Friday, July 16, 2010

The National Anthem of Estonia

Estonia's anthem shares the same melody as the anthem of Finland, with whom they share a similar culture, and was adopted in 1869, several decades before early twentieth century independence (and about 20 years after the anthem was adopted by Finland). There has been contemplation about replacing the anthem with an original Estonian work, but so far the two nations have been content to share a melody.

Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm ("My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy") was adopted as the national anthem of the Republic of Estonia in 1920, and again in 1990. The lyrics were written by Johann Voldemar Jannsen and are set to a melody composed in 1848 by Fredrik (Friedrich) Pacius which is also that of the national anthem of Finland: Maamme ("Vårt Land" in Swedish).

The song was first presented to the public as a choral work in the Grand Song Festival of Estonia in 1869 and quickly became a symbol of the Estonian National Awakening. Between 1956 and 1990 the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, a part of the Soviet Union, had a different anthem. Although Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm was banned under Soviet rule, the people of Estonia could often hear the melody, as Finland's state broadcaster YLE, whose radio and television broadcasts were received in Northern Estonia, played an instrumental version of the Finnish national anthem, identical to this song (except for an additional repetition of the last verse in the Finnish version), at close-down every night.

Fredrik Pacius (or Friedrich Pacius) (March 19, 1809 Hamburg – January 8, 1891 Helsinki) was a German composer and conductor who lived most of his life in Finland. He has been called the "Father of Finnish music". Pacius was appointed music teacher at the University of Helsinki in 1834. In Helsinki he founded a musical society, a student choir and an orchestra. In 1848 Pacius wrote the music to the poem Vårt land by Johan Ludvig Runeberg, which was to become Finland's national anthem. Pacius’s music was also used for the Estonian national anthem Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm and the Livonian national anthem Min izāmō, min sindimō.

In 1852 he composed Kung Karls jakt (The Hunt of King Charles) which was the first Finnish opera, with a libretto in the style of Romantic nationalism, like the national anthem designed to convince Finland's Grand Duke (i.e. Russia's Emperor) of the total loyalty of his subjects in Finland. The libretto was written by the author and historian Zacharias Topelius in close collaboration with the composer. His compositions also include a violin concerto, a symphony, a string quartet and several other operas.

Johann Voldemar Jannsen (May 16, 1819, Vändra, Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire – July 13, 1890, Tartu) was an Estonian journalist and poet. He wrote the words of the Estonian national anthem, Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm, and was the father of the poet Lydia Koidula. As the leader of the choral society which organized the first nationwide Song Festival in Tartu in 1869, Jannsen played a crucial role in the Estonian National Awakening.

The stamp above features the composer and lyricist with the anthem score issued in 1999. In the middle is a stamp of Pacius issued in 1948. Below is a envelope with a special postmark of Jannsen issued in 1994.