Fraternitas Estonica

From the album Videography

Student corporations are popular in Estonia. Especially in the biggest university town: Tartu. Many Estonian politicians have a background in one of the student societies even though all organisations together represent only about 5% of all students with the biggest ones consisting of about a few hundred members. Originating from the Baltic-German fraternities, they have adopted a lot of the traditions and rituals from German organisations, but adapted them in varying extends. Estonian traditions have been added and are of particular importance - especially throughout younger members. Initiations and the system of the ‘foxes’ - new members without the right to wear the organisations’ colours - are very similar. But despite their German forefathers, the standing of the Estonian student societies isn’t spoiled by political affiliation towards right-winged parties and a lot of non-members enjoy to participate at events that are open for everybody like the annual Walpurgis night celebration on the first of May. Assumptions of parallels between Estonian and American fraternities are in most cases harshly declined: the Estonian corporations don’t harass their young members as their American counterparts do.

Tartu has a long tradition of student corporations as the earliest ones are founded around the beginning of the 20th century. The image of the student with the corps hat is omnipresent - subliminal on menus in various restaurants or more obvious in form of a statue in the middle of the city center depicting two students kissing. During autumn, winter and spring, students from the corporations are wearing the hats themselves throughout town as they are going to or leaving from one of the weekly events like dancing lessons or meetings with other organisations. Only in the few months of Baltic summer it is too hot to dress up in public - skirts for women or a suit for the men are a requirement to wearing the corps hat at all and the members are wary of their image in the public. Good manners, dignity and honesty are characteristics that nearly all of the organisations are imposing on their members and sometimes are valued as being special for members of the corporations.

Estonia and especially the Estonian student corporations have had a hard time since their very existence. Traditions have been imposed by Germans into a country that considers itself nowadays being quite patriotic. Additionally the societies needed some time in the beginning to get officially allowed and recognised. But even though these issues have been solved over time, all student organisations have again been closed down completely during the Soviet occupation for several decades. Only with slackened reins of the Gorbatschow era at the end of the Soviet Union it was possible for some of the student societies to officially reunite. But a lot of fraternities and sororities haven’t been revived yet.