Estonian Church History
Estonian church history has been an important research area of the theological faculty at the University of Tartu from the very first years of Estonia’s independence. The foundations for the tradition were laid through the institution of the new subject, “Estonian Church History”, by Olaf Sild, Professor of Church History (1919–1944), and Johan Kõpp, Professor of Practical Theology, as well as competition papers written at the faculty and numerous studies by the professors.
The research on Estonian church history in the present-day School of Theology and Religious Studies has focused on the 20th century, largely because of the limited opportunities to study this period during the Soviet era. The analysis of developments has taken us back to the 19th century and beyond.
The main research question concerns the relationship between churches (mainly the Lutheran, but also the Orthodox Church) and the state and society. There has often been conflict between them, particularly in the 20th century, due to the fairly high level of secularisation in society. History of the School and theology in Estonia in general has also been an important research topic. The fact that Christianity has been under pressure in Estonia has contributed to the ecumenical cooperation of churches, which has also been one of the central research areas. One of the more recent research fields concentrates on the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the development of education.
Research has been supported by numerous grants. The current principal research project (2011–2016), which received targeted financing from the Ministry of Education and Research, focuses on secularisation in Estonia and the reasons thereof; in this context we also participated in the work of the Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory.
Many doctoral candidates have chosen Estonian church history as their research area, with 11 doctoral theses defended at the faculty focusing on aspects of Estonian church history. The historical researchers are involved in the work of the Research Group on the History of Church and Religion in Estonia and the Estonian Society of Church History.
Many significant joint publications have resulted from the concluding conferences of the projects.
- Estland, Lettland und westliches Christentum/Eestimaa, Liivimaa ja Lääne kristlus. Eesti-Saksa uurimusi Baltimaade kirikuloost. Väljaandjad Siret Rutiku/Reinhart Staats. Kiel, Friedrich Wittig Verlag, 1998. 272 lk.
- Estnische Kirchengeschichte im vorigen Jahrtausend / Estonian Church History in the Past Millennium. Riho Altnurme (Hrsg.). Kiel, Friedrich Wittig Verlag, 2001. 212 lk.
- Eesti teoloogilise mõtte ajaloost : sissejuhatavaid märkusi ja apokrüüfe. Toim. Riho Altnurme. Tartu, Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus 2006. 124 lk.
- Altnurme, R., Rohtmets, P., Vihuri, V., Sõtšov, A., Pilli, T., Kurg, I., Kaldur, P., Altnurme, L., Saard, R., Aan, H., Tiitus, M., Soom, K., Kilemit, L., Jürjo, S., Remmel, A., Paas, M., Vilumaa, H. Eesti oikumeenia lugu. Peatoim. Riho Altnurme. Tartu-Tallinn: Tartu Ülikool /Eesti Kirikute Nõukogu, 2009. 544 lk.
- Usuteaduslik Ajakiri. Special issue: Religion and resistance Ed. by Altnurme, Riho, Paert, Irina 2013. [http://usuteadus.ee/wordpress/?page_id=209&lang=et]