The History of the Revelia fraternity

The University of Tartu began work as an Estonian-language university on the first of December, 1919. Later, after the Vabadussõda (or "War of Liberation") had ended, many students who had left their studar of Liberation") had ended, many students who had left their studies half-completed were discharged from the army. The war, in which Estonian students fought mainly voluntarily, strengthened national spirit, which now assumed the form of the founding of a newly-principled intimate organisation.

The idea of creating a new student fraternity (or "korporatsioon") arose at a meeting of medical students in March 1920. The real work of organisation began in May of the same year, when a group of students, mostly members of the Sakala fraternity, were on a trip to Pihlapuu farm, Haaslava. Later this event was, half-jokingly, named "Sakala teiseks kommerssiks" (or "The Other Sakala Kommersh"). In September 1920, after the summer holidays, meetings were held to work out a constitution.. So, the actual day of the fraternity's founding can be considered to be the 19th of September, 1920.

Beginning with the first meeting, the new fraternity held to a strong national spirit, the principle of unity, and the cultivation of the will to work. It adopted the position that although strict order could well be exercised to alter certain habits and behaviour, it was not suitable for the development of character.

Thus, the development of young fraternity members could be encouraged rather by individual sncouraged rather by individual solutions and attention to each individual instance.

The founding members came mostly from fraternities already in existence: six from Sakala, two from Ugala, one from Fraternitas Academica, as well as two students with no prior affiliation. Their names are as follows:

  • Karl Hanson agr. Ugala
  • Martin Hendrikson med. Sakala
  • Julian / Peeter Karolin rer. merc. Sakala
  • Jakob Kükamees agr. Sakala
  • Arthur Luik jur. Sakala
  • Johannes Matt agr. Ugala
  • Arnold Mägar agr. unaffiliated
  • Mihkel Nanelson med. Sakala
  • Herbert Norman med. Frat. Academica
  • Artur Odrats rer. merc. unaffiliated
  • Johannes Põderson jur. Sakala

Artur Luik was rusticated, for going over to Soviet Russia, for 99 years, from [year unknown].

The name 'Revelia' was chosen at the recommendation of university philology lecturers, it being the oldest name in Estonian history for ers, it being the oldest name in Estonian history for the area around Tallinn. The colours of the flag were chosen at the recommendation of art historians: the black and the white came from the Estonian flag, and the green came from one of the earliest suggestions of C. R. Jakobson for the national flag.

Green expresses hope and love of work, black - honesty and justice, white - purity, and brotherhood amongst members. The motto of the flag was chosen to be 'Üks kõige, kõik ühe eest!' (One for all, and all for one!), which should be understood in the broadest sense of all the Estonian people.

The constitution was finalised on the 2nd of November, 1920, and then presented for approval to the University Council, who confirmed it on the 3rd of December, 1920. This date is the one on which the anniversary of the founding of the Revelia fraternity is celebrated.

The symbols of the new fraternity first appeared in public before the 8th of December, 1920. The 'inner life' of the fraternity house had commenced already in September. After several moves, the fraternity settled its base as 35, Veski street. Later plans to buy this house were frustrated by the occupation of Estonia in 1940.

The fraternity shield was confirmed by a meeernity shield was confirmed by a meeting at the fraternity house on the 27th of February, 1921. On the green ground is the founding date of Revelia, 3. XII 1920 between two laurel branches, tied with silver thread. On the black ground, are three silver leopards with golden crowns from the coat of arms of Tallinn, and on the white ground is the Revelia compass or 'sirkel'. The compass contains the letters V, C, F and R representing the words Vivat, crescat et floreat Revelia - May Revelia live long, grow and flourish!

To begin with, Revelia did not take much part in the activities of the wider student body as a whole, because emphasis was put rather on the development of the inner life of the organisation. In 1924, members of Revelia were amongst the candidates on the Üliõpilaskonna Edustusse list. On the first of December, 1920 at the time of a communist putsch, Revelia was the first organisation of students in Tartu to enter the Home Guard in corpore. By the evening of the same day, armed sentry duty had already been begun.

There had been good relation with those fraternities who were members of the EKL! (the League of Estonian Fraternities), although joining this body had been postponed because of the need first to develop the inner levelop the inner life of the fraternity. However, on the 27th of March, 1928, Revelia was received as a fully-accredited meber of the EKL!. Since then, Revelia has taken part in all of the league's activities, and helped to strengthen the EKL!'s position in the Estonian student community.

In 1934, members of the Tallinn fraternity, Frat. Justitia, declared their wish to join with Revelia. In the first semester of 1935, three old boys and thirteen junior members were admitted into membership.

Links with Finland were developed. On the 30th of November, 1930, a friendship agreement was signed in Tartu with the oldest organisation within Helsinki University, Viipurilainen Osakunta (The Fraternity of Vyborgians). A significant contribution was made over the years in bringing this connection to life by Finnish member of Revelia, Boris Karpela.

As more and more members moved to Tallinn for reasons of work and study, so a Tallinn branch began life in the twenties. There was a scheme to register this as the Tallinn Section, but this was frustrated by the Soviet occupation.

In the first years, a large number of the members were from Viljandi county, but in the course of time, young men from Tallinn and north Estonia became predominantd north Estonia became predominant. Numerically speaking, the most represented faculties were law and economics, followed by medicine, mathematics, and others. There were relatively few linguists, or pharmacology or veterinary students. Artists made their own contribution to the development of the fraternity, and encouraged cultural interests among members. The number of old boys grew rapidly, and in 1926 an Old Boys Section was formed, which generously helped the fraternity house with both advice and support.

From the beginning it was forbidden to propagate one's own political opinions in the fraternity house. Similarly, supporters of totalitarian regimes were not welcome at the fraternity house. This did not mean that political activity was forbidden, simply that one had, as it were, to leave one's political sympathies at the door of the fraternity house. Members of Revelia took a significant part in Estonian public life, in the last parliament there were still 12 Revelia members.

In 1940, the occupying power liquidated the fraternity, and confiscated its archive, library, minutes and accounts. The fraternity house at 35, Veski street was turned into a Red Army hospital. Frequent visits to and exchange of information among Revelia members took place, and getia members took place, and get-togethers were held at old boy vil! O. Linde's flat.

During the German occupation, 1941-1944, the situation improved somewhat, most events could take place under the cover of "birthday celebrations". On the 4th of December, 1942, 22nd anniversary of Revelia was celebrated in Tartu at the "Kuld Lõvi" restaurant, under the cover of being O. Linde's birthday party. A year later, a Family Evening took place, which was visited by the University rector, E. Kant, together with his wife, and also by other lecturers. E. Kant greatly helped the Revelia fraternity in both the Russian and German occupations by his own pertinent advice and guidance.

There were many victims of the Soviet occupation and the Second World War among Revelia members. 70 % of members of Revelia were reserve officers. Later, slightly less than a fifth of fraternity members escaped to the free world. Some members of Revelia continued their struggle against communism in Finland, from where they later proceeded to Sweden. The first members had already reached Sweden by 1943, although finding one another took a great deal of time.

On the 17th of September, 1947, the first regular meeting took place in the house of K. Boman, a former hea Boman, a former head (or 'vanamees') of Revelia, who had constructed a small fraternity apartment in his cellar. Three young members were received into membership in the same year, and fraternal life was in full swing as their numbers grew, until, in the course of time, members left mainly for Canada, the US and Australia.

The second largest group of Revelia members were blown to Germany by the winds of war, and there began an active branch at the Geislingen Displaced Persons Camp. Because of the difficult conditions there, they could not take in new members, and in the course of time, the members of the branch were separated.

The first Revelia members reached Canada, mostly from Germany, in 1949. Because they had been in personal contact, the branch there was very active from the very beginning, and relations between members were good. Later, fresh blood came from Sweden.

In the USA, most Revelia members settled around New York, where they began organising anew, the result of which being the founding of a branch in 1951. Initally, new members were not received, but later this decision was reversed.

By 1951, six old boys, and four 'bursch' old boys, were living in Australia, and met up frequently, though they had yet to form though they had yet to form a branch. They began now to organise a Sidney Academic Branch, but this did not accomplish a very great deal, before the founding of the Revelia Branch in Australia, on the 30th of May, 1954.

All branches maintained close contact with one another, and functioned according to the principle of unity. Activities were co-ordinated by a section which sat every three years. The sections in Australia and Sweden, which had intitially been very active, became somewhat less so due to a lack of new blood.

The re-establishment of the Revelia fraternity in Tartu is due to a small circle of friends interested in traditional university life. When, in 1989, civic life in Estonia began to be somewhat more democratic, the idea of forming a student organisation was put forward. Meetings were held at regular intervals from the February of 1989 on, the outcome of long discussions being the decision to organise in the form of a fraternity. The conclusion of the debate was that the best way to guarantee continuity between 'old' and 'new' student life was to re-establish a university fraternity from the time of the first Estonian republic.

On the 2nd of March, 1989, material touching on the activities of the Revelia fraternity was read at aRevelia fraternity was read at a meeting. Consequently, contact was made with the old boys and on the 12th of March a meeting took place of the initial new members and the old boys at old boy vil! Silla's house, which decide to recommence the activities of the Revelia fraternity in Tartu. On the 22nd of March, a meeting elected P. Pulk as chairman, H. Lilleväli as deputy chairman, J. Ruut as secretary and I. Pehk as treasurer. They approved a constitution and presented the petition to re-found the fraternity to the senate of Tartu University. On the 31st of March, 1989, the re-created Revelia fratenity was registered in Tartu.

The real re-founding of the fraternity had begun, the culmination of which was the blessing of the green, black and white flag at Simuna church on the 22nd of October, 1989. The church service was conducted by Revelia old boys, vil!! A. Eenmaa and L. Üllaste. Thirteen young members of Revelia became colour-bearing members with full rights on that day. Their junior period of membership was considered to have been completed for sake of the restoration of the fraternity. The re-founders were A. Aabloo, A. Hinrikus, A. Järviste, O. Kelle, H. Lilleväli, I. Pehk, A. Peiker, R. Poolamäe, P. Pulk, J. Ruut, A. Ronk, M. Sardis, anRuut, A. Ronk, M. Sardis, and T. Sula. Three 'foxes' (junior members) were also accepted.

Contacts with other Estonian university organisations were resumed by participation in the refounded EKL!. In 1989, contacts were renewed with the fraternal organisation, Viipurilainen Osakunta. There was also contact with sections abroad.

The Seventieth Anniversary of Revelia was celebrated in 1990. On the 2nd of December, 1990, the Old Boys section recommenced its activities.

  • Vivat, crescat et floreat Revelia!

    Ksv! Margo Pajuste

    translated by küll! Jonathan Roper

 


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