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Noor-Eesti rollist eesti kirjandus- ja kultuuriloos. The Role of Young Estonia in Estonian Literary and Cultural History

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From the beginning of the 20th century on, the activities of the Young Estonia literary movement have had a significant influence on the development of Estonian culture. The group published five Young Estonia albums (1905–1915), the magazine Young Estonia, devoted to science, literature, and the arts (1910– 1911), and the newspaper Vaba S na (1914–1916, Free Word). The core of the group was composed of five or six active writers who maintained lively interactions with art and theatre circles. The publications of the Young Estonia Press brought about a revolutionary turn in the design and printing styles of the Estonian-language book. The questions of Young Estonia’s role and meaning have intrigued the Estonian cultural public at different times and in different ways. Young Estonia brought to cultural consciousness liberal views on the interpretation of art as well as an elitist aesthetics. At different times their openness to Europe irritated both the nationalist-minded and internationalists; thus the reception of the Young Estonia movement has been polemical throughout Estonian cultural history. Elapsed time has both opened the way for broader generalizations and, conversely, created a need to reconstruct the cultural context of the beginning of the 20th century. Polemic around Young Estonia was certainly caused by the group as a whole; however, in this article the role of individual members is also highlighted. It is emphasized that the political and aesthetic ideas of the Young Estonians changed synchronously with social conditions, from the 1905 Russian revolution to the world war that ravaged Europe. If the early part of this period saw a more social and nationalist bent to their thinking, then in the years of reaction, positions were taken that were more in keeping with l’art pour l’art. Young Estonia was not a hierarchical organization; rather, its small core group was composed of a narrow circle of friends with various political and aesthetic views: linguist Johannes Aavik, poets Villem Grünthal and Gustav Suits, prose writer and critic Friedebert Tuglas, and critic and translator Bernhard Linde; Finnish-Estonian writer Aino Kallas also belonged to the inner circle. As shown by private correspondences, personal relationships played a major role in the group’s activities; statements on behalf of the group as a whole were only made in the context of parrying the attacks of conservative critics. The main force unifying the members of the Young Estonia group was dissatisfaction with the state of Estonian language, literature, and mentality at the beg

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