Estonian team

Estonian research team is affiliated to department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu and comprises of the researchers and PhD candidates who do their research on place-related folklore, vernacular religion and pilgrimage, different aspects of non-religion and spirituality as well as life stories. All these themes involve human interaction with places and routes, travelling and identity, where stories and narrated experiences are the main tools of interaction and inclusion. At the same time publicity and privacy, secrecy and incomprehensible aspects of human experiences give dimensions to the relationships with the places and blend the stories with reality guiding new paths of discovery.

Ülo Valk

Professor of Estonian and Comparative Folklore

Ülo Valk studied folkloristics at the University of Tartu from 1980 until 1986, and defended his dissertation at the same university in 1994, analyzing and interpreting the image of the Devil in Estonian folk religion. His research has mainly focused on folk narratives, belief, vernacular religion and demonology in social context – based on the collections of Estonian Folklore Archives and field trips, which have taken him to many places in Estonia but also in North Eastern India. He has also taken interest in place-lore, its relationship with environment and the supernatural.  He has co-edited the volume “Storied and Supernatural Places: Studies in Spatial and Social Dimensions of Folklore and Sagas” (Studia Fennica Folkloristica 23; Helsinki, 2018),

Elo-Hanna Seljamaa

Senior Research Fellow

Elo-Hanna Seljamaa’s current research interests revolve around nationalism, ethnic identity and multiculturalism in Estonia and, by extension, the post-socialist Europe. In addition to conducting ethnographic fieldwork of her own, she also enjoys writing about contemporary Estonian artists working on these topics as she analyses art as a mode of ethnographic knowledge production. Other research interests include Estonian Kalevala-metric ballads, history of folklore studies in Estonia. Together with Pihla-Maria Siim, they recently co-edited a special issue of Ethnologia Europaea on silence in cultural practices (2016), and with colleagues from Poland she co-edited a special issue of Folklore. Electronic Journal of Folklore on the afterlife of former closed military zones and bases in Central and Eastern Europe (2017). Together with Professor Simon Bronner she is a co-editor of the new book series “Studies in Folklore and Ethnology: Traditions, Practices, and Identities”, established in 2018 by academic publisher Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield). She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on theory and methods for studying vernacular culture and daily life.

Tiina Sepp


Tiina Sepp has completed MA (Anthropology of Religion) and PhD (Folkloristics) at the University of Tartu. Both degrees concerned contemporary pilgrimage and pilgrim hierarchies; the title of PhD thesis (2014) was Pilgrims’ reflections on the Camino de Santiago and Glastonbury as expressions of vernacular religion: a fieldworkers’ perspective. She has conducted fieldwork in England, Estonia and Spain and apart from academic articles published two popular books about contemporary pilgrimage. Her research of pilgrimage landscape in Estonia focuses on the ‘caminoisation’ of pilgrimage and representations of the Camino de Santiago. Her other research interests include vernacular religion, fieldwork methodology, cathedrals as city spaces. In 2014–2017 she was a postdoctoral research assistant as part of the ‘Pilgrimage and England’s Cathedrals, Past and Present’ project at the University of York, where her role was to research contemporary models of pilgrimage, conducting fieldwork at the project’s case study cathedrals – Canterbury, Durham, Westminster and York, 

Kristel Kivari

Research Fellow

Kristel Kivari has done research on contemporary concepts of earth energy, places that emit supernatural power, possess the healing qualities or otherwise influence the living n the ground. Her dissertation,  “Dowsing as a link between natural and supernatural. Folkloristic reflections on water veins, Earth radiation and dowsing practice” analysed water divination, earth energies and related practices. These concepts ground the supernaturalist approach to natural places which lead to the assumption that places are part of larger communicative web of traditions, inquiry and active representation. Thus, her research focuses on practices and theories of supernaturalist approach to nature, where places become evidences and artifacts of alternative approach to nature, the tools for active representation and amateur research.

Atko Remmel


Atko Remmel works as Research Fellow in the department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu. He has published on antireligious policy and atheist propaganda in the Soviet Union, (non)religion and nationalism, secularization and religious change, and contemporary forms of (non)religion and spirituality. He has carried out fieldwork among the nonreligious population in Estonia and on Estonians’ relationship with nature. He has co-edited the volume “Freethought and Atheism in Central and Eastern Europe. The Development of Secularity and Non-Religion” (Routledge, 2020):

Tiiu Jaago

Associate Professor of Estonian Folklore 

Tiiu Jaago graduated from the University of Tartu as an Estonian philologist in 1983, and defended doctoral thesis on Estonian folk song (PhD in 1991). Since 1991 she has  been Associate Professor at the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore of the University of Tartu. She teaches several courses, amongst others ‘Oral Popular History’, ‘Historiography of Estonian Folkloristics’, ’Methods of Researching “regilaul”, the Estonian Old Folk Song’ etc. Her interests have been Estonian old folk song and popular understanding of history (narrated history). In the 2010s, she studied continuities and discontinuities in remembering and  representation of nineteenth- and twentieth-century events in real life narratives. The subject of this research interest links to the modes of  self-description of culture, which is related to interdisciplinary border-studies.

Ergo-Hart Västrik


Ergo-Hart Västrik works as a lecturer in folklore department, University of Tartu. His research interests are history of representation, mythology, Finno-Ugric minorities in northwest Russia, vernacular religion and native faiths. He teaches courses in folkloristics, myth and mythology, archives in folklore studies, Finno-Ugric cultures.

Alevtina Solovyeva


Alevtina Solovyeva specializes in Asian Studies and Folkloristics. Her current research interests focus on landscape mythology, beliefs about supernatural, vernacular religions and transnational relations of Mongolian and related communities in Mongolia, Russia and China.

She defended her dissertations in Asian Literatures at the Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences and in Folkloristics at the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore University of Tartu. She has studied oriental studies, historical anthropology and folkloristics at the Russian State University for the Humanities, the National University of Mongolia, the University of Bonn, the University of Tartu and the University of Bern. Since 2006 she has been on annual fieldwork trips in Mongolia and China, focusing on mythology, rural and urban folk traditions, ritual practices.