Text creation and linguistic material in the academic writings of ethnologist Aliise Moora


Keywords: ethnographic texts, ethnology, female researchers, ethnic history, food culture

The article is focused on the research career of ethnologist Aliise Moora (1900–1996) in a changing society. The material is drawn from Moora’s research papers and the archival collections of the Estonian National Museum (including the materials personally collected by Moora), her work reports and correspondence, but also on various documents reflecting the activities of the museum. A closer look is given to her complicated adaptation to Stalinist cultural policy in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The authors analyse Moora’s way of text creation as well as how she worked with various (ethnographic) sources and how she used linguistic material in her studies of food culture. Her two most influential studies Peipsimaa etnilisest ajaloost (On the ethnic history of Peipsimaa, 1964) and Eesti talurahva vanem toit (Historical food of the Estonian peasantry, 1980, 1991) are discussed in more detail.

After World War II Aliise Moora worked as research secretary of the Estonian National Museum, essentially performing the duties and bearing the responsibilities of its manager. In the late 1940s, due to Stalinist cultural policy, she fell out of favour, being demoted from the leading position of research secretary to a junior researcher. The condition for staying at the museum was intensive political further education. Nevertheless, Moora maintained an influential and authoritative position in Estonian cultural studies for the rest of her life. In her studies Moora used not only her self-collected comprehensive fieldwork materials, but also different types of other sources, including linguistic materials. Despite the methodological and thematic deficiencies of Soviet ethnographic research, Aliise Moora’s results on ethnic history and food culture are in no way inferior to those of her contemporary anthropologists, ethnologists and folklorists in the West.


Anu Kannike  (b. 1967), PhD, Estonian National Museum, Senior Researcher (Muuseumi tee 2, 60532 Tartu), anu.kannike@erm.ee

Ester Bardone (b. 1975), PhD, University of Tartu, Lecturer in Ethnology (Ülikooli 16, 51003 Tartu), ester.bardone@ut.ee

Marleen Metslaid (b. 1982), PhD, Estonian National Museum, Researcher (Muuseumi tee 2, 60532 Tartu), marleen.metslaid@erm.ee

Pille Runnel (b. 1974), PhD, Estonian National Museum, Research Director (Muuseumi tee 2, 60532 Tartu), pille.runnel@erm.ee