History of the Department of Scandinavian Studies
The Department of Scandinavian Studies (Skandinavistika osakond) is an academic unit of the Institute of Germanic, Romance and Slavonic Philology, administratively belonging under the Faculty of Philosophy. The teaching of Scandinavian languages as a field of main specialisation was re-initiated at the University of Tartu in 1991, when a Swedish lectureship was established and the first students of Swedish philology were admitted. In 1992 a Norwegian lectureship was opened, soon followed by a Danish one. In 1994 the position of a guest professor of Swedish was established, funded by the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Now the department has professor of Scandinavian Studies since 2010.
The confirmed traditions of teaching the Swedish language at Tartu University in the modern meaning of the word, however, were first established in the beginning of the independence period of the young republic of Estonia, in 1927-1930 Nils-Herman Lindberg worked as a lecturer in Swedish at Tartu university. He was followed in the 1930s by Per Wieselgren who worked as a professor of Swedish here (1930-1941). In the 1950s the traditions of teaching Swedish were continued by the enthusiastic language professor Paul Ariste.
Juhan Tuldava continued teaching Swedish in the 1960s, offering 2-year intensive courses in Swedish, and gathering around him a group of enthusiasts from the graduates of these, who continued keeping their language alive and deepening their knowledge about the culture, in the form of Scandinavia-focused cultural seminars. Out of this group, a number of important cultural mediators: translators between the Nordic and Estonian languages, dictionary compilers, textbook writers, and university lecturers and teachers of the language grew out.
In the 1960s Swedish was taught as an evening course at Society Teadus.
Soon it was included in the subjects officially taught at Tartu University. Textbooks were given out (Mullamaa 1985, 1991). In 1979 the Swedish-Estonian dictionary was given out. In cooperation with the Swedish Institute in Sweden, films on Scandinavian culture and life were shown to students and interested disciples from the city.
In 1994 the position of a guest professor of Swedish was established, funded by the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Now the department has professor of Scandinavian Studies since 2010.
The Department of Scandinavian Studies provides instruction on the BA and MA levels, and the Institute on the PhD level as well. The first doctoral dissertation was defended in 2005, the second 2012, and one more is scheduled to be defended in 2014.
Since 2002, the department has been following the new 3+2 curriculum, where studies on a bachelor level take three years, and on a master's level two years. Courses are offered not only on the Swedish/Danish/Norwegian languages and literature, but also on a broad range of subjects dealing with the culture, history and different aspects of contemporary Scandinavian society. The current teaching and research staff includes one professor, four lecturers and two assistant lecturers.
During the past few years a number of international network projects have been initiated and successfully carried out at the department. The department has accounted for the arrangement of a series of international conferences, symposiums, seminars and courses - several among them resulting from fruitful cooperation with Nordic, Baltic and Russian universities. Since 1997 the department has been regularly issuing volumes dealing with Nordic-related topics in the framework of its own publication series, Nordistica Tartuensia. In 2004 the Swedish-Estonian dictionary comprising more than 100 000 lexical items was published as volume no. 10 of the series.
On-going academic projects include work with Old Norse Literature and Folklore, an Estonian-Swedish dictionary and a computerised parallel text corpus of Swedish and Estonian, as well as research into the history and culture of Estonia's Swedish-speaking minority. In addition, there are individual PhD projects being carried out within the fields of linguistics and cultural studies.
The department sees as its ambition and responsibility to further develop studies and research into the Scandinavian languages and culture in Estonia, while at the same time being actively involved concerning international and inter-disciplinary cooperation with foreign universities. These activities accord with the additional goal of building up a well-functioning academic research centre.