Open search
« Tuna 1 / 2017

How the Word küüditamine (meaning deportation) Found its Way into the Estonian Language

Küüditamine is a Swedish loanword derived from the Swedish word skjut, meaning conveyance, passage, that made its way into the Estonian language at the outset of the 17th century in connection with the staterun courier postal service established in Sweden. Skjut and compound words formed from it associated with conveyance were used quite a lot in the working language used in the postal service. For this reason, it was adopted by other peoples that lived under Swedish rule at that time into their own languages. It found its way into Estonian as the word küüt, from which the verbs küütima, küüditama and other dialectal equivalents were derived. Public conveyance, generally for purposes of the state, carried out as duties owed by the peasants performed in kind using one’s own means of conveyance, started being referred to as küüt. The duty to provide such conveyance existed in Estonian territory until the end of the 1940’s. The nominal form küüt was the most widely used form until the first half of the 20th century. The verb form küüditama began spreading in Estonian newspapers in the early 1930’s under the influence of Finnish by way of the raw translation of news reports connected with the Finnish so called Lapua movement because the d at the end of the root word in the Finnish word kyydityus denoting küüditamine does not change when it is conjugated or declined. The meaning of the forcible mass relocation of people was added to küüditamine as a result of the operation carried out by the Soviet Union on 14–16 June 1941, in the course of which nearly 10 000 arrested persons and their close relatives were forcibly taken to the Soviet Union. From that point onwards, küüditamine started being differentiated from küüt. The duty to provide conveyance (küüdikohustus) disappeared evidently at the end of the 1940’s in connection with the establishment of the collective farm system and from then on, there was no particular reason to use the word küüt anymore, although it is still used to this day to a small extent. The word küüditamine was in disfavour during the period of Soviet rule and its use was not particularly allowed because it would have drawn attention to the mass resettlement operations of 1941 and 1949. It was definitely used more in people’s private conversations. Post-war deportations, especially the deportation of 1949, and the ensuing rumours, correspondence with persons sent to Siberia, the release of peole from exile during the era of de-Stalinisation, and the annulment, and attempts at annulment, of decisions banishing people into exile provided reasons for the continued use of the word. Küüditamine returned to public use in Estonia in 1987 in connection with reforms that had begun in the Soviet Union, and nowadays küüditamine is understood to mean the forcible relocation of a large group of people with the attributes of a crime against humanity.