Friday, 26 October 2012

History of Estonian Literature

In 1525 the first book published in the Estonian language was printed.  The book was a Lutheran manuscript, which never reached the reader and was destroyed immediately after publication. The first extant Estonian book is the Wanradt-Koell catechism from the year 1535.

The birth of native Estonian literature was in 1810 to 1820 when the patriotic and philosophical poems by Kristjan Jaak Peterson were published.  From 1525 to 1917 14 503 titles were published in Estonia, as opposed to the 23 868 titles which were published 1918 and 1940.

During the period 1940 to 1941 as many as 99 publishing houses were nationalised. Censorship was common and most of the literature published during the period of independence was banned in an attempt to limit the influence of Estonian culture. In 1941, Germany invaded Estonia and the process just described was repeated, this time with a fascist instead of a communist perspective.

After the war Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union.  The annexation brought with it strict censorship and the destruction of books, which continued until 1949.  The publishing houses, which had been established as nationalised companies in 1940-1941, were united into the monolithic Estonian State Publishing House.  In 1964 the Estonian State Publishing House was divided into two organisations but nevertheless censorship remained tight.

By the end of the 1980s, ideological control had been significantly reduced.  Censorship and the centralised management of publishing houses were abolished.  Market economy conditions started to operate and state funding was given only to publications regarded as most important.  During the beginning of the 1990s already some 750 publishing houses, organisations and associations were involved in one way or the other with the producing of books, newspapers and magazines in Estonia.

Since the restoration of independence, the Estonian publishing sector has become completely privatised. Today, there are no state owned publishing houses except for Perioodika, which is a limited company with the state as the major shareholder.

Throughout the privatisation process, the number of publishers has increased enormously. In 2001, the number of publishers with an ISBN prefix registered at the National Estonian ISBN Agency was 351.  The total amount of companies, institutions and organisations involved in publishing activities in Estonian is hard to define. The National Library database records some 600 companies involved with publishing according to the works received as legal deposit.  About 50 publishers are serious enough to have their books displayed in nearly all retail outlets.  Most of these publishers produce works in all kinds of subjects. Publishers specialised in certain areas are rare - there is one Jewish and one Russian publishing house. Some printing companies are acting as publishers from time to time as well, serving mostly their local community.

In 1992 the law on copyright was adopted in Estonia and in 1994 Estonia joined the Bern Convention.

Article source: