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MATTI KUUSI AND THE PROJECT OF BALTIC-FINNIC PROVERBS


PEKKA HAKAMIES & ARVO KRIKMANN

MATTI KUUSI AND THE PROJECT OF BALTIC-FINNIC PROVERBS

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 on.

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 1996).

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 century.

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, etc.).

1.2. The international type-index of proverbs

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 8:1998, an 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 coming

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 augmentation.

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 proverbs.

2.3. Research

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 8:1998, an 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 features.

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 future.

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?

Note

* Matti Kuusi's usual pseudonym was M6 which is a play of words: Finnish kuusi = 'spruce' but also 'six'.

References

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Pekka Hakamies, Joensuu, Finland
Arvo Krikmann, Tartu, Estonia

 


 
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