Walter Anderson (folklorist)

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Walter Anderson
Walter Anderson.jpg
Walter Anderson around 1930
Walter Arthur Alexander Anderson

(1885-10-10)October 10, 1885
Died August 23, 1962(1962-08-23) (aged 76)
Nationality German, Estonian
Alma mater
Known for the law of self-correction
Awards Order of the White Star, 3rd class [1]
Scientific career
Thesis Император и аббат: исторія одного народнаго анекдота
Notable students

Walter Arthur Alexander Anderson (Belarusian: Вальтэр Артур Аляксандр Андэрсан; October 10 [O.S. September 28] 1885, Minsk, Russian Empire – August 23, 1962 in Kiel, Germany) was a German ethnologist (folklorist) and numismatist.


Anderson was born from a Baltic German family in Minsk (now in Belarus), but in 1894 moved to Kazan (Russia), where his father, Nikolai Anderson (1845–1905), had been appointed as professor for Finno-Ugric languages at the University of Kazan. Anderson's younger brother was the well known mathematician and economist Oskar Anderson (1887–1960), and his older brother was the astrophysicist Wilhelm Anderson (1880–1940). The turmoil created by the Russian Revolution prompted Anderson and his brother Wilhelm to leave Russia and to move to Tartu in Estonia.[2] While living in Estonia in 1939, Anderson, like the majority of Baltic Germans living there, was resettled to Germany. In 1962 he died after having been involved in a traffic accident.


In 1904, Anderson enrolled at the University of Kazan and from 1909 continued his studies in Saint Petersburg, where he received a Magister degree from the University of Saint Petersburg in 1911. In 1916 he submitted his thesis on the ballad of the Emperor and the Abbot (AT 922) for which he received a Doctorate [3] from the University of Kazan in 1918. He worked at the University of Tartu in Estonia between 1920 and 1939, where in 1920 he was made the first holder of a chair of folklore.[4] Anderson's most significant students at the time were Oskar Loorits and August Annist [et; de] and later Isidor Levin.

From 1920 he was a member of the Learned Estonian Society (Gelehrte Estnische Gesellschaft), Estonia's oldest scholarly organization,[5] and from 1928 to 1929 he was the president of the society.[6] In 1930 he, like his father Nikolai Anderson before him, was made an honorary member of the society. He also held honorary membership of the American Folklore Society and the Hellenic Folklore Society [el].[7] In 1936 Anderson became a corresponding member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences.[8] In addition to this he was a corresponding member of the Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy, the Finnish Literature Society, the Finno-Ugrian Society and the Warsaw Scientific Society.[7]

From 1940 to 1945 he worked at the University of Königsberg. After the end of the second world war he received a visiting professorship at the University of Kiel, which he held until his retirement. A notable student he mentored at Kiel was W. F. H. Nicolaisen who had a distinguished career in folklore studies in the United States and Scotland. In 1950 Anderson was invited to the US to take part in a meeting of the International Folk Music Council held in Bloomington, Indiana, after which he stayed at Indiana University Bloomington for a few months as a visiting scholar.[9] He retired in 1953 but remained affiliated with the University of Kiel as emeritus professor until his death.


Walter Anderson was one of the driving forces behind the comparative geographic-historical Method of folkloristics. He is best known for his monograph Kaiser und Abt (Folklore Fellows' Communications 42, Helsinki 1923) on folktales of type AT 922. Anderson also had a keen interest in numismatics,[2] and he published several articles in this field. Some of his contributions to the study of Islamic coins are considered to have been groundbreaking.[10] For some time between 1920 and 1939 he also served as conservator for the coin collection of the Learned Estonian Society.[11]

Honours and awards

Anderson was awarded the Estonian Order of the White Star (3rd class) in 1938.[1]

External links

  • Ulrika Wolf-Knuts (2000). "On the history of comparison in folklore studies". short version of a contribution to the book "Thick corpus, organic variation and textuality in oral tradition". Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  • "Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore". University of Tartu. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  • "Folklore Fellows (FF) network". University of Turku. Archived from the original on 11 December 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012.


  1. ^ a b "Valter-Artur-Aleksander Anderson". Bearers of decorations. Eesti Vabariigi teenetemärkidega (Estonian State Decorations). Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b Kuusk, P. [et], Martinson, I. [et], Eelsalu, H. [et]; translated by Groote, S. (1997), "Wilhelm Robert Karl Anderson", Reprints at the Tartu Observatory Virtual Museum, Tartu Observatooriumi Virtuaalne Muuseum, retrieved November 29, 2012
  3. ^ Рафикова (Rafikova), Г. (G.); Ибрагимова (Ibrahimova), Ф. (F.) (2016). "Биографика Казанского университета: Андерсоны (Kazan University Biography: Anderson)". «Гасырлар авазы – Эхо веков» (in Russian). 2016 1/2.
  4. ^ Harris, Ernest Howard (1947), Literature in Estonia (2nd ed.), London: Boreas, p. 21
  5. ^ "766. Monatssitzung vom 3. November 1920", Sitzungsberichte der gelehrten estnischen Gesellschaft zu Dorpat 1912-1920, Tartu: Gelehrte Estnische Gesellschaft, 1921, p. 131
  6. ^ "Anderson, Walter Arthur Alexander", BBLD – Baltisches Biographisches Lexikon digital, Göttingen: Baltische Historische Kommission, 2012
  7. ^ a b Kurt Ranke (1962), "Walter Anderson (1885-1962)", Fabula, 5
  8. ^ "Walter Anderson". Member list of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  9. ^ Stith Thompson (1996), A Folklorist's Progress: Reflections of a Scholar's Life (Special Publications of the Folklore Institute, Indiana University ed.), Bloomington: Indiana University Press
  10. ^ Ivar Leimus [et] (2007), Sylloge of Islamic coins 710/1-1013/4 AD: Estonian public collections, Tallinn: Estonian History Museum
  11. ^ Otto A. Webermann (1963), "Walter Anderson (1885-1962)", Zeitschrift für Ostforschung, 12
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