Latin Terms in Estonian Legal Journalism in the Interwar Period: Practical Tools for a Young Legal Culture

Author:Merike Ristikivi
Position:Magister artium, Lecturer of Legal History (Latin Language and Roman Law), University of Tartu

1. Introduction - 2. Research material - 3. Frequency of usage of Latin terms - 4. Terminological variety - 4.1 The most frequent terms - 4.2. Succession - 4.3. The Land Reform Act, real estate, and ownership relations - 5. Conclusions

1. Introduction

The time between the two World Wars is of special significance in the history of Estonia: for the first time, the country enjoyed sovereignty, and a parliamentary democracy was established. 2 Developing a legal order for our own state and drafting new legislation became undoubtedly one of the priorities in the Republic of Estonia, which was born in 1918. Until the adoption of the new laws, the old ones remained in force, having been imposed in the Estonian and Livonian provinces during the tsarist regime (for example, the Baltic Private Law Act 3 with its special legislation such as town law, land law, statutes for peasants, and special regulations regarding the clergy), creating an obvious lack of uniformity from the point of view of the legal system. 4 Regrettably, drafting of legislation is a remarkably time-consuming process, and in the few years of independence this process was not completed in some areas of law. Also, the Baltic Private Law Act, on which the new Civil Code was based, and which relied heavily on Roman law and contained a great number of Latin terms, remained in force until the Soviet occupation in 1940. Albeit outdated in essence, the Civil Code formed one of the central elements in the juridical discourse.

At the outset of self-determination, great importance was attached to the Estonian language, which began to be used for legal studies, legislation, and practice of law in general. Consequently, in the interwar period, the Estonian legal language and the corresponding terminology developed, ousting the Russian and German languages, which had previously been used for legal purposes. 5

The concept of the relationship between language and nationality in modern society and the idea that each nation is unique, and that in order for a nation to survive, its language and culture must be preserved, stems from the 18th-century German Sturm und Drang movement and echoes the ideas of the French Enlightenment. 6 This national and linguistic ideology was embraced by 19th-century thinkers and sociologists who attempted to find an explanation for the national and linguistic conflicts in the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Turkish empires and therefore readily accepted the German national-linguistic model. Furthermore, this model proposed political rights and democracy through national independence. 7 These concepts and ideas were also mirrored in Estonia at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Estonian language was definitely a component of national identity as well as a political object and resource, particularly in the early years of independence as legislation began to be prepared by lawyers and politicians who were of Estonian origin. 8

Therefore, the era examined in the present article is, on the one hand, a time when legal terminology in the native language was created and developed. On the other hand, in the territory of Estonia, for centuries laws had been applied whose origins can be detected in the legal history of Europe. Similarly, over the centuries, Latin vocabulary had become an integral part of legal language, having been developed on the basis of Roman law or legal sources from the Europe of the Middle Ages. Accurate and relevant usage of professional terms of foreign origin requires a basic knowledge of the structure of the foreign language concerned. At the beginning of the century and in the interwar period, Latin was a natural part of schooling in Estonia. 9 At university level, Latin was considered even more important. For instance, the students of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tartu were required to know enough Latin to be able to manage compulsory reading: Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico ('Commentaries on the Gallic War'), Cicero's speeches, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and excerpts from the works of Horace and Livy. 10 At that time, Roman law was taught in two stages at Tartu: in the first year, the students became familiar with the history and sources of Roman law, and the second year focused on study of the system of Roman law. Knowledge of professional terminology in Latin was perfected in practical classes during those courses, as extracts from the 'Institutes' of Gaius and Justinian were read and translated. 11

Thus, against the background of, on the one hand, the desire and urgent need for the development of native terminology and, on the other, the European terminological tradition and the legislation implemented at that time, my research aims at investigating the role and importance of Latin terms in the new legal culture. How and to what extent did Estonian lawyers and jurists use Latin terms in their writing in the time between the two World Wars, and which particular Latin terms were used? The research material is constituted by the Latin legal terms detected in the Estonian-language juridical periodical Õigus ('Law') 12 published in 1920-1940. In comparison with other types of scholarly texts, such as course books, monographs, or dissertations on jurisprudence, the choice of a journal for this kind of terminological analysis has a clear advantage with regard to the topicality of its subject matter. Formally, periodicals are the most dynamic medium of law, reflecting the daily life of a particular legal culture. 13 In addition, the variety of the topics touched upon enables us to draw more specific conclusions about the usage of terms. At the beginning of the 20th century, legal advice in the Estonian language was not widely accessible. Even though several legal course books compiled in Estonian were printed before World War II, material in Estonian about most areas of law was not available at that time.

The research method applied is quantitative and qualitative term analysis, which helps us to determine the total number of Latin terms used and the dynamic changes that occurred in the 20 years of publication of the periodical, as well as the number of distinct terms used in the articles published in the periodical, which in turn enables us to assess the knowledge of foreign terms of the jurists of the time. Analysis of the terms on the basis of the frequency of their occurrence additionally allows us to draw important conclusions about the range of subjects and the areas of law that required more frequent usage of Latin terms but simultaneously required more attention on the part of lawyers and were under close scrutiny in the juridical discourse.

2. Research material

The journal Õigus began to be published in October 1920. Even though Õigus was the first juridical periodical in the Republic of Estonia, it cannot be said to have been the very first journal in the Estonian language that contained text about legal matters. Since 1909, a few publications had already been printed in Estonian as newspaper supplements or separate periodicals in Tallinn, Tartu, and even St. Petersburg. 14 However, these attempts were short-lived and rarely produced more than two or three issues, because, as the editorial board wrote in the introduction to the first issue of Õigus, in 1920, "there existed no national courts, nor government, thus rendering it unnecessary to have a national juridical periodical. Besides, because of strict censorship, it was impossible to publish certain pieces that needed to be published. Therefore, it is understandable why no progress was made in this area. Nevertheless, the situation has changed radically since the establishment of our independent state." 15

There was undoubtedly a need for primary legal information when the new state was created, and numerous questions arose pertaining to drafting and implementation of new laws. What is remarkable is that throughout its 20 years of publication, Õigus was the only juridical periodical to be published. This can be explained by the limited number of professional jurists in Estonia. Also later, after the Second World War and since the restoration of independence, there has usually been one legal journal at a time - e.g., Nõukogude Õigus ('Soviet Law') 16 during the Soviet era and at present Juridica. 17 Õigus was issued by the Association of Legal Scientists in Tartu, which had been formed only a few months prior to the release of the first issue. The editors and authors were professors from the University of Tartu, judges of the Supreme Court, well-known lawyers, and the Chancellor of Justice - the most active and renowned figures in the field of law in Estonia at the beginning of the 20th century.

Õigus appeared for 20 years without interruption. The last issue was printed in March 1940, only a few months before Estonia was occupied by Soviet Russia. In total, 176 issues were published in 20 years. In both the first and the last year of its publication, only three issues appeared. From 1921 to 1928, eight issues of Õigus were published per year, on average 18 , and from 1929 onwards, as many as 10 issues per year. All in all, the research material comprises 7,266 pages and 624 articles.

Graph 1 shows that in the first 10 years of publication the capacity of the journal was 230 pages a year on average, increasing by half by the end of the decade - 352 pages in 1929. In the second decade of its publication, from 1930, the capacity doubled in comparison with that of the early years, reaching 480 pages on average. This was made possible by the improved economic situation of the publisher of the journal. Summarising the first decade of publication, the editorial board stated that in the beginning they had faced serious financial difficulties and even paying fees to the authors of articles had been problematic. Thanks to support from the state and private donors, the second half of the 1920s was...

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