Juhan Sütiste

Juhan SütistePoems


Juhan Sütiste (until 1936 Johannes Schütz, 28./16. XII 1899 – 10. II 1945) was an Estonian poet, a representative of so-called 'true-to-life' poetry.

He was born in Tähtvere district in Tartumaa county, the son of a building worker on a forestry estate. From 1909 to 1912 he attended the church school of St. Peter’s congregation in Tartu; from 1913 to 1919 he was an apprentice watchmaker; from 1919 to 1922 he attended the Tartu night gymnasium and went to evening drawing classes. In 1919-1920 he belonged to the reserve battalion of Tartu schoolteachers, and took part in the battles of Pskov against the Red Army in the War of Independence. After the war he worked for a watchmaker, and from 1923 to 1931 he studied at the University of Tartu without graduating, mostly attending lectures on literature, folklore and history. Sütiste was active in sport, winning the javelin event at the Student Olympiad in Rome in 1927. He travelled in Europe and West Africa. From 1934 to 1937 he was a lecturer and director for the Tartu Drama Theatre Society, from 1938 to 1940 a dramaturge for the Drama Theatre in Tallinn, and in 1940 he was promoted to deputy director of the United Drama and Workers’ Theatre.

In 1941 he was mobilized into the Tallinn Workers’ Regiment of the Red Army and took part in the battles of Kadriorg, ending up in hospital, where he was arrested by the German occupying forces. Sütiste spent 1941-1942 in Patarei prison in Tallinn; in 1943-1944 he was back working at the Drama Theatre as a dramaturge. After the start of the Soviet occupation he came into the field of interest of the NKVD in 1944; one NKVD document called Sütiste "a vicious enemy of Soviet order". Sütiste died in Tallinn in 1945 as the result of a heart attack, according to some sources directly after yet another NKVD interrogation.

Sütiste published his first poems in 1921 in the journal Murrang. In 1925, together with Erni Hiir and Mihkel Jürna, he issued the compilations Sang ('Handle') and Bumerang ('Boomerang'), collections of expressionist poetry. His own first collection Rahutus ('Unease', 1928) contains realistic autobiographical material. Between 1930 and 1934 Sütiste published four poetry collections, in which the poet further develops his realistic approach. Compared with his first collection, Sütiste is less autobiographical, concentrating on depicting the difficulties of life for urban working people. The author’s political views were of the radical Left; he belonged to the Students’ Social Philosophical Association, which was directed by the then-illegal Communist Party. To this period belong what are now Sütiste’s best-known poetry collections, Maha rahu! ('Down with Peace!', 1932) and Kaks leeri ('Two Camps', 1933).

Sütiste continued on his chosen path of realism in the second half of the nineteen-thirties, but no longer so strikingly. After the start of the Era of Silence imposed in 1934 by President Konstantin Päts, Sütiste was no longer as radical, and to some extent he went along with the official literary policy, which entrenched a positive kind of image. At the end of the decade Sütiste again became more critical of power. His last works, the long poem Maakera pöördub itta ('The Earth Turns Eastward'), written after the coup of 21 June and which appeared in September 1940 in the journal Viisnurk, and the poetry collection Umbsed päevad ('Airless Days', 1945), written during the German occupation, support Soviet power, yet were not written to order or artistically worthless. In 1941 the tale in verse for children Kalamehed ('The Fishermen') appeared, and became popular in subsequent decades. His poetry has been published in several collections in recent decades, most recently in 1999 in the book Kui tõmbetuul on luuletaja saatus ('When Cross-currents are the Fate of the Poet').

Sütiste wrote more drama in the latter half of his life. He published a verse drama on Biblical motifs, Jumalate mäss ('The Revolt of the Gods', in the journal Looming, 1933) and a psychological family drama, Esimene pääsuke ('The First Swallow', 1933). In 1941 Sütiste was commissioned to write the libretto of an opera to commemorate the centenary of the peasant uprising of 1841, Pühajärv ('Lake Pühajärv'; published in 'Works', 1956). At the end of the war he wrote the verse drama Ristikoerad ('Dogs of the Cross'), which deals with the Estonians’ battles with the Crusaders in the 13th century (Looming, 1946). In the last months of his life he wrote a pair of plays depicting contemporary political events, Laviin liigub ('The Avalanche Moves') and Laviin puruneb ('The Avalanche Bursts'), which remained unfinished (they appeared in 'Works', 1956).

With his realistic socially critical poetry, depicting the lives of working people, Sütiste was deliberately and programmatically contrasting with the dominant elitist, intellectual and spiritual poetry of the nineteen-thirties in Estonia, represented at its best by the Arbujad grouping. This attitude was carried over into Sütiste’s polemical and productive literary criticism.

S. V. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Hiir, Schütz, Jürna, Sang. Tartu: Arlekiin, 1925, 36 lk. [Autorid: Erni Hiir, Juhan Sütiste, Mihkel Jürna.]

Hiir, Schütz, Jürna, Bumerang. Tartu: Hiir, Schütz, Jürna, 1925, 62 lk. [Autorid: Erni Hiir, Juhan Sütiste, Mihkel Jürna.]
Johannes Schütz, Rahutus. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1928, 97 lk.
Johannes Schütz, Peipsist mereni. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1930, 86 lk.
Johannes Schütz, Maha rahu!. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1932, 78 lk.
Johannes Schütz, Kaks leeri. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1933, 76 lk.
Johannes Schütz, Südasuvi. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1934, 74 lk.
Noored partisanid. Poeem. Tartu: Eesti Kirjastuse Kooperatiiv, 1935, 158 lk.
Päikese ootel. Tartu: Eesti Kirjastuse Kooperatiiv, 1935, 76 lk.
Sadamad ja saared. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1936, 79 lk.
Ringkäik. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1937, 77 lk.
Valgus ja varjud. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1939, 70 lk.
Umbsed päevad. Luuletusi 1942-1944. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1945, 96 lk.
Valitud luuletused. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1946, 300 lk.
Luuletused. Koostanud Paul Rummo. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1955, 532 lk.
Juhan Sütiste. Koostanud Jaan Kross. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 184 lk. [Sari 'Väike luuleraamat'.]
Maakera pöördub itta. Värssmontaaž. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1967, 20 lk.
Tervitus teile!. Koostanud Endel Sõgel. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1970, 55 lk. [Sari 'Poeedilt sõjaveteranile'.]
Luuletused. Koostaja D. Vaarandi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1972, 396 lk.
Luulet. Koostanud Karl Muru. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1978, 120 lk.
Kui tõmbetuul on luuletaja saatus. Koostanud Georg Grünberg. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1999, 542 lk.

Children's poem
Kalamehed. Tallinn: Pedagoogiline Kirjandus, 1941, 12 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1950, 1961, 1980, 1986, digiraamat: 2016.]

Esimene pääsuke. Näidend kolmes vaatuses. Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1937, 135 lk.
Lembitu. (Ristikoerad.) Näidend 4-as vaatuses. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1950, 96 lk.

Iga hetk on loov. Valimik J. Sütiste teatrikirjutusi. Koostanud ja kommenteerinud Oskar Kruus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1974, 156 lk.

Collected works
Teosed. 1. köide. Luuletused. Koostanud Paul Rummo. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1955, 532 lk.
Teosed. 2. köide. Poeemid; Publitsistika; Dramaturgia. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1956, 519 lk. [Sisaldab näidendeid 'Jumalate mäss', 'Pühajärv', 'Ristikoerad'.]

About Juhan Sütiste
Oskar Kruus, Juhan Sütiste. Elukäik ja looming. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 2000, 254 lk.