into the
final object together with the author’s intentions and the ideas circulating in
architectural institutions.  

Since, in their work, most of the participants are focusing on the problems related to Estonia’s architecture and built-up environment in the second half of the 20th
century, the following key issues are to be considered: the research
methodology and opportunities for examining the Soviet era; a dialogue with the
rapidly increasing post-socialist research in the West; and the possibility for
adequate multidirectional “interpretation”. 
The output is articles in scientific publications, collections, creation
of an international network of researcher, the corresponding conference, and
integration with post-graduate studies.


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“History of Estonian Art” PROJECT

History of Estonian Art in 6 volumes

The project was initiated in 1999 and its purpose is to renew the approaches and narratives of estonian art. All together 6 volumes will be published, so far have come out 4:

History of Estonian art 2, 1520-1770 (Ed Krista Kodres). Estonian Academy of Arts, 2005.

History of Estonian art 5, 1900-1940. (Ed Mart Kalm).Estonian Academy of Arts, 2010.

History of Estonian art 6-I, 1940-1991 (Ed Jaak Kangilaski). Estonian Academy of Arts, 2013.

History of Estonian art 6-II (Ed Jaak Kangilaski). Estonian Academy of Arts, 2016.

2017-2019 will be published:

History of Estonian art 1, up to 16th century (Ed Kersti Markus)

History of Estonian art 3, 1770-1840 (Ed Juhan Maiste).

History of Estonian art 4, 1840-1900) (Ed Juta Keevallik).


Institute of Art History and Visual Culture (main editor and project manager prof Krista Kodres) in collaboration with the Department of History of the University of Tartu (Jaak Kangilaski, Juta Keevalllik, Kaur Alttoa), art history section of the Institute of History (Kersti Markus, Ants Hein, Anu Mänd), Art Museum of Estonia (Tiina Abel, Mai Levin, Eha Komissarov, Anne Lõugas, Kadi Polli), Museum of Estonian Architecture (Karin Hallas-Murula), Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia (Sirje Helme), Estonian Women’s Studies Centre (Eda Sepp), Tallinn Art Hall (Reet Varblane), chair of Art History at the Pedagogical College (Kaalu Kirme), Uppsala University (Jan von Bonsdorff), Kanut restoration workshop (Pia Ehasalu).

The project is funded by Cultural Endowment of Estonia.


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