Physical Geography in Estonia

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Western and Eastern Schools of Landscape Synthesis. Roosaare, Jiiri, Dr. ..... in France, bectrme irn idol for young nature geographers all over the USSR.


GeoJournal SSj 27-36 O 1994 (May) by Kluwer Academic Publishers

PhysicalGeographyin Estonia:Bridging Westernand EasternSchoolsof LandscapeSynthesis Roosaare, Jiiri, Dr., University of Tartu, Institute of Geography,46 Vanemuise Str., EE-2400 Tartu, Estonia ABSTRACT:This paperis an overviewof principalinvestigations in the complexphysical geographyof Estonia.The focus is on landscapeand regional studies,rather than geomorphology or hydrology. Academicgeography in Estoniadevelopedin the contextof geographic exploration.In the 19thcenturya leadingrole amongRussianexplorerswasplayedby the BalticGermans Krusenstern,Bellingshausen, Middendorff,Wrangel,and others. After Estonia gained independencein 1919,well-known geographerslrom Northern (Granij) and Central (Haltenberger) Europe helpedto developlandscapestudies,which, led by Tammekann, Markus,and Kant,reacheda considerable levelofexcellenceby the 1930s. Due to the mass geography flight of intellectuals to the Westduringthe 1940s, in particularsustainedheavy losses.A networkof stateinstituteswas established when Estoniabecamean SSR.Even though geography was not amongthem, some of the institutesdid deal with suchspatial issuesas natural resourcesand nature protection.During the seventiesthere was a broadening of research frontiersin physicalgeography. Variousdirectionsweredeveloped in landscapemorphology,geochemistry,geophysics,and ecology, parallel to similar developments in the USSR.Todayactivitiesare dominatedby internationalcooperation amongspecialists from the BalticSeacountries.Investigations havestronginterdisciplinary character.

Introduction Although Estonia is a small piece of territory on the face of the Earth, its geopolitical importance is much greater.This country, which boasts no mountain ranges, neverthelesshas high natural diversity and landscape features of interest to naturalists.Among them are the west-eastdifferencesbetween low-lying westernEstonia, which was influencedby a seatransgression, and the higher grounds of eastern Estonia which were not; northern Estonia with carbonatesediments,and southern Estonia post-glaciallandscapes with sandstone;the 11,000-year-old in southeasternEstonia and the new islesrising from the Baltic Sea due to tectonic uplift. This essay representsan overview of the principal investigations of this complexphysicalgeography in Estonia. The focus is on landscapeand regionalstudies,ratherthan specializedresearchin geomorphologyor hydrology.Some connectionswith relateddisciplines(biogeophysics) aredue to the author'sown conceptualinterests. The subject of physical geography is understood variously.Its so-called"component disciplines",such as geomorphologyor hydrology,have an establishedsubject matter in any part of the world of science,but it is more

problematicin the areaof "complexbranches"in which the aim is to synthesizeknowledgeon the level of different landscapes. Probably,due to the complexityof the objectof investigation- a limitation for lack of classicpositivistic methodology - differences between various scientific schoolsand nationaltraditionsare much more noticeable. Sometimes,a question may arise about the relevanceto geography(or to ecology, biogeophysics,geochemistry, etc), reflecting the institutionalized limits between different branches of science as well as the problem orientation and actual multidisciplinary base of such investigations. For example, a new book about contemporary American geography(Abler et al. 1992) contains a few words about "landscapesas cultural and ideological symbols",but nothing about landscapeecology,landscape planning,environmentalmanagementand so on. It does not mean that theseapproaches are underdevelopedin the USA, but that they have been traditionallydevelopedin the ecological and environmental sciences. From a conceptionalpoint of view,biota has been in the centreof theseinvestigations. Biota'sconnectionswith other abiotic componentsof landscapehave been taken into account, only to clarify the influence of these componentsonto


biota. The connectionsbetween abiotic components(ie, some important linkages for matter cycling in the landscape)have been consideredto pertain to the earth scrences. According to such a biocentristic approach,a new subfield named "landscapeecology" has been formed parallelto "ecosystemsecology"(Turner 1987)."Until the rediscoveryof landscapeecology, ecosystemscientists struggled with the integration problem unsuccessfully" (Golley 1987).Looking at publicationsin landscapeecology (ljallineii & de Veer l98l; Forman and Godron 1986; Agricultural ... 1993),reflectingits internationaland, in some aspects,heterogeneouscontent, one can see the increaseof geographicalthemes,especiallyin conjunction with watershed studies (object) and geographical information systems(method). It is clear that functional relationsof ecosystemsand spatialheterogeneityhave to be investigated in a unified approach,using physical geographyas the means. According to Russian traditions, so-calledlandscape sciencehasbeengeomorphologyratherthan ecology,more oriented to description and regionalization than to instrumentalmeasurementand researchof processes. An overviewof physicalgeography,made by the Englishman K. J. Gregory (1985), points out that this is not geomorphology only. Accentuating hydrology and climatology,he can - thanks to the American Journal, "Soviet Geography:Reviewand Translatlon" - present this side of Soviet physicalgeography.Unfortunately,the role of physical geographyin German-speakingcountries is nearly nil in Gregory'sbook. The fundamental monograph on Landschaftskunde, publishedby J. Schmithi.isen (1976),presentsthe opposite orientation,accentuating,first of all, investigationsmade (using, in Germany.StudyingEast-EuropeanGeorikologie for example, Neumeister 1988) and comparing this approach with Western Landschaftsdkologie(Leser 1976), we can see that the essentialdifferenceis small, but that the movement during these12yearsfrom classicphysical geographytowards modern ecologyis obvious. Such a slmplified picture of differences between variousnational schoolsof complex nature investigations can be diversifiedby numerous monographs,more wellknown of which are Naveh & Lieberman (1984);Vink (1983)and Zonneveld (1979).The knowledgeof French, Spanish, Chinese, and so on could widen our understandingof landscapes, making it possibleto read numerouspublicationsin theselanguages. In that case,we could find that some classicideashavebeenwritten down by local researcherseven before those of well-known authorities.We can arguethat actual influencesupon the total scientificcommunity - if it exists!- should be more important than historic antecedents. Fortunately,most important influences in Estonian physical geography lie in the "language triangle" of Taking into considerationthe German-Russian-English. lact that different scientists,schools, approaches,and branches of science have their particular terminology


(comparingwhich would be a specialtask), many details have been omitted in the following essay.

The Roots: Baltic Germans as Leaders Among Russian Explorers in the l9th Century Geographyspringsfrom discovery,but as a scienceit was developedin the universities. Historically,the main centre for higher education in Estoniahasbeenalwaysthe universityin Tartu (alsocalled Dorpat, Derpt, Juryev).Founded in 1632by the Swedish king GustavusII Adolphus as the AcademiaGustaviana, geographywastaughtthere- as in other universitiesof that time - togetherwith mathematicsand history.The oldest extant disputation in geography(1693) dealt with the earthquakein Sicily (Varep 1985). Unlike its marginal position among Swedish universities (when Estonia was under Swedish rule), UniversitasDorpatensis(reopened in 1802) was very important in the intellectuallife of the RussianEmpire. Becauseof the Baltic Germans,the Baltic provinceshad certainprivilegesand,as a result the academicatmosphere at the university was more liberal and Europe-oriented than in other academicinstitutions eastward The first professorof geographyt)during the period of 1 8 0 3 - 1 8 1 0w a s A . C . G a s p a r i( 1 7 5 2 - 1 8 3 0 )a, p r o d u c t i v e author of many textbooks and manuals,written also in Estonian.At this time medical studentsreceiveda good grounding in the natural sciences,severalof whom (the founderof embryology,K. E. v. Baer,for example)became famousdiscoverers. It is worth mentioningthat alreadyin 1820 elements of landscape science (Elemente der Tbrrainlehre) were taught to military students. Physicalgeographywas interpretedas meteorologyand physicsofthe earthand it wastaughtbyphysicists.Thefirst lector of these disciplines,rector of the university (and intimate counsellorof the RussianemperorAlexanderI), publisheda textbook(Parrotl8l5) G. F. Parrot(1767-1852) dealingwith all abiotic componentsof the earth.His son and successor, F.W.Parrot(1791-1841), wasat heartmore a geographerthan a physicist. He took part in many expeditionsand, by the way,conqueredthe top of Mount Ararat in 1829- a date consideredto be the beginningof Russianmountaineering. The Parrots played an important role in connecting Russianexplorersand academicsociety.A visit by A. v. Humboldt to Russia (and in 1829 to Tartu) further stimulated the scientificaspectsof expeditionsand the participationof scholars. The list of famous 19th centuryRussianexplorerswho wereBalticGermansfrom Estoniais a long one and would deservea specialessay.A. J. v. Krusenstern(1770-1846), O. v. Kotzebue (1787-1846),F. G. v. Bellingshausen(17781852),and F. v. Wrangel(1797-1870) should be mentioned first of all. An important place in physical geography befongsalso to the academicianK. E. v. Baer (1192-1816), one of the leading natural scientistsof the 19th century.



Fig I The Universityof Tartu and its most famous scientist, Karl Ernst von Baer, are both depictedon the Estonian two crown banknote

Baer's law and Baer's hills are two notable examples.Baer, leader in the Russian Geographical Society (founded in 1845)and in the Estonian Naturalists'Society,played a very important role as an organizer of explorations and integrator of activities at different levels (Kongo 1987). Baer's disciple, a one-time companion of expeditions and subsequent academician,A.Th. v. Middendorff (18151894), was one of the founders of geocryology. His expeditions to North and East Siberia establishedmuch new geographic knowledge, published, unfortunately, in obscurepapers(PAid1993).Middendorfwas half-Estonian (on his mother's side). The best years for geographyin l9th century Estonia were 1840-1860, when two chairs of geography were established at Tartu (Tammiksaar 1993).It is difficult to overestimatethe role of professorF. L. Kiimtz (1801-1867). He was one of the founders of contemporarymeteorology (K?imtzl83l-1836).Thanksto his closecontactswith both A. v. Humboldt and the RussianAcademyof Sciencesin St. Petersburg,Tartu became an important bridge for ideas, especially between branches of geography.His views in

PhysikalischeGeographiewere influenced by C. Ritter, and as time went on, more and more by his friend and coauthoq F. Hoffmann, whose lecture notes (Hoffmann 1837) he used to teach geography (Tammiksaar 1993).Nature -man interrelationswere of lessimportance in Hoffmann's geographythan problems of handling natural linkages on the earth's surface using the laws of physics. After a period of National Awakening in Estonia (18601880),there followed years of Russificationduring the last quarter of l9th century. University science had to turn more eastward. When the so-called new professional geographycame into being in Leipzig (1874)and Moscow (1885),geographydisappearedfor fifty years as a distinct science in Estonia. Geomorphology (geophysiology)was developed by the chair of geology.Meteorology gained a central place in earth science,professor B. L Sreznevski (1857-1934)being the most successful.His discipleswere EstoniansH. Liidemaa(1899)and E. Oldekop(1885-1952). Liidemaa is the Grand Old Lady of Estonian meteorology. E. Oldekop, more the theorist and reserved by nature, bears out the proverb that "not a prophet is famous at


home". He is internationally known for his equation of total evaporationfrom river basins(Oldekop191l). Besides his hydrologicalstudies in Central Asia (1912-1921),he published a monograph about theoretical biology (Oldekop 1933),which, at the time, was cited frequently (Kull & Sutrop 1985). However,the history of landscapesciencein Estonia reveals that the ideas of complex investigationsof nature have their roots in land evaluation. According to K. Kildema (1968), direct connections existed between natural scientists in Tartu and the Russian pioneer of complex studies, V.V. Dokuchaev, who organized expeditionsto Estonia in 1876-1881. Dokuchaevhimself remarkedthat his conceptionhad nothingin common with the "scattering of geographyin every direction".

Developmentof National Geography After Estonia becameindependentand the university in Tartu was reopendedin 19192), J. G. Granci(1882-1956) was invited from Finland to become a professor of geography. Being a docent of the University of Helsinki, he was well-known for his explorationsin Altai (Gran