PEKKA HAKAMIES & ARVO
MATTI KUUSI AND THE PROJECT OF
On January 16, 1998 the course of
Matti Kuusi's industrious life, rich in accomplishments,
came to an end. In Finland, Kuusi was generally known as an
active social and cultural figure, an active publicist with
pointed pen, a man of letters having qualified and learned
opinion in various matters, a brilliant orator. Finnish and
Estonian folklorists respected him foremost for being a
paramount folklorist, researcher of old epic poetry and a
paremiologist, the man who applied the so-called typological
methodology that proceeded from the Finnish method, who
tried to outline the historical layers of epic tradition
based on style characteristics, who pointed out the
fundamental role of the Kalevala metre and form as the
unified code of Baltic-Finnic folklore, and so
The wider academic world knew Kuusi
mainly as a paremiologist, because Kalevalaic runo songs are
a specific Baltic-Finnic phenomenon about which the
outsiders have little knowledge or reflection. Even Kuusi's
theoretical research in paremiology have mostly been written
and published in Finnish, being therefore unfamiliar to the
international academia until the last jubilee publication of
selected articles in English (Kuusi 1994). And yet, even the
best translation could never render the original's
excellence in style. Kuusi is one of the greatest names in
the 20th century paremiology, where he will always remain a
classic. It will be guaranteed by fundamental publications
like Regen bei Sonnenschein (Kuusi 1957), an analysis
of a situational paraphrase of global dissemination and rich
belief background, and by his books discussing Ovambo minor
genres (Kuusi 1970b, 1974). But the most important are his
three major international projects in paremiology that will
be described in the following (see also Krikmann & Sarv
1. Matti Kuusi's three bridges to
the future of paremiology
1.1. The journal Proverbium
Proverbium, a journal of
proverb research edited by Matti Kuusi, was published during
the period 1965 till 1975. All in all twenty five issues
surmounting to 1008 pages were printed and later on
reprinted in a compact form as volumes 9/1 and 9/2 in
Wolfgang Mieder's Sprichwörterforschung series
(Mieder 1987a, 1987b). Kuusi himself recalled that the
original idea of publishing a proverb journal had been
initiated by Archer Taylor. The matter was discussed in 1959
in Kiel by Taylor, Julian Krzyzanowski,
Démétrios Loukatos, and Matti Kuusi, who
jointly came to the conclusion that Finland, situated
between the East and the West, appeared to be the best place
for publishing it. The idea was put to practice in the
spring of 1964 when the Finnish Literature Society (FLS) had
agreed to finance the publication. Taylor rendered a lot of
advice concerning technical and organizational details,
including the proposition to xerox the ready pages provided
by the authors, which made the whole process swifter and
cheaper, although at the expense of the design. The journal
could not be subscribed, it was distributed with no charge
to approximately 500 research institutions, libraries and
individuals (as rendered by W. Mieder). There was a global
range of authors and the amount of manuscripts submitted
grew faster than the financial capacities of FLS: the yearly
number of pages was 80 in the 1960s, 96 in the 1970s. Only
the issue no. 15, celebrating Archer Taylor's eightieth
birthday had exceptionally 136 pages. Neither the editor nor
his assistants received additional payment, although more
than often their work had to be done outside the office
hours. On the other hand, the editor was donated
paremiological literature in great quantities from all over
the world, now deposited at the ethnological library of FLS
(Kuusi 1987, XIX ff.). In the editorial board occurred
changes, but the name of the editor-in-chief, Matti Kuusi,
always remained in its alphabetical position among the rest
without any separate display. Proverbium published
articles practically in all paremiological themes possible,
and practically all those having anything to say about
proverbs in the 60s and 70s put in a word.
In 1980 Vilmos Voigt made an attempt
to continue issuing an international paremiology journal.
Its title was Proverbium Paratum, the years
1980--1982 saw three editions, and after several years
followed the fourth and last copy -- A.
Tóthné-Litovkina's study of Hungarian and
Russian proverb parallels. The second regeneration of Proverbium took place in the United States in 1984,
when Wolfgang Mieder started editing and publishing Proverbium. Yearbook of International Proverb
Scholarship. During the past thirteen years exactly
thirteen copies have been issued and the range of
contributors has grown both in numbers and in geographical
scope. Mieder's Proverbium has likewise suffered from
economical difficulties (especially during the end of the
80s, when the yearbook appeared in a considerably thinner
form), but his energy in continuing with Proverbium,
and Mieder's personal input together with his general
paremiological productivity are quite enviable. Mieder has
undeniably become a leading figure in international
paremiology during the final decades of our
Paremiologists obtained their
international E-forum in 1995: Teodor Flonta's journal De
Proverbio, published at the University of Tasmania, and
from now on the current authors enlist themselves among the
grateful users of that tribune. De Proverbio has
adopted a pleasant tradition of dedicating whole issues (at
the beginning as a special rubric The Masters) to prominent
paremiologists, and it appears to be quite symbolic that the
first in the series was dedicated to Wolfgang Mieder and the
latest, not yet completed seventh issue is dedicated to the
late Matti Kuusi (the third and fourth issues were devoted
to Archer Taylor, sixth to Grigori Permyakov,
1.2. The international type-index
The idea to compile an international
type-index and work out an international classification
system of proverbs evolved step-by-step, Kuusi put them into
practice together with social scientist Outi Lauhakangas
(his daughter). The latter has by now finished a survey
introducing their grand achievement, The
M6* international type-system of proverbs that will shortly be published in the FFC series. Mainly
during the 60s and 70s the pink card-index that Kuusi had
originally intended as a personal databank to support his
memory developed into an extensive data source of global
range. Outi Lauhakangas (in print, chapter 2) recalls that
up to the 70s Kuusi registered only proverb types with
Finnish parallels, but further on he documented everything
interesting from the international point of view. The
type-index globalized in accordance with the expansion of
Kuusi's interests and sources.
The full text of this
article is published in De
Proverbio - Issue 7:1998 & Issue
electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.
When Proverbia septentrionalia came out, Matti Kuusi was already 71 years old and he had
decided that the volume of Baltic-Finnic favourite proverbs
would be his swan song in that project. The lesser
collaborators held a naive opinion at the time (1985--1986)
that, despite of Kuusi's resignation, they would manage to
continue the work soon because the logic of the matter
demanded it, and sent several memoranda on the subject to
relevant institutions in both countries. It should have been
easy to continue the Baltic-Finnic edition also technically
as its general principles, the pattern of type article,
etc., had already been worked out and tested in the volume
of favourites. But apparently Kuusi's retirement
deprived the project of its previous radiance, there
occurred a change of priorities in Finnish folkloristics,
and also in the Estonian team the interest shifted towards
riddles by the second half of the 80s. Therefore, by the
change of decades the prospect of continuing the project had
decreased to being purely theoretical. The ex-participants
from Estonia were particularly sad about it, because the
preparatory work for Proverbia septentrionalia had
been especially extensive on the Estonian side, and a lot of
it had not been put into proper use yet -- for example, a
vast amount of confirmed parallels in Votic, Livonian and
Vepsian editions, the card-indexes of Estonian--Finnish and
Estonian--Russian proverb equivalents, and so on.
2.2. The second
In the autumn of 1993 consultations
concerning the continuing of the Baltic-Finnic edition were
fortunately revived. The preliminary dialogue was held by
the Finnish language professor of Helsinki University Pentti
Leino and Arvo Krikmann, who came to the conclusion that the
Estonian side stands a realistic perspective in taking up
the work, though one-sidedly for the time being, with the
follow-up volumes of Proverbia septentrionalia by
applying the preliminary work carried out so far. The Tartu
paremiology group (Arvo Krikmann, Ingrid Sarv, Rein Saukas
and Anne Hussar) commenced working, provided with
praiseworthy support from the Open Estonia Foundation in
1994 and 1995.
In May 1995 the perspectives to
continue Proverbia septentrionalia were discussed in
Tartu at the initiative of Pentti Leino and the undersigned.
The Finnish colleagues became convinced that the Estonians
were quite earnest and that the prognosis of the results
tended to look optimistic. It was agreed that it would not
be right to limit ourselves to merely publishing the common
Baltic-Finnic material, therefore the meeting decided to
draw a project Pohjois-Euroopan kansojen yhteisten
sananlaskujen vertaileva tutkimus (the comparative study
of the common proverbs of North European peoples), and
submit it to be financed by Suomen Kulttuurirahasto (Finnish
Cultural Foundation). On the Finnish side Pentti Leino, the
head of the folklore archive of FLS, Pekka Laaksonen and
Pekka Hakamies were elected to supervise the planning of the
project and to secure the scholarly standard of the work
carried out. On the Estonian side, Arvo Krikmann was elected
for the same purposes. It was agreed upon that Estonian
paremiologists would continue the preparatory work of the
follow-up volumes of Proverbia septentrionalia, and
give the results of their work (in fact, a draft manuscript)
as computer database to their Finnish colleagues for
During the years 1996 and 1997 Suomen
Kulttuurirahasto has provided praiseworthy scholarships in
support of the work carried out by the Estonian side of the
Baltic-Finnic proverb project. In the autumn of 1996 the
Finnish team of the project (Pekka Hakamies, Outi
Lauhakangas, Eija Hukka) was donated a scholarship from the
Finnish Academy of Sciences. Thus were restored all the
preconditions for continuing the Finnish--Estonian proverb
project with full devotion.
In 1997 the Estonian team completed
all the preliminary work in their capacity, and the Finnish
team set forth in full swing to get the follow-up volumes of Proverbia septentrionalia published. While preparing
the material in the current revival stage, a special
attention is directed to the geographical distribution of
the recordings of a proverb type, and also to the
correlation occurring between the wording pattern and the
geographical origin of texts (the so-called redaction
analysis). After the basic analysis of Baltic-Finnic
material is completed and the list of types included is
final, they will be provided with Scandinavian, German,
Baltic and Russian equivalents. An analytical table will be
drawn also for the follow-up volumes and it will follow the
model worked out by Kuusi for Proverbia
septentrionalia, presenting condensed data about the
syntactic and modal structure, poetics, metaphorics,
content, etc., of proverbs.
During 1997 we have constantly
exchanged information and discussed problematic cases via
E-mail, we have arranged two working meetings in Tartu and a
symposium in Helsinki with five contributions on the topic.
We expect the two follow-up volumes of the Baltic-Finnic
proverb edition to be printed in the year 2000. In that case
the common paremic heritage of the Baltic Finns will be
published in full. There is also a plan to issue a CD-ROM
version of the database of common Baltic-Finnic
The completed publication and
electronic database open perspectives of new quality in
Baltic-Finnic proverb research.
The work concerning Baltic-Finnic
proverbs has not been limited only to publications up to now
either. We should mention here, e.g., some studies where
proverbs are precisely treated as a Baltic-Finnic subject,
including the aspects of genesis, distribution and loan
relations, etc., and not simply as proverbs among proverbs.
Matti Kuusi (1978) made a significant attempt himself to
apply proverbs as evidential material in solving the
prolonged argument in Finnish folkloristics about the place
of origin of the Kalevala tradition. He found some evidence
supporting the hypothesis of the Finnish, not Karelian
origin of the Kalevala metre. Pekka Hakamies (1986) has
studied the influence of Russian proverbs on the Karelian
and Finnish proverb heritage. He has pointed out that
paremic identicals in different languages may be caused not
only by loans but by parallel genesis (generatio
aequivoca or generatio spontanea).
The full text of this
article is published in De
Proverbio - Issue 7:1998 & Issue
electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.
Consequently, the ultimate output of
the project are the two follow-up volumes of Proverbia
septentrionalia and a database on CD-ROM, plus an
edition of substantial articles and summaries on the
problems referred to above.
Both sides of the Gulf of Finland are
living in the IT era and computers make technical editing of
manuscripts comparatively easy, they enable operative
quantitative analyses, the search and comparison of the
geographical distribution of proverb types or other
phenomena, produce dissemination maps, analyse texts
according to stylistic, structural, content or other
To conclude, we would like to recall
that the Baltic-Finnic project was intended as the first
stage of the North European megaproject, and that Kuusi's
initiative has apparently stimulated paremiological
activities during the recent decades not only in Finland and
Estonia, but indirectly in Latvia and Lithuania too (see
Kokare 1967, 1980, 1988, and especially Grigas 1987). The
international layer in those works has been incorporated
into the global databank of Kuusi and Lauhakangas, but let's
hope that it will find its place also in the context of the
North European project. But this takes us too far into the
We deeply regret that we could not
manage to present our work in spe as a gift to our
great colleague and teacher while he was still among us.
Matti Kuusi has erected himself a monument aere
perennius during his lifetime. Perhaps our work may
serve as a few additional lines to its epitaph?
* Matti Kuusi's usual pseudonym
was M6 which is a play of words: Finnish kuusi = 'spruce' but also 'six'.
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