Lydia Koidula 1843-86

It is purely by chance that I have booked into a lodging house on J.V. Jannseni Street in Parnu, Estonia,  on my research trip to Estonai. The street, Jannseni, houses the museum dedicated to the 19th century Estonian poet Lydia Jannsen aka Lydia Koidula.

According to my 2008 edition of the Rough Guide to The Baltic States, Koidula was born in Vandra and the family moved to Parnu in 1850. Her father was a village school teacher who went on to launch the Parnu Courier, which was the first ever Estonian-language weekly newspaper. in 1857.

When Jannsen founded his newspaper in Parnu he was taking part in the national awakening which was intended to bring the Estonian language and culture to the fore. In these times the languages were German and Russian. The country had been ruled by the Baltic German nobles for generations and then the Russian Empire had absorbed it making the traditional language a peasant one. In the 19th century the movement to revive national languages was taking place in both Estonia and Latvia where women poets took the lead in showing how the language could be used in a literary context.

It was Lydia Koidula (the name “Koidula” means “of the dawn” and was an alias) who wrote much of the Perno Postimees when her father went to found the Esti Postimees in Tartu in 1863. She also wrote lyric poems, the first collection of which was published in 1866, and the national song “My Country is My Pride and Joy” which is sung at the end of the annual song festivals in Tallinn. She also wrote the first play ever to be written entirely in the Estonian language, What a Bumpkin!

Downtown there is a monument to Johann Jannsen, showing him reading a copy of his newspaper, outside the offices of the Perno Postimees.  Lydia is remembered by a statue in the shopping parade. Both are remembered in the museum at 37 Jannseni.