Sirje Kiin Private Archive
The Sirje Kiin private archive was formed as the result of the professional and creative activities of the journalist, literary scholar and critic Sirje Kiin (b. 1949). It includes material from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. Its most valuable parts are the very extensive correspondence with many cultural figures of the day, and diaries in which, among other things, the cultural and political climate of the 'hot' autumn of 1980 is described. Starting with protests by youth against the russification policies, and the suppression of these protests by the security forces, it led to the writing of a famous letter by 40 intellectuals, an open letter from Soviet Estonian cultural figures protesting against the increasing russification.
Tartu Vanemuise 42, Estonia 51003
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Name of collection
- Sirje Kiin Private Archive
Provenance and cultural activities
The Sirje Kiin private archive was formed as a result of the professional and creative activities of the journalist, literary scholar and critic Sirje Kiin (b. 1949). The beginning of the collection can be traced back to the early 1960s, when she started her first creative works and systematic entries in diaries. The last addition to the collection so far is her correspondence dating from the 2000s. Kiin began to assemble the collection as a whole from different storage places in 2003.
In 2009, she gave her archive as a pending closed collection to the Estonian Literary Museum. As the collection has been neither officially registered nor organised, it is not yet accessible to the public. Part of the collection, such as photographs and diaries, is still in Sirje Kiin's possession. The private archive can be accessed with the special permission of its creator Sirje Kiin.
The main theme of the whole collection is cultural opposition.
When working on the editorial board of the cultural newspaper Sirp ja Vasar (Hammer and Sickle) in the 1970s, and being creatively active herself, writing and publishing poetry and literary criticism, Kiin interacted with many cultural figures of the time, such as the lawyer and supporter of exile Estonian dissidents Juhan Talve, the writers Juhani and Anja Salokannel, the literary scholar Pekka Pesonen and the editor Paula Pesonen, the writers Kaarina Helakisa and Tommy Tabermann, and others in Finland. From the 1970s, Kiin corresponded with members of the Estonian Diaspora, as well as many Estonian and foreign cultural figures. For example, among other things, her correspondence with Polish sociology students can be found in the collection.
From the years 1978 to 1982, while working for the magazine Keel ja Kirjandus (Language and Literature), Kiin's documents, mainly made up of correspondence and manuscripts, show the background conditions for cultural life at that time. Kiin also contributed to handwritten samizdat magazines, and participated in the compilation of semi-underground publications, such as the almanac Hees.
In 1980, national-political pressure intensified in the Soviet Union, and in October, Estonian cultural figures attempted to enter into a public political dialogue with the Estonian Communist Party, writing an open letter expressing their concerns about increasing russification in several areas. The letter was addressed to the all-union newspaper Pravda, and the Soviet Estonian newspapers Rahva Hääl (The Voice of the People) and Sovetskaja Estonija. None of them published the letter. Instead, it quickly spread in samizdat form, in the Soviet Union and abroad, both in Estonian and in English. The letter was made public by Radio Liberty and the Voice of America. Called ‘An open letter from the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic’, it became known by the number of signatories, as ‘the letter of the 40 intellectuals’. The signatories were protesting mainly against the increase of areas of use of the Russian language, which was part of the policy of russification. Sirje Kiin's then husband Rein Ruutsoo was one of the signatories. Kiin herself participated in writing the letter, and was the main collector of signatures. She has described the immediate mood and context in which the letter was written in her diary for the autumn of 1980. Out of fear that her home might be searched by the KGB, she hid her diary at her parents' house in the town of Viljandi.
Description of content
Almost half the private archive of Sirje Kiin is made up of correspondence with several dozen people, mainly students, and people from literary and cultural circles in Estonia, socialist countries, and abroad, from the early 1970s to the 2000s, and Estonians in exile. In addition, it contains manuscripts of books and articles, reviews and literary criticism, cuttings from newspapers, poems, copies of the clandestine almanacs Marm and Hees, as well as cassettes and floppy disks.
As a member of the External Affairs Committee of the Congress of Estonia, Kiin was involved in the activities of the Congress in 1990, and some documents and correspondence from that time is also represented in the collection. The same applies to some material relating to the political party Isamaaliit (the Pro Patria Union), of which she was a founder and long-time member.
The part of Kiin's collection which is in the Estonian Literary Museum has not yet been catalogued. Some of the collection, such as photographs, diaries and calendar notebooks, is still held by Sirje Kiin herself, and is in the USA.
- equipment (typewriters, duplicating devices, audio-video equipments, etc.): 10-99
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 100-499
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- photos: unknown quantity
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- all closed to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Tammela, Mari-Leen
Kiin, Sirje, interview by Tammela, Mari-Leen , Rahi-Tamm, Aigi , May 25, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection