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Vaino Vahingu kirjavahetus Milvi Seimiga (lk 116–125)


Vaino Vahing’s correspondence with Milvi Seim

This publication consists of two letters from the correspondence between the social worker and therapist Milvi Seim (1933–2016) and the well-known Estonian psychiatrist and writer Vaino Vahing (1940–2008). It is supplemented by a commentary on Vahing’s personal archive and the current state of research, and on controversies regarding Vahing’s works.

Vahing’s extensive correspondents in his personal archive include the bulk of the cultural elite of the late Soviet-Estonian theatre and literary scene. Vahing’s longest correspondences in duration were with his two close friends: the artist Jüri Arrak (1936–2022) and the Latvian psychiatrist Imants Eglitis (1938–1997). One of the most interesting correspondences for wider audiences, however, could be with the Estonian social worker and therapist Milvi Seim. Milvi Seim, born Milvi Säinas, grew up in Viimsi, near Tallinn. In September of 1944, her family fled to Sweden. Initially, the Säinas family lived in the industrial city of Eskilstuna. Milvi Seim graduated from high school and moved to Stockholm in 1954, where she began studying socionomy, a new and progressive field at the time. In Stockholm, Milvi Seim actively participated in cultural activities, sang in the Estonian church choir, was active in a local literary circle, and was involved for a long time in organising the archives of the Estonians in exile. In his correspondence with Seim, Vahing learned about newer trends in psychotherapy and the differences between Swedish and Soviet Estonian societies. They also exchanged many books and publications. Another important topic in their correspondence is recent developments in literature. His direct connection with Seim was probably an important channel for Vahing to stay informed about newer Western therapeutic methods and forms of therapy.

Vaino Vahing’s status in Estonian literature is peculiar compared to his well-known contemporaries. More than with other authors of the 1960s generation, the significance of Vahing’s work has been primarily directed by his larger-than-life personality. As those who have personally known Vahing grow old and pass away, the authority of Vahing’s person over the meaning of his texts is inevitably passing. The strong establishment of something like Vahing’s self-myth may actually deter newer readers from his work as much as it attracts them. The psychoanalytic phenomenon of transference becomes especially pertinent in the reception of works of charismatic personalities like Vahing. Vahing refused to fully identify with various roles as a physician, a forensic specialist, and a writer. I suggest that his way of living in society made him especially susceptible to transference of others (both negative and positive affects).