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History in Pictures — the Picture in History

This article introduces the exhibition currently open at the Kumu Museum of Art entitled History in Pictures — the Picture in History curated by Linda Kaljundi and Tiina-Mall Kreem, and the accompanying book that sums up five years of research on the picture of history in Estonia from the 16th to the 21st century.

Pictures are used to demonstrate how folk mythology has on the one hand been a kind of history substitute for Estonians, yet on the other hand how in depicting folk heroes, Estonians have depended on Baltic Germans, from whom they have actually wanted to differentiate themselves culturally and politically. At the same time, the role of pictures and non-Estonians is pointed out in the development of the Estonian War of Independence into a national site of memory intertwined with the struggle for freedom fought by Estonians in ancient times. With reference to the coup d’etat that was staged in June of 1940, the reliance of historical paintings on historical photographs is examined, along with the capacity of historical paintings to thereby amplify the meaning of events.