Noor-Tartu (Young-Tartu) was a non-institutional student movement in Tartu between 1979 and 1984 (from 1979-1981 it was called Kodulinn, or Hometown). It was formed mostly by history students who wanted to do something useful for their city, without being connected to any official institution. Arranging urban space, collecting antiquities and organising cultural events were the main activities of the movement. Various pieces of material (announcements, newspapers, overviews, photographs) about these activities have been preserved. Today, this material forms an unofficial private collection owned by the core group of the Noor-Tartu movement.
Tartu , Estonia undefined
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Provenance and cultural activities
The collection was created by the student movement Noor-Tartu (Young-Tartu) in Tartu between 1979 and 1984 (until 1981 it was called Kodulinn, or Hometown). Noor-Tartu was not officially registered, which means it had no legal status. The initiators of the movement wanted to do something useful, at the same time as being outside the system. Noor-Tartu was active in arranging the urban space, for example in the historically important Raadi cemetery. Their first work day there on 21 October 1979 can be considered the beginning of the movement. In addition, Noor-Tartu collected antiquities for Tartu City Museum, and also helped the Tartu State University’s History Museum. Besides these activities, more entertaining activities also took place, such as creative evenings. These practices were a kind of spiritual opposition, deliberately distancing themselves ‘from all the mess happening around’. The material in the collection gives a detailed overview of all this. The core of the movement was made up of Mart Laar, Lauri Vahtre, Heiki Valk, Mart Kalm and Tõnis Lukas. They are also the owners of the collection today.
As a non-institutional movement, Noor-Tartu was a unique phenomenon for its time, acting publicly, in contrast to underground dissidents. As such, Noor-Tartu was a problem for the authorities. Noor-Tartu activists also produced a few issues of the manuscript newspaper Urbs Paterna. It was reproduced manually, in small numbers, and not all issues have been preserved. These rare copies were passed from hand to hand. This way, Noor-Tartu also avoided censorship. Although the movement could act relatively freely at the beginning, they ran into obstacles created by the authorities after a couple of active years.
In February 1983, a Noor-Tartu work day took place under the slogan ‘Ära karda kedagi ega midagi!’ (Don't be afraid of anybody or anything!). As a result, the movement was forbidden to use the name Noor-Tartu any more. In the spring, scare tactics began among students to keep them away from the movement. It had an effect: work days had to be cancelled due to a lack of participants. The movement ended its activities soon afterwards.
The KGB kept a large file (or even many) about the movement. Some written material connected with Noor-Tartu is collected in this file such as a transcript of the opening meeting, and various photographs, and probably also some announcements and newspapers. The location of the file is unknown, since most of the documents of the Soviet Estonian KGB were taken away or destroyed in the early 1990s. However, this particular collection was never leaked to the KGB.
Although Noor-Tartu consciously collected papers, the current owner of the collection understood the importance of preserving documents with a potential historical value and kept material relating to the movement, mainly announcements of events, photographs, and newspaper cuttings. That is why the collection exists today.
Although the activity of Noor-Tartu has been described several times over the years, the collection has not received much public attention. However, material from the collection has been used in a few rare cases. For example, Lauri Vahtre used some in his writings, and in 2003, Indrek Riigor defended his BA thesis partly based on the collection's materials.
The owners of the collection intend to present it to a memory institution in Estonia, but they have not yet decided which one would be the most suitable. Until then, the owner of the collection does not encourage wider interest in the collection, and wants to remain anonymous.
In 2017, the first register was compiled about the contents of the collection.
Description of content
The collection contains material about the activities of the Noor-Tartu (Young-Tartu) movement, including announcements of events, a few issues of the newspaper produced by the movement, and preparatory material for them (a model of the newspaper written on a typewriter), overviews of activities, transcripts, photographs, and newspaper cuttings. In addition to documentary material and photographs, there is also a key to the cellar used by Noor-Tartu. The collection was formed mostly during the active years of the movement, although some material was added shortly after the movement closed (such as a retrospective overview of the last years of its activity). Altogether, the collection contains approximately 100 pieces of different materials, some of which have many identical copies.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 10-99
- memorabilia (posters, flyers, stamps, etc.): 10-99
- photos: 10-99
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 10-99
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
- Tark, Triin
Riigor, Indrek. 2003. "Tartu ülikooli üliõpilastest 1980. aastatel. Noortartlastest Muinsuskaitsepäevadeni." Bachelor's thesis, University of Tartu.
Vahtre, Lauri. 1988. "Nüri võitlus lohega." Vikerkaar 12:61-65.
Valk, Heiki , interview by Tammela, Mari-Leen , March 30, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection