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2009 | 42 | 55-75

Article title

THE LAMENT OF ONEGA-VEPS WOMAN ON THE GRAVE OF HER HUSBAND (Maaratledes ennast suulises esituses. Aanisvepsa naise itk oma mehe haual)

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While conducting fieldwork in Russian Karelia, the authors encountered in an abandoned forest village of Yashozero the last native inhabitant - an almost 80 years old Veps woman Maria. There, at noon on 11 July 2005, at the lake-side cemetery, Maria lamented to her husband. Her lament, rich in archaic words and concepts, is more a one-sided dialogue than a monologue. It is possible to point out three different features in the lament as a performance. (1) Lament is addressed to the person residing in the grave. At the same time the lamenter defines oneself as a person on the edge - her senses are extremely responsive to the perspective beyond the grave as well as (2) to personal life and the problems linked to it. These two perspectives alternate and sometimes almost rival in Maria's lament text. (3) The third perspective of a lament is the sense of surroundings derived from the real situation or, more accurately, from other people currently at the cemetery. In the lamenting situation it was possible to notice Maria's ability to switch from the poetic recitative of a lament to regular speech, from the other side and/or personal orientation to current reality.The text of the lament examined in the article is relatively unstable as the performance situation was occasional rather than closely following the ritual order. Primordial fear of the dead, psychological problems and possibly also a new personal inclination towards the deceased vary all the time and are expressed in the composition and poetic language of the lament text. But instead of the historical naturalistic, wild and desolate Karelia, Maria's lament narrates about a traditional society gnarled in the Soviet cataclysm of the 20th century. Instead of a typical Karelian family one sees an increasing commitment to the problems of a modern core family, which has been drawn apart by the renewed society that separates children from the parents both in life and death. There are the desires and doubts of a woman, touched by emancipation, which wait to be expressed in the lament use. Burial lament links the person, the world(s) and the mental culture in an existentially dramatic situation, where there is little left of what is art or entertainment.







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  • Madis Arukask, University of Tartu, Ulikooli 16, 51003 Tartu, Estonia


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