palamuse estonia classroom

This fascinating picture shows a restored classroom in a rural school in the relatively remote district of Palamuse, which is located in eastern Estonia. It is restored to what it looked like between 1895 and 1899. You may not think of rural Baltic schools as worthy of historical preservation, but this one is. This is the classroom where Oskar Luts, a legendary Estonian writer, attended school as a boy. In fact, he wrote one of his most famous novels, Kevade (“Spring”), which came out in 1913, about the lives of schoolchildren who attended this school and this classroom. Luts is now recognized as an important part of Estonian folk culture in the early 20th century, before the tragedies of World War II and Soviet occupation ravaged the Baltic countries–a nightmare from which they have only begun to emerge in the last 25 years.

Note the rough wooden desks, which are communal–in American schools of the period students often had individual desks, but not so in Europe. The gas lantern hanging from the ceiling would have been necessary if classes were held in the darkness of the deep Baltic winter, when mornings come late and evenings come early. I also like the elegant carved clock on the back wall. We can’t see the globe but presumably it depicts the world as it existed in the final decade of the 19th century, when Russia was ruled by tsars, there was still an Austro-Hungarian empire and European empires spanned the globe from Africa to the Pacific. The First World War undid much of this world.

I love stuff like this, snapshots into a vanished age.

This photo is by Wikimedia Commons user Rauno Kalda and is used under Creative Commons 3.0 (Attribution) license.