Dr. Tiina Peil
Department of Human Geography
The paper presents an outsider’s view on the historical evolution of landscape and community on Osmussaar. Local community was uprooted from its setting more than fifty years ago, but it is argued that previous to the Second World War the physical environment and the people constituted a specific unity which constituent parts are examined. The final section gives voice to the islanders for interpreting the culturally and historically specific character of the island. This may offer a way to express the continuity of past and present in otherwise totally changed environment.
Key words: settlement history, island community, locality
Earlier research on the Estonian smaller islands has mainly been concerned with the natural environment and undertaken by botanists, ornithologists and physical geographers. Social aspects - from populations to politics, from health hazards to aesthetic experiences - have rarely been studied in the post-war years. Islands do, however, offer a good possibility for studying societal processes, not least thanks to their small size and ‘natural’ borders. Islands are also interesting because they represent a peripheral area, outside direct influence of central powers, but still, due to their geographical situation by the sea-ways, open to the influx of ideas and cultural impulses from a wide area. The present paper aims at analysing the construction of island community and the role that the physical environment has in it. Community is here seen as both a physical setting for social relations (place) and a morally valued way of life as Calhoun (1980) has used the term, examined here by applying the agenda set by Cohen in his studies of Whalsay, Shetland (1987) and of community in general (1989).
Estonian Swedish community on Osmussaar goes back to the fourteenth century, but
sparse source material allows a detailed examination from the eighteenth
century onwards. A break in the historical development occurred in the 1940s
when the people were evacuated from their home island and they gradually left
2. The setting: the
Island landscapes are basically formed by prevailing physical conditions that influence the actions of human beings. The obvious limits set by the small area and low altitude of the islands, as well as its distance from the mainland have to be taken into account. The sea and the needs of seafaring had a considerable importance in island life. The dual livelihood of the fisherman-farmer was the main factor in forming its environment. Still, the state interests were expressed in the island landscape in the form of lighthouses, pilot and border guard stations, and in island life offering other livelihoods for the islanders beside these gained from agriculture and fishing.
Photo 1. The lighthouse (Måjaken) on Osmussaar (ERM: Gustav Vilbaste, 1933).
Little is known of the early influences of seafaring on Osmussaar. It is supposed that the earliest settlers were pilots (Johansen 1951; also the popular belief of the islanders) and piloting as well as shipwrecks remained an important source of subsistence for the local people throughout the settlement period. The first lighthouse (gal-måjaken) was built on Osmussaar in 1765 on the northern coast. The danger of it falling into the sea became real in the mid-nineteenth century, for instance Eichwald (1840; cited in Pôlma) describes a stone building situated only two fathoms (4.2 metres) away from the shoreline. A new lighthouse (Photo 1) was built in 1850 and it remained in use until 1941 when the evacuating Soviet garrison demolished most of the buildings on the island totally destroying the lighthouse settlement.
The coastline of Osmussaar is generally unbroken except in the south where the most suitable places for establishing harbours could be found, although the island is surrounded by numerous cliffs and underwater ridges making landing complicated. Furthermore, seashore regression by the rate of three millimetres per year (Zhelnin 1958; Vallner et al. 1988) has caused constant growth of the island in the south eastern direction and has constantly altered the coastline (Figure 1).
For symbols see Figure 2.
Figure 1. Changes in island configuration, based on various maps and charts (ERA: f.2042 n.1 s.c1309s; s.c620s and s.c18s; Estonian Map Centre).
Two peninsulas in the south-east formed the main harbour place (Storhamne). The older harbour (Minsia) on the opposite coast was abandoned in 1902. An earlier landing was situated north of Skånvike and the primary harbour of the sixteenth century was believed to have been close to the chapel indicated by the survival of the name of Hamndaln (harbour valley). The building of a chapel on the island had been initiated by the seafarers in the sixteenth century (Ederma and Jaik 1939: 135). The stone chapel (Jesu Kapell; Kapple) was consecrated in 1766. The figurehead (galjon) Martin Luther of a British ship that sank near the island in 1852 was placed on the church-yard gate becoming the most well-known island feature (Photo 2).
Photo 2. The Jesu Kapell on Osmussaar with the galjon Martin Luther on the gate
(private collection: photographer unknown, 1937).
The different coasts had a special role in the yearly fishing schedule. The main fishing harbour and net-drying yard - Pålande - was situated closest to the village on the southern coast (Sånna sia). The north-eastern (Norda sia) coast was higher with steep limestone cliff with only one harbour (Askom) established in 1917 (Photo 3). Generally, the boats were dragged to land, but the emergence of bigger ships on the island resulted in construction of jetties: the first was built in 1918 on Boan; the second one by the lighthouse in the 1930s. Both quays have been destroyed by ice and storms.
Photo 3. Askom with cod fishing boats dragged to land (private coll.: Sven Rabe, 1926).
Figure 2. The
Osmussaar (Figure 2) being of low altitude above sea level (up to seven metres at present) and consisting of poor limestone bedrock with only a thin soil layer (Öpik 1927) has been rather uniform in its general appearance. Abundant coastal ridges (backan) are separated from each other by depression areas (dappen, daln). The central ridge Storbackan stretches over the whole island, but it had different names in different parts after the landmarks in its vicinity. Small lakes and marshlands (kärre) had formed in the lower parts, ditches (dike, ränna) were dug in some cases to lead the excess water away and expand the meadow. Only one of the lakes (Lihlhamne) had fresh water appreciated since the island wells tended to dry out during the summers.
The main part of the island was covered by a sparsely vegetated meadow, which, nevertheless, was rich in plant species (Eklund 1936) used primarily as grazing land. This was divided into two segments: the eastern (Estorvaln) and the western (Västorvaln) grazing area used alternately. No mention of woodland can be found in the recorded island history. A grove of deciduous trees (Låmboskoen) grew in the meadow north-west of the village, another (Galsveskoen) south-east of it. Generally big trees, mainly ashes, were so rare that each had its own name, for example Adam och Eva in the southern part of the island, as well as all of the trees in the village area. The trees were important landmarks used for orientation at sea while fishing.
Island arable was composed of three main plots - Tomgjarda, Spitargjarda, Dirgjarda - surrounding the village in all directions but the south. The fourth field was situated by the schoolhouse west of the village (Dicksbackssve) and the fifth on the eastern coast (Svearna). Hagar supposed that the fields and the village area were surveyed at the end of the seventeenth century without any later changes. A re-allotment of plots was certainly complicated, since the quality of land varied so much that an equal division into compact fields was considered impossible by the islanders. Consequently, all the farms had narrow parcels in all of the fields, which were marked with stones (mila-stainar) and sticks (pålar) bearing the family sign. The subdivision of farms caused no physical re-allocation, the existing parcels simply changed owners, and thus every fourteenth instead of the seventh strip in every field was now farmed by one family. The exception was the Brus’ farm which was divided between three brothers, and the Nibondas’ and Marks’ farms which remained in their original size. Only a small part of each enclosure was cultivated, the actual fields were surrounded by hay-meadow, which was divided between the farms in a similar way. These strips could be so narrow that it was possible to cut the grass with a single stroke. Mowing on the neighbour’s strip resulted in the most bitter disputes in island life. Generally all suitable land had been taken under cultivation by the mid-nineteenth century. A few attempts were made to break new land for growing potatoes in the last fifty years of continuous settlement. For instance, in 1905 part of the land on the southern tip of the island was claimed, but the potato did not succeed (Stenkrös and Minse tufolgårdn); other such plots were Gullsmen south of the chapel and Nurbana close to the lighthouse.
Photo 4. The village seen from the south. The windmills had been part of the island landscape for over two hundred years. According to the island tradition there were always two windmills: fjurmans-kåine maintained by the Brus’, Stavas’, Niggors’ and Erkas’ farms closer to the camera and trimans-kåine of the Marks’, Nibondas’ and Greis’ farms facing the village. On the right, the cottages of Viktor and Janne Brus; the buildings of the Niggors’ Nilae had not yet been constructed (ERM: Gustav Vilbaste, 1933).
The village Bien (Photo 4) was situated in the central part of the island, a little closer to the north-eastern tip. The houses were situated around the main road (Hammonsvägen) following the primary ridge from the harbour in south-west and continuing up to the lighthouse (Måjaksvägen) on the north western tip of the island. The road forked east of the village, merging again on the western side closing in three of the farms; further three farms were situated south-west of the southern disjunction, Västor gatna, and the seventh farm was situated north of the second road, Norda gatna or Stavas gatna.
Figure 3. The plan of the village on Osmussaar in the 1930s, based on the island map (EAA: f.3724 n.4 s.695) and plans drawn by Ingvald Dyrberg after information from the islanders.
Photo 5. The Brus’ farm as seen from the Nibondas’ ladder (SOFI: Sven Rabe, 1926).
All of the island farms had similar construction illustrated by the Brus’ farm (Figure 4 and Photo 5). The dwelling (stu-rae) represented the long-house type, although the threshing barn (ri-rae), the byre (boskas-rae), pigsty (svin-huse) and stable (oge-stalle) were located in separate buildings, they were all built on the same line. The number of sheds (mäl-huse, fisk-huse) doubled with the subdivision of the farm, but the sauna (basta) and the smithy (smia) as well as the threshing barn were shared. Summerhouses (spikan; nea-huse), where the family spent the warmer six months, were common in the Estonian Swedish settlements. In principle, each grown family member had a room. Separate curing houses (räck-keka) were built when chimneys were constructed in the mid-nineteenth century. Another interesting building detail that all of the farms had were the looking posts that consisted of a simple ladder (stor-stea) by one of the gables. The arrangement was introduced when the islanders had the pilot duty to observe the passing ships, but the ladder was later used to trace seals around the island.
Figure 4. Brus farm in the 1930s, based on the map of 1911 (EAA: f.3724 n.4 s.695), on a farm plans drawn by Ingvald Dyrberg after information gained from Ella Lindberg (Brus) in 1988 and by Elmar Lepp (ERM: EJ139: 7) in 1940. A sketch and descriptions by Julius Brus (SOFI: 17774, 25667) were used for the spelling of the Estonian Swedish names of the buildings.
farm-yards were surrounded by stone walls and had similar allotments. The byre,
stable and pigsty were located around a separate yard Näggådn that opened directly to the village road. The segment north
of the dwelling was called Nordagådn and
the southern part Sånnagådn. Other
allotments were often called Rigådn
and Lihlgådn and used as hay meadows.
3. The players
time for the colonisation of the island is unknown, but a settler on the island
is mentioned in the fifteenth century (Johansen 1951: 248). Only little is
known of their origin: based on the analysis of place names Lagman (1955, 1964)
assumes that the settlers came from Gotland and
The number of farms in early documents varies considerably, the island population having suffered from several onslaughts of epidemics; for instance in the early seventeenth century only two farms had been inhabited. The plague epidemic of 1710 was severe that according to the popular stories only a few people had survived. The story of severe loss of human life on the island is supported by the Noarootsi (Nuckö) parish register that records over sixty deaths on the island in November and December of 1710. Re-colonisation occurred immediately and several marriages and children born on the island are recorded in the following years. In 1726 already five households are registered living on the island (Kähr and Naaber 1990: 133-4).
The first island born children had their god-parents mostly from Spitham, Rooslepa and Tuksi indicating that the settlers had a strong connection with these areas. The re-colonisation pattern is, however, vague and it is impossible to conclude on the principles by which the empty farms became inhabited, or on the reasons why some of the farms were abandoned while others were moved.
population may be surveyed almost completely from the eighteenth century up to
1943/4, when the islanders left for
Figure 5. Kinship among the island families, based on the parish records (EAA: f.3169 n.1 s.1-4; 23-29); census data (f.1864 n.2 s.VII-156; s.IX-168; s.X-343), municipality records (ERA: f.2382 n.1 s.12, s.118), and on ethnographic material (NM: E.U.43130 and SOFI: 21649) organised with the help of the kinship research programme Holger6.
The families were big: the traditional storfamilj (extended family) existed up to the evacuation with several generations each represented by several siblings living under the same roof. Traditionally, the oldest son inherited the right (besittningsrätt) to decide over the farm maintenance becoming bon. The brothers and sisters as well as other relatives living on the farm (bakom folke) got food and clothes for working, but had no say in the maintenance decisions. In cases when the oldest son was childless or had some handicap, the farm was maintained by a younger brother and in a few cases by an in-marrying husband. This was the reason why the family names no longer were identical with the farm names in the 1930s. Alfred Brus was the head of the family at Nibondas taking over after Gustav Krusman who was the first in-marrying husband in 1891, and Sven Marks at Greis’ Galae. More complicated manoeuvres for granting the farm survival was ventured when no obvious male heir could be found in the immediate family circle. One recorded example occurred on the Niggors’ farm which went to the Westerblom family in the 1830s. Hinrik Westerblom was a brother of Mari Niggors and he had worked as a farm hand on the island. He married an island girl (Eva Greis) and was thus found to be a suitable heir when the couple remained childless. The everyday names kept up the old tradition of calling the master after the farm, for instance Sven Marks was called Grais Sven on the island. The opposite, calling the farm after the farmer could occur in official documents where the Nibondas’ farm is occasionally called Brus’ and the Niggors’ farm Westerblom’s.
Large island families were often solvent concerning work force, although hiring help over summer was common, especially on Erkas’, Nibondas’ and Stavas’ farms. The maids and farm hands came from the Swedish villages on the Estonian mainland and were often distant relations of the islanders. Many married on the island guaranteeing close relations with the mainland and a supply of relatives to help out on the island farms. The whole island population thus belonged to the seven principal families.
Historically, the exception was the lighthouse crew that consisted of foreigners not only in a sense that the men were from outside the island, but also literally they belonged to other ethnic groups being Russians, Germans, or Estonians. At least five men were occupied at the lighthouse at all times. The crew had been larger in the eighteenth century, but had consisted of unmarried men. The settlement became more permanent when their families followed the men to the island. Hence the lighthouse supported a colony of fifteen to twenty people. Local men were appointed as help (måjaksbrännare) in the nineteenth century, but were increasingly replaced by qualified workers. This provided a full-time profession to local men. The lighthouse settlement was thus integrated into the island community, especially after the school was re-opened on a regular basis after the First World War.
The school was first founded in 1883, but worked only for ten years then; a second attempt was made in 1910, but due to the state of the school building and the oncoming war it was soon closed again. The first two school teachers both got a place named after them: Johan Nymann, the first sexton and teacher used a plot for pasture at Svearna which was called Nymanns vall after him; the second one, Johannes Dahl found a new cod fishing spot which wherefore got called Dahls gate (hollow) (Aman 1992). Johannes Dans worked on the island the longest and was replaced by Thomas Gärdström in 1936. He did not like life on the island and disappeared for long periods to the mainland or drinking heavily so that he was unable to teach. His descriptions of the island life in the 1930s are marginally different from those of the islanders, although he has completed a valuable task in recording the personal histories and folk traditions.
population on Osmussaar continued exceptionally for the Estonian islands to
increase well into the 1930s. The highest recorded population number (119)
appears in the census of 1934 (Tammekann 1961). Emigration exceeded natural
increase only in the last decade of continuous settlement as many young people
had left for work in
4. The play: life on the islands
isolated location of the islands generally gave the people living there greater
freedom in organising their every-day life. The island population was
personally free and thus had no obligations to the manor on daily basis. The bondas folke (the farmer and his wife)
were, however, not owners of the farm in the modern sense of the word, since
they could not sell it. The islanders never claimed the property right to the
island land due to their faith in the continuity of ancient tenure and heritage
rights. They succeeded in maintaining their independence until the twentieth
century, but the island was sold behind their back to one estate owner, Nicolai
Neufeldt for 15,000 roubles in 1903.
New lease conditions were negotiated with the islanders who, however, refused
the increase and managed to keep their old contract based on their right
established in the charter of Queen Christina of
The historical charter subjected the islanders only to a comparatively small tax paid in fish and salt. The amount was set for the whole island and divided locally. Although the tax increased heavily in the nineteenth century, it never exhausted the island families of their resources. The absence of serfdom and the freedom of the sea have been seen as the basis for higher standard of living on the island by many authors (Engström 1905; Eklund 1936; End 1939); the islanders were described by Sven Danell (1979) as the nobility of Estonian Swedes. The distinctive quality of their life was recognised by the islanders themselves, for instance Johannes Erkas (1882-1956) is reported to say, that already at the beginning of the century they could live as they wished, not as they had to which was very rare for the Estonian fisherman communities. The main reason for their success was that the island economy was based upon a domestic division of labour, which was oriented to the exploitation of multiple sources of subsistence.
4.1. The sea
part of the islanders’ livelihood was dependent on the sea coming from fishing
and trading. The first reports on the islanders’ ventures outside the vicinity
of the island originate from the 1850s when they reportedly sailed to fetch
increase of small transport vessels in the
Photo 6. The quay by the lighthouse; the men loading the Wasa with scrap iron in the 1930s (NM: photographer and exact date unknown).
the year 1900 started the trade with scrap iron, which lasted until the First
World War and caused the cessation of trade in foodstuffs. It was never
abandoned completely constituting an additional source of income (Photo 6). The
first venture on this field was made in the 1890s when the islanders bought the
wreck of the British ship the Delta
and sold it piece by piece in
The expansion in fishing for sprat engaged an increasing number of island men in the early twentieth century who slowly abandoned other activities. 1902 marks the start of a final period in island history characterised by an economy that increasingly focused on fishing and marketing the catch. The boats used while fishing around the island were small, rowed by one or two men. The first motor boat on the island was built by Johannes Erkas in 1911, but they became more common only in the 1930s illustrated fishery statistics where two motor boats (47 sailing boats and three ships) are recorded on Osmussaar in 1932, eleven (53 rowing-boats) in 1937 and thirteen a year later.
Nets were widely used for fishing Baltic herring, flounder, whitefish and sprat, they thus were the most numerous equipment on the island farms each family owning about twenty to thirty nets. Flounder had been an important fish on the islanders’ daily menu for as long as people could remember. Its worth for the islanders is expressed in the tradition of every family member, including the small children, having had a private flounder net (ogo-net). The fish from this net was marked with the person’s own special stamp on the beach and the catch could be disposed over privately. A common habit was to exchange the fish for nuts at Christmas time. Sprat became the most important trade article for about two decades in the early twentieth century. It was replaced by cod in the 1930s while sprat disappeared from the Estonian fishing waters.
was not appreciated by the fishermen in the nineteenth century. Its market was
limited, only the mainland inns bought a pair or two occasionally. The business
of transporting the salted cod to
Photo 7. Cutting cod in the 1930s (ERM: Gustav Vilbaste, 1933).
means that the modernisation of the fishing methods, the use of long-lines with
several thousand hooks, and therefore of the island life can be traced back to
the success of cod fishing.
Its influence was, however, limited, since the market for cod was small and its
price was low, for instance three sents per kilogram in the 1937. Cod therefore
became important in island economy just before the Second World War and in the
war years, although the catch increased dramatically in the 1930s when the
yearly yield was around 170 barrels of salted cod; one barrel holding about 120
kilograms fish (Photo 7). In 1938, Arvo End started experimenting on Osmussaar
with drying cod and making cod-liver oil according to the methods he had
acquired in the Lofoten,
4.2. The land
Agricultural production and activity remained at a subsistence level and lagged behind while the fisheries expanded in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, agriculture was an important additional source of subsistence in all of the farms and was presented as the main source by two farmers according to the 1939 census.
The locally grown cereal crops were seldom adequate, and to be supplemented by imports from the mainland each year. The three plots (trinings) constituted each one part of the three field rotation system: sown with rye, barley, or left fallow. Certain alterations were made when potato cultivation increased in the second half of the nineteenth century. The area under rye remained the largest constituting one third of the arable per farm. Potatoes and barley each accounted for one sixth of the field area as the plot sown in the spring was divided into two: one for barley, the other for potato cultivation. The remaining two fields built an independent unit each; that is, all three rotating stages were present each year. In the twentieth century the area was divided between barley and potatoes (no fallow or rye). Potatoes were grown on Svearna in the 1930s. A few attempts were made to cultivate oats, but it was not a regular venture.
Household vegetables were not grown except cabbage which had a long history on the island. Some place names indicate an early introduction of cabbage, for instance a plot near Niggors’ farm was called Niggors’ kålgård (cabbage plot), although the informants who were born in the 1870s did not remember their parents or grandparents ever mentioning cabbage growing on that particular plot. The joint cabbage yard was then situated north of the village where each farm had three drills of cabbage. Carrots were introduced only in the 1930s, but no other vegetables were ever mentioned.
The island hay-fields were small and the vegetation on pasture poor. There was a lack of fodder for the cattle and the milk production was low at the earlier times. The islanders often had to dilute the milk to make it last, and before special fodder crops were introduced, the people of Osmussaar were totally without milk in early spring. Cattle was rarely sold, but smoked meat was an island delicacy, sometimes sold at the mainland markets. Sheep thrived on the island and were important for getting wool and fleece as well as meat, their milk was also used. The local breed of pigs had died out at the turn of the last century after which a couple of piglets were bought each year on the mainland fairs. No pigs were kept over winter. Another great change in the twentieth century was that the horses replaced oxen in the agricultural work.
The lack of forests and therefore of building materials and firewood was the main deficiency in island economy. The purchase of timber varied from farm to farm and from year to year; the mean amount spent yearly in the twentieth century was between 25 to 30 kroons. The lack of firewood was compensated in many ways by applying local resources. Juniper shrubs were yearly cut on pasture lands, but the best source for timber locally was the sea. The combing of beaches for wreck-wood supplied the island farms with material to repair and sometimes to erect whole buildings. The inside walls were covered by fabric gained the same source before wall-paper became common. More unusual objects such as grandfather clocks and tin kettles were found and made use of in the island households. The islanders had an interesting arrangement with beach combing: everything found was divided into equal shares, but as there often was not enough for every farm, the finds were kept in a shed especially built for the purpose (Magasi) until more of the same sort drifted ashore and everybody could get their share.
transport possibilities and growing connections with the towns on the mainland
as well as better economy in
5. The players in the setting: the island community
at the local, the lowest level may be seen as an entity, a reality, invested
with all the sentiment attached to kinship, friendship, neighbouring, rivalry,
familiarity, and jealousy. Local community seems to imply simultaneously both
similarity (something in common) and difference (distinguishing from others) as
suggested by Cohen (1989). In case of the islanders of Osmussaar, it was
important for them to maintain the old connections to and mutual history with
Ja namnen från den gamla Nordiska Gudens hålme Odinsholm. Ja kanske de som ha flyttat dit ha fört namnet med sig då. Det är lång tid sedan... Där på Odinsholm fanns en mycket stor sten som hette Odens sten. Och jämte samma sten fanns en grop eller rättare sagt lik ett människospår som inte växte någon tårva på. Och sades vare Odens spår... Och vidare sades det att han hade skrivet med sin Storton på en annan sten som hade djupa skrevor å strek på sig, sades vara hans Tånskrift... Men det är sannerligen saga.
The islanders looked upon themselves as a specific group, different from other villages on the mainland and especially on other islands. A strong sense of identification with their home island and its people is evident in their stories. Other islanders were seen as family members and a lot of work was carried out simultaneously, neighbours helping each other if needed. The men referred to themselves as to von bakse (us on our slope). This is not to indicate that the people thought of themselves as all alike, but they presented a united front to the outside world professing similar features and claiming to know the suitable way of organising life on the island. Differentiation among the island community was evident, but it was not based on material or any clearly defined outward differences. Rather some families were looked upon as innovators and successful fishermen and others more backward, sticking to old superstitions and more helpless in sustaining their livelihood. Every family was prescribed certain features which were used to explain their actions or non-action in some cases. Status was claimed through possessing the post of the village lay chaplain. It can foremost be connected with two families - Stavas and Erkas - the heads of whose were, not surprisingly, most often asked for advice. At the same time a post of village elder was filled very democratically as it moved from farm to farm, although only the farmer could fill the post. The obligation of being the village elder mainly concerned getting information at the municipality and conveying it to others. The transport of goods to the lighthouse from the docked ships had to be organised as well as reparation of the boundary walls of which each farm was responsible for maintaining a certain stretch. Most of the village matters were decided upon collectively and each farm had a say in village matters. Meetings were called more or less spontaneously when something extraordinary needed discussing, since most of the work was carried out according to old traditions and at a known time. The yearly work schedule in the fields was the same for every farm, although everybody worked on their own plots. However, if somebody did not manage to keep up, she was helped along by others. All the bigger ventures: ploughing, manure hauling, sowing, harvesting and even beach combing and repair works on the roads and stone walls as well as fetching of fishing nets, were co-ordinated. The last mentioned chore had a special meaning to the island’s young people, as singing and story telling were included. No special societies were established, although the missionaries of the Pentecostal revival started a choir in the 1930s. The lack of suitable reading material locally is often complained about (Engström 1953; Aman 1992). This does not mean that the islanders lacked a social network, but their social life was strictly age and gender-oriented. Married men often assembled at twilight for an hour for talk and card playing, but did not include young men in their discussions, the boys met on their own. Women were not included in decision making process at all, although they were the ones carrying out the most of the work. They organised their own social events on special occasions like after finishing the ploughing or after a child was born on one of the island farms, or a wedding was impending. They met daily for a talk at the village well by Gatodappen after seeing the cattle off the village area at the time the animals went out for pasture.
The end of hay-making and harvest was celebrated by the whole village. The Midsummer night festivities became the most important events for the young. Drinking of home brewed beer was part of all the festivities, but heavy drinking was not part of island life. The missionaries complained about the drinking habits of the islanders (Aman 1992); but they evidently used alcohol as a general excuse for the need to ‘waken’ the people to the church. They succeeded to the extent that selling liquor on the island was stopped in the 1880s. The liquor had been brought every autumn from the mainland, thereafter the village elder was in charge of its exposition. Some made profit but others had to pay from their own pocket. Some plots of land changed hands in consequence of lack of funds in paying for drinks: the Erkas’ farm had gained most and the Marks’ and Greis’ farms had lost parts of their home fields this way.
Despite this closeness, some things were private and even talking about them was supposed to bring bad luck. It was never said how big was the catch of whitefish. That can be explained by this being one of the oldest types of fishing, that had transferred the oldest beliefs to the modern times. The same could be true about fishing in general. Some people never told how much fish they had caught. Another delicate area where one had to be aware of the evil eye, was making of butter.
The group boundary outward was marked by telling often rather critical stories about others especially about people of Vormsi who were considered as simple and of the Pakri islands who were supposed to be too rich for their own good spending it all on alcohol. An important marker on the community boundary was being a fisherman; that is more open and free than the farmers. The importance of wealth in differentiating the islanders of Osmussaar from the Estonian Swedes on the mainland is evident in a story told by a representative of the poor fishermen, Adam Schönberg:
Drottning Christina hon har skrivet privelegie brev ått Estlands svenskna. Från Rikolboar och Ormseboar och Nockoboar och vippalboar ha dessa fribrev blyvet från narrade. men Odinsholmarna ha sina kvar. så talas dett. men dåm äro så rädda för dem att dåm inte vågar visa dem för någon att dåm och så skall bly från dem narrade. Om inte Albert Engström och Corn den tredje kommer jag inte ihåg voro dit seglande. 1921 med sin lustJacht - om dåm fingo se fri brevet. dåm blevo så intima vänner med Albert Engström. att han här i Sverige kolecktera 5000 kr. och skyckade till Estland ått Odinsholmarna
It is argued that island environment had its own special influence on the people and some of its elements in the landscape were meaningful for the inhabitants in creating their identity. Landscape is the spatial location of clues to knowledge based on oral memory, every spot on the island was connected to some forefather carrying the connection between kinship history and locality. Objects and places have both a physical and a symbolic significance within the community (Stock 1990). The people were constantly engaged in implanting such meaning into their home environment, without them it looses much of its value. The lighthouse and the chapel may be seen as persistent outward symbols of the island. The feeling of home was, however, grounded in the familiarity with the setting and its landmarks. The plundering on the island by the Soviet troops during the Second World War robbed the islanders of their home summarised by the concluding remarks of Julius Brus’ letter:
Men - nu - ligger Odensholm ruinerad och öde... Det var inga gulldland heller. Men det var en plats där våra fäder hade strävat till sitt sista mål.
The island of Osmussaar is part of the Estonian cultural history, representing friendly connections between two neighbouring countries. As one of the descendants of the islanders pointed out: it is ironical that a so-called socialist state caused the destruction of a community with such a high degree of collectivity and equality as Osmussaar had. Therefore, it is admirable that the islanders and their descendants still hold some of the former community values and are interested in creating a future for the island. The outline of this future is yet vague, but similar developments to creating a place that comes to life during the summer likewise to the Scandinavian archipelagos may be assumed, although the islanders never re-gained their ancient maintenance rights and private enterprise is restricted on the island, which has become a landscape reserve.
I would like to thank professor Göran Hoppe for having insisted that I should include an Estonian-Swedish island in my research as well as introducing to me the rich sources and the former islanders to whom, especially to Frida Andersson, Elmar Engman and Valter Erkas, I owe a great debt of gratitude. It would not have been possible to get a feeling for the island (despite the changes) without the courage of my relatives in Nôva, Enno and Urmet Uusorg who did not give up and helped me to visit it against many odds. Not least, fieldwork was supported by a research grant from the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography.
ERA: Estonian State Archive (Eesti Riigiarhiiv, Tallinn):
f.62 Catastral and Land Survey Department of the Ministry of Agriculture
f.1091 National Board of Waterways
f.1831 State General Statistics Bureau
f.2042 Maps, plans, drafts, and projects of constructions and land plots
f.2382 Riguldi municipality administration
EAA: Estonian History Archive (Eesti Ajalooarhiiv, Tartu):
f.1864 Soul revision auditing lists collection of the Province of Estonia
f.3169 Noarootsi St Catherine church records, 1680-1893
f.3724 Collection of catastral documents
ERM (Eesti Rahva Muuseum, Tartu):
f.893 E. Koern photos of Osmussaar, 1940
f.907 F.Linnus photos of Osmussaar, 1940
f.1394: 334-347; 588-594 G. Vilbaste photos of Osmussaar, 1927 / 1933 / 1939
f.1523: 2118-21; 2320, 1; 2358, 9; 2741-50 G. Vilbaste photos 1927 / 1933
NM (Nordiska Museet, Stockholm), Estlandsvenskt material:
Julius Brus’ letter, 1945.
Material collected by Helmut Hagar, 1946-49.
Adam Schönberg’s letter, 1949.
SOFI (Språk- och folkminnesinstitutet; Dialekt och Folkminnesarkivet, Uppsala)
Material written by Thomas Gärdström, 1936-38.
Julius Brus’ correspondence with Nils Tiberg, 1945-66.
Odensholm photos, Sven Rabe (1926 / 1928) with text by Julius Brus (1964).
Aman, V. 1961: Överflyttningen till Sverige. - In: Lagman, E. (ed.), En bok om estlands- svenskar, vol. 1. Bröderna Lagerström, Stockholm, pp. 224-246.
Aman, V. 1992. Odensholm. - In: Aman, V. (ed.), En bok om estlandssvenskar, vol. 4. Sture Roos, Stockholm, pp.293-307, 411.
Calhoun, C. J. 1980. Community toward a variable conceptualisation for comparative research. - Social History, 5 (1): 105-129.
Cohen, A. P. 1987. Whalsay: symbol, segment and boundary in a Shetland island community. - Manchester University Press, Manchester.
Cohen, A. P. 1989. The symbolic construction of community. - Routledge, London.
Conzen, M. P. 1990. Introduction. - In: Conzen, M. P. (ed.), The making of the American landscape. Unwin Hyman, Boston, pp.1-8.
Danell, S. 1979: Guldstrand: minnen från sju år i Estland. - Skeab/Verbum, Stockholm.
Duncan, J. S. 1978. The social construction of unreality: an interactionist approach to the tourist’s cognition of environment. - In: Ley, D., Samuels, M. (eds), Humanistic geography, Maaroufa, Chicago, pp.269-282.
Ederma, B., Jaik, A. 1939: Eesti Evangeeliumi Luteriusu Koguduse kirikud. – Konstantin Jaik’i kirjastus, Tartu.
Eklund, O. 1936. Odinsholm. Intryck från ett sommarbesök. - Terra, 48 (1): 11-20.
End, A. 1939. Osmussaarest kalanduslikul taustal. - Eesti Kalandus, (12): 87-88.
End, A. 1983. Tursk kalakeskuse alustalana. - In: Pettai E. (ed.), Eesti kalanduse minevikust, vol.1. Eesti Kalurite Koondis, Stockholm, pp.361-364.
Engström, A. 1953. Odensholm. - In: Mitt liv och leverne. Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, pp.119-30.
Habermann, H., Kant, E., Luha, A., Tammekann, E., Kruus, H. (eds), 1938. Läänemaa, Koguteos Eesti, vol.8, Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, Tartu, pp.10-2, 63-5, 110, 174-7.
Holst, J. 1995. En vagn lastad med gamla tillhörigheter från Odensholm i juni år 1940. - Kustbon 52(4): 10-4.
Johansen, P. 1951. Nordische Mission, Revals Gründung und Schwedensiedlung in Estland. Reval, Kopenhagen.
Kähr, K., Naaber, V. (eds), 1990. Eestimaa 1725-26.a. adramaarevisjon. Läänemaa. Allikpublikatsioon, Olion, Tallinn, pp.133-134.
Kettunen, L. 1955. Etymologische Untersuchung über estnische Ortsnamen. - Annales Acad. Sci Fenn. Serie B, 90:1, Helsinki.
Lagman, E. 1955. Odensholm: en ortnamnsundersökning. - Ann. Soc. Litt. Est. in Suecia, vol.2, Lund, pp. 88-97.
Lagman, E. 1964. Ortnamn och terrängord i Estlands svenskbygd. - In: Lagman, E. (ed.), En bok om Estlands svenskar, vol.2, (Kulturföreningen Svenska Odlingens Vänner), Caslon Press, Stockholm, pp.
Luige, A. 1982. Eesti tuletornid. Fakte ja meenutusi. - Eesti Raamat, Tallinn.
Öpik, A. 1927. Die Inseln Odensholm und Rogö. Ein Beitrag zur Geologie von NW-Estland. - Acta et Comm. Univ. Tartuensis, A XII: 2, Tartu.
Pôlma, L. 1984. E. Eichwald ja Osmussaar. - Eesti Loodus, 11: 742-744.
Russwurm, C. 1855. Eibofolke oder die Schweden an den Küsten Ehstlands und auf Runö, vol. 1-2, I.Kelchen, Reval.
Smith, J. 1988: Constructing local knowledge: the analysis of self in everyday life. In: Eyles, J., Smith, D. M. (eds), Qualitative methods in human geography, Polity, Oxford, pp. .
Stock, B. 1990. Listening for the text: on the uses of the past. - John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Tammekann, A. 1961. Estlandssvenskarnas bosättningsområde. - In: Lagman, E. (ed.), En bok om Estlands svenskar, vol.1. (Kulturföreningen Svenska Odlingens Vänner) Bröderna Lagerström, Stockholm, pp. 9-62.
Vallner, A., Sildvee, H., Torim A. 1988. Recent crustal movements in Estonia. - Journal of Geodynamics 9: 215-223.
 The official Estonian names are used in the discussion; the island place names are spelled as they were spoken by the locals. In historical documents the commonly used forms of the island name are Odesholm, (from the Swedish word öde meaning bare) Otzholm, and Odinsholm. The islanders feel most affinity with Odensholm, making a connection with the Nordic god Oden (enlargement in the last section). The origin of the Estonian form ‘Osmussaar’ has remained unexplained, but can be a diminutive of Otsmaasaar used at the beginning of the nineteenth century according to Russwurm (1855: 132) and meaning ‘island by the land’s tip’. For details and mention of the island in early documents see Johansen (1951: 248); Kettunen (1955: 113); Lagman (1964: 19-21).
 The description is based on the following sources: Hagar, H. Allmänt om Odinsholm. NM: E.U.40015, 36s., 6bl.; Topografi: terrängförhållanden, åkrar, ängar. NM: E.U.40017, 20s.; Ägoförhållanden. NM: E.U.40018, 9s., and Gärdström, T. Beskrivning av Odensholm med kartskiss. SOFI: 10034, 60 s., Brus, J. Kartskiss med ortnamn. SOFI: 26184, 41 s., and on interviews with the former islanders.
 Hagar, H. Fiske och fiskehandel, NM: E.U.36224, s.2-8
 Hagar, H. Ägoförhållanden. NM: E.U.40018. His material is complemented with descriptions by Julius Brus in Bondejordens odling, årligt utsäde, kål. SOFI: 26182.
 The Marks’ farm is divided in the official statistics in 1939 (ERA: f.1831 n.1 s.2840; 3720; 4065), but the descendants all insist on its remaining intact until the evacuation.
 Hagar, H. Ägoförhållanden. NM: E.U.40018, s.7
 Thomas Gärdström (SOFI: 11372) reports in the life story of Johannes Stavas that an unwritten law allowed only three sons to remain at the farm at any one time, the other children had to emigrate. They were not allowed to any financial support from the home farm either.
 Hagar, H. Samhällsskick och familjeförhållanden. (NM: E.U.43130, s.6) gives the 1660s as the time for colonisation suggested to him by the islanders; Valter Erkas in the interview to Svenska Dagbladet (20.11.1995, p.9) says 1610; a third source (SOFI - Tiberg anteckningar häfte 8c) suggests 1571. A new family myth of ten generations of forebears resting in the island church-yard was launched when memorial stones were erected on the island in 1994.
 Material at the Swedish National Archive collected by Magnus Berencreutz.
 Noarootsi kirikumeetrika, EAA: f.3169 n.1 s.1: 373-5
 Revisionsliste, EAA: f.1864 n.2 s.IV-10: 15p-16p; s. V-65: 225-7; s.VII-156: 27-9; s.VIII-165: 67-9; s.IX-168: 72-5; s.X-343: 100-3; parish records from 1800 to 1823 (EAA: f.3169 n.1 s.4: 48-49p).
 Hagar, H. Samhällsskick och familjeförhållanden. NM: E.U.43130: 2,6.
 Five families when considering the Nibondas’ connection with the Brus’ and that of the Westerbloms with the Greis’ family.
 Concluding from the church register of births there the farther is recorded as a sailor or lighthouse keeper (EAA: f.3169), and the twentieth century lighthouse records (ERA: f.1091 n.2 s.289).
 ERA: f.2382 n.1 s.12; s.118
 ERA: f.2382 n.1 s.6, s.155
 Hagar, H. Ägoförhållanden. NM: E.U.40018, s.8
 See SOFI: 10394, 11091, 11259, 12528 for examples of mild critique of the islanders.
 ERA: f.2382 n.2 s.87
 The factual data from ERA: f.1091 n.1 s.1813 and EAA: f.3724 n.1 s.75; memories of Frida Andersson.
 ERA: f.2382 n.1 s.70; s.129; s.151
 According to Aman (1992) it was five barrels each from the whole island. The charters are re-printed in Russwurm (1855) who discusses the taxes and changes in them over time.
 Hagar, H. Samhällsskick och familjeförhållanden. NM: E.U.43130, s.3
 Hagar, H. Bondeseglation och handelsresor. NM: E.U.43129, s.2
 The description of fishing is mainly based on Hagar, H. Fiske och fiskehandel. NM:E.U.36224, 59 s., the stories have the same origin.
 Hagar, H. Båtar. NM: E.U.40023, 35 s., 8 bl.
 ERA: f.2382 n.1 s.120; s.149
 ditto, p.29
 ditto, p.42
 Talundilehed Riguldi vald (1939), ERA: f.1831 n.1 s.3720, l.140-52
 Hagar, H. Sädd. NM: E.U.40020: 8
 ERA: f.1831 n.1 s.3720
 "And the name of the islet Odensholm of the old Nordic God Oden. Yes, maybe the ones who moved there bought the name with them. It was a long time ago... There, on Osmussaar was a very big boulder that was called Oden’s stone. And together with the boulder was a hole or more correctly like a human footstep where no moss grew. And was said to be Oden’s footstep... And more - it was said that he had written with his big toe on another boulder that had deep scratches and lines on it, was said to be his toe-script... But it is probably a myth" - Brus, J. Vinterfiske. NM: E.U.29226: 7
 Among the otherwise rather derogatory names, Johannes Stavas was called Prästn (Priest) and held in high regard as a wise man; Johannes Erkas was valued in more practical matters as one of the best fishermen according to the stories by the former islanders.
 Hagar, H. Byorganisation och gemensamma arbeten. NM: E.U.43120: 2
 Hagar, H. Boskapsskötsel. NM: E.U.43123, s.5
 Hagar, H. Årets fester och märkelsedagar, 20 s.
 Hagar, H. Mathushållning. NM: E.U.43121, s.25
 ditto, s.22
 Hagar, H. Husbygge. NM: E.U.42094, s.7
 As mentioned half jokingly by Valter Erkas in his interview with the author in November 1995.
 "Queen Christina, she has written charters to Estonian Swedes. From the people of Riguldi and Vormsi and Noarootsi and Vihterpalu were those letters cheated away. but the islanders of Odinsholm had still theirs. so was the talk. but they were so afraid of them being cheated from them that they dare not show them to anybody. If not Albert Engström and Corn (Anders Zorn), the third I cannot remember (A.Gallén) sailing to the island in 1921 (actually in 1905) in their luxury yacht - if they got to see the charter. They became such good friends with A.E. that he collected 5000 kroons here in Sweden and sent it to Estonia to the islanders of Osmussaar (money was actually collected by the society Svenska Odlingens Vänner for establishing a school on the island)". - Schönberg, A. Sägner om svenska kungar. NM: E.U.37559, 10s.
 "But - now - is Osmussaar ruined and deserted... It was no Elysium either. But it was a place where our forefathers had struggled to their last destination." - Brus, J. Vinterfiske. NM: E.U.29226, s.7
 Material gleaned from the interviews with the former islanders and from the yearly Byalag meeting, attended in Irsta, Sweden on January 21, 1996.