kolmapäev, november 21, 2007

Paradiis Viljandis

I do not recall the first time I heard about Mulgimaa. Perhaps it was through the food -- mulgikapsad (a kind of sauerkraut) or mulgipudru (mashed potatoes mixed with pork rinds). Or maybe it was just because outside of Tallinn and Tartu, my destination in Estonia is often Viljandimaa.

I am also not sure where I first heard the term "mulk", an inhabitant of part of Viljandimaa in southern Estonia, but I sensed immediately it had an ambiguous connotation.

A friend in Tallinn explained that back in the day (the 19th century), Viljandimaa was a wealthy county populated by thrifty farm owners who wore pointy black hats and sat on their front porch all the time displaying their wardrobe, stroking their pet cats, and sizing up the neighbor's property for acquisition.

Mulks, in a sense, were ruthless agrarian capitalists that imagined themselves as powerful. So being a "mulk" not only means a person is ambitious, but that they are perhaps too ambitious. How odd then that my publisher / author / journalist / mother-of-two wife happens to be from Mulgimaa. Together with other "mulks" like Mart Laar and Lembitu of Lehola, stubborn ambition seems to run in the blood of all who first saw the world from the hilltops of Viljandi.

But nowadays Mulgimaa is not where the big deals are made. The ruthless mulks have resettled in Tallinn and bought BMWs. The dinosaur bones of collective farms are strewn across the hills of Mulgimaa, and the county retains a "place that time forgot" ambiance . There are still wily farmers. But there are often wily alcoholics too. There are also regular Estonians who get up and go to work everyday.

I was shocked once driving through Abja-Paluoja to see so many houses. I couldn't believe that that many people lived in Abja. In Karksi too there is a veritable community. There are tree lined streets and school plays and holiday festivities. Of course Viljandi is the county center and between the local folk musicians and aspiring actors, it celebrates rural Estonian culture. So, yes, quite a few people live in Estonia outside of Tallinn and some of them live in Mulgimaa.

Recently President Toomas Hendrik Ilves -- who also has mulgi blood, if you can believe it -- erected border posts for the historic county of Mulgimaa. There has been something of a renaissance in mulgi cultural identity, reflected in traditional dress, folk culture, dialect.

I am not sure if any of these really means anything to tänapäeva mulgid. But personal experience has shown that the water down there in Mulgimaa is definitely a little different.

12 kommentaari:

liina ütles ...

I am 50% mulk :)

Rainer ütles ...

Nobody's perfect ;)
Take this one anyway you like...

Indrek ütles ...

Are you aware where the name derives from? Arguably from the markets of Riga during the good old Livonia. 'Mulk' denotes fool in Latvian...

But what where the Mulks doing there in Riga and its markets? Where did their riches come from? It is interesting as what I've learned there is a direct influence from the US civil war. Because of that war the world markets of cotton were shaken. And hence the price of linen soared. And as the mulks had been clever enough to invest and grow linen they obviously were very lucky. And this is why, for instance, the first Estonian students to Tartu University came usually from Mulgimaa (their parents could afford it).

There is one 'but' to it, though. Growing linen is not very sustainable business as it arguably ruins the land - 'sucks it dry', in search of better expressions for its impact to the fields they were grown on. I've heard that it still, hundred years later, impacts the quality of these fields up there.

PS. My forefathers came from Mulgimaa to Järvamaa at the end of 19th century - apparently even the younger sons of the family had enough money to buy their own farm there.

TSR ütles ...

I don’t know much about the cultures, but I do know that Estonian culture is a very musical one and they usually wait till the last moment to do things. I also know that they have come a long way since the Singing Revolution. I came across a website about the Singing Revolution, http://singingrevolution.com it’s an inspirational story about their courage and determination.

Painter of waves ütles ...

Once I attempted to hitchhike from Viljandi to Tartu. Nobody would pick me up. Many empty cars passed.

Hours of unsuccessful thumbing later, I found myself on the last bus to Tartu. Here, a mulk explained it to me: "Mulk autos, auto täis."

Blogaddict ütles ...

Mulgid on valged juudid. Endalgi pool suguvõsa mulgid. Uhke ja kangekaelne rahvas. Übereestlased.

Blogaddict ütles ...

Indrek,

Thank you for writing this. (You too G). These are the most interesting things about mulks that I did not know. The civil war-cotton-linen connection and the world markets that lifted mulks' fortunes. Veruy interesting. Globalizations early effects, eh? I'd like to learn more about it now. I'll tell this story to the rest of my family now. We have always used to look down at mulks in one way or the otehr or maybe it was just my mother's side of our family who were not mulks. (You know the deal). I just confirmed with my Latvian wife that 'Mulkis' stands for fool indeed. I wonder now what observation Latvians-livonians made to label them lkike that. Or is this just an innocent coincidence? It cracks me up thinking that mulks came home from Riga and proudly used the slur they heard locals using about them. Like they were high fiving each other and going with their own version of: "Whazzup nigga" - "Noh mulk, kuis läheb?"

Blogaddict ütles ...

uuh.... Sorry about the typoes. One too many merlot's.

John ütles ...

What is not as well known is that the mulks were actually originally an expansionst northern Estonian clan, though this should not be surprising given the personality traits described.

They were a trading people, with routes to the Muscovites to the east as well as the Letts and Livs -- and they did well, but the people whose territory they crossed very rarely benefited. Maybe the indigenous people didn't have the same chutzpah, weren't as opportunistic as the mulks, to charge tolls, etc.

I'm an elik -- the indigenous people whom the mulks crowded out in the 12th century. To me, a mulk is just like their Tallinn ilk among the real estate developers and industrialists.

Today no one remembers the eliks and their peaceful hemp-growing microfarms. It's all about the mulks -- the idea of putting pork and barley into sauerkraut, for example, and cooking it beyond recognition. Tasty some may find it, but adding lard and gummy stuff is also a good way of disguising a bad batch of sauerkraut, which is of course why mulgikapsad was invented.

stockholm slender ütles ...

So, I gather that this secondary meaning of "mulk" is not what a Finn would naturally think... Now that would be quite a cross to bear for any province!

Tiia ütles ...

Mis asi on elik ja kust selle kohta lugeda saab? Ja kuidas on võimalik, et Eesti maal 12ndast sajandist saati ongi säilinud üks eliku eksemplar?

plasma-jack ütles ...

Probably because some of the peaceful hemp-growing microfarms are very sustainable