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« Tuna 2 / 2019

“I love our Love“. The Letters of Marie Tamman and Peeter Reisik from 1908

This article examines the correspondence between Marie Tamman (1887–1941) and Peeter Reisik (1884–1941) in 1908. Marie Tamman (Reisik) was a teacher, one of the leading figures of the Estonian women’s movement, and a politician. Peeter Reisik was a lawyer. They were married since 1911. Their voluminous correspondence from the years 1906–1922 is preserved in the Estonian Cultural History Archive at the Estonian Literary Museum. These are love letters that they wrote to each other at times when they were apart for longer or shorter periods of time. Marie went to study in Paris for a few months in 1908, and Peeter went to work in Minsk for almost a year in 1916. They wrote a total of nearly eight hundred letters to one another. Alongside love, these letters also discuss other topics, such as Marie Tamman’s life and studies in Paris, Peeter Reisik’s work as a lawyer, local cultural life, and other such topics.

Their correspondence from 1908 began at the start of January with letters sent from Estonia where they discuss their relationship and feelings. Marie Reisik travelled to Paris in April to improve her knowledge of French and stayed there until the start of August. Marie wrote at length about her travel route and her life in Paris. Peeter wrote about his studies in law at the University of Tartu. Yet first and foremost, the letters from both Marie and Peeter reflect profound yearning for one another and contain passionate declarations of love.

The voices of people who lived sometime long ago reach us through this correspondence. The love letters of the Reisiks as personal and private texts shape our idea of lives and emotions of the past.