Ilmar Talve, Emigré Ethnologist from Estonia


  • Marleen Metslaid researcher at the Estonian National Museum


Ilmar Talve, émigré ethnologist, Estonian ethnology, Finnish ethnology, Sigurd Erixon


The article focuses on Ilmar Talve (1919–2007) and his exile in Sweden, 1945–1959. The complex nature of an émigré position in a scholarly field is analysed from several angles. I explore how Talve adapted to the Swedish academic field while he was working at the Institute of Folklife Research, led by Sigurd Erixon. I am also interested in how his understanding of ethnology evolved in Esonia as a student of the WWII era and in Sweden after the war. Talve’s efforts to pursue and develop Estonian ethnology while in exile are then examined in more detail. On the one hand, it shows the influence of the contemporary national discourse on research. In some sense, it was an unrewarding dead end, but even as such, it describes the political and societal conditionality of pursuing science at the time. On the other hand, it raises the question of the influence of Erixon’s theoretical views on Talve, and therefore, on Finnish ethnology. Talve implemented his plans in Finland as a professor at the University of Turku. The article also explores the important role played by Finnish scholars for both exile ethnologists in Sweden and Estonian ethnographers in the Soviet Union, and it reflects on Talve’s place in this relationship.

Research Articles



How to Cite

Metslaid, M. (2023). Ilmar Talve, Emigré Ethnologist from Estonia. Ethnologia Fennica, 50(2), 103–132.