Problems of Traditional Culture and Folklore in Europe

Heikki Kirkinen
Vice-President of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities
University of Joensuu


In 1984, UNESCO launched a program on intangible cultural heritage and decided to base it solidly on theoretical studies. In 1989, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore. A great number of theoretical studies have been supported by UNESCO, and many international seminars have been organized for studying and discussing this large field of cultural problems. Discussion and action inspired by these studies are under way on all continents.

The European Academy of Arts Sciences and Humanities, in cooperation with UNESCO and the Academy of Finland, organized a seminar on the problems of the protection and development of our common intangible heritage, especially of traditional culture and folklore. The seminar was held in the center of the Finnish Karelia, Joensuu, in the region of the old mythic, Kalevalaic folklore.

The seminar was perepared by President of the European Academy Professor Raymond Daudel and Mrs. Aikawa from UNESCO. Local preparations for the seminar were made by the Karelia Congresses organization in a working group headed by Professor Heikki Kirkinen, Vice-President of the European Academy.

The Intangible Heritage Section had prepared a questionnaire on the application of the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore in the countries of Europe. The answers were to be sent directly to the local preparation group of the seminar. Although the allotted time was short, the working group received answers from fifteen European countries, coming from National Commis­sions for UNESCO or from responsible state offices. Some details were provided in answers prepared by CIOFF.

Main Issues Treated

In cooperation with UNESCO, cultural heritage specialists suggested a general field of study and several main subjects to be discussed. The subjects recommended were:

The first subject has been addressed in UNESCO programs but less studied by the European Academy. The seminar mostly worked on the subjects 2. to 5. The final theme was adopted to emphasize the importance of long-term perspectives in strategies for safeguarding traditional culture and folklore.

The seminar comprised five sessions in three days: each session was introduced by an individual presentation and continued with general discussion on subjects presented. A special Commission on Recommendations held three meetings preparing recommendations on matters presented and discussed in the sessions. A preliminary list of recommendations was discussed in the last plenary session and adopted after some modifications.

In the opening session, the representatives of the Academy of Finland, the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities and UNESCO reported on their organizations’ current activities and future directions in the field of culture and cultural policy. The President of the Academy of Finland stressed the idea of "knowledge-based" society and the creation of centers of excellence. The President of the European Academy pointed out the importance of the immaterial cultural heritage created and safeguarded in the practice of the sciences and through their international cooperation. The representative of the Director-General of UNESCO set the work of the seminar in global perspective.

Seminar papers and discussions were divided into four thematic sections. In the first section, Problems of Culture, general cultural issues were introduced and discussed from the point of view of traditional culture. The session was opened by Mr. Langlois, eminent architect and writer, who cited a need for respect and protection of the "immaterial patrimony,” particularly of the myths which still live and nourish culture in the subconscious of nations and in the collective memory of humankind, for example, the great mythology of ancient Greece.

Cultural tradition can suffer alteration and even distortion, explained Professor Nagy, who warned of dangers brought by rapid change and breaking of continuity in cultural development. Professor Nachev pointed out that the religious tradition can be useful in healing the mental stress that is one of the perils of our busy world. Some participants doubted the relevance of this idea, but its significance in certain cases was admitted.

A special study was made by Professor Schmitt Jensen from Aarhus University of "romanic intercommunicability" as a means of conservation of romanic languages French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. He suggested that the formation of such a linguistic unity would develop bases for broad intercommunicability on different levels. Many Scandinavian people already know how to speak, when needed, a kind of "Scandinavian language.” A romanic language would elaborate principles for a new intercommunicability among the Mediterranean peoples and languages. This project could inspire initiatives for regional cooperation among other related languages.

The second section of themes, Cultural Heritage, treated some actual problems of traditional culture. Ambassador Kari Bergholm pointed out how important it is to know and appreciate one's own heritage, as expressed in the British proverb, "To be is to be different.” This also reveals the necessity of knowing others and opens the mind for contacts and exchanges with people belonging to different cultural traditions. In fact, The International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Art, presided over by Mr. Bergholm, is an organization functioning as a network of cooperation, promoting the preservation of traditional culture especially in the field of folk music and folk dance.

The problem of cultural identity was central also in the presentation of Professor Anna-Leena Siikala, who analyzed the complicated situation of minority cultures, especially of Finno-Ugrian peoples in Russia in a post-Soviet era beset by rapid changes and economic difficulties. These people provide an example of a quest for cultural identity in our time. The problem of majorities and minorities was viewed at a global level in the comparative study of Professor Sandorfy, who spoke about how majorities may use minorities against each other, e.g., in the Balkan region and in Quebec. His paper challenges readers not only to tolerance, mutual comprehension and peace but also to a serious discussion of the necessary equilibrium between different majorities and minorities. How large should a minority be as a realistic precondition for autonomy or sovereignty without making peaceful life together impossible in the larger national or cultural community? Majorities shall also have their rights. The speaker noted that emigration is not the only way to avoid conflicts; a minority can also learn to speak the language of the majority. And even in the opposite case, it is possible to learn to love two or even more countries at the same time.

The third section of themes, New Technologies, was represented by two specialists in informatics. Counselor Liedes spoke about intellectual property in a time of new information technology. He explained that conceptually, intellectual property is subject matter specified and instituted by law, such as patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and the copyright which "refers to intangible, immaterial objects.” Traditionally, copyright refers to artistic creation but today more and more also to intellectual production. It has become one of the most important international fields of law and an object of growing political and commercial interest because of its great commercial and cultural value.

The speaker presented some examples of challenges facing the developers of the copyright system, for example, cyberspace, which is open, fluid, and intangible and has a global location. How can it be possessed by anyone? Global rules are needed as well as harmonization of legislation on matters of copyright and other intellectual properties. The new technology opens effective new ways for cultural creation and diffusion in all the areas of culture and is essential also for future cultural cooperation.

A modern application of new information technology to cultural activities was presented by Dr. Bonacic, who observed that a digital visual language can be used to expand verbal and written communication. Through this "creation of dematerialized contents on the basis of material objects" our immaterial patrimony "can attain a new dimension [of] interactivity … (for example via the Internet).” It is possible to create virtual art and to organize virtual exhibitions and communicate between all the areas of humanistic creation. The goal is to obtain a balance between humanity and technology, a goal that can be attained also in the area of traditional culture and folklore.

The fourth section, Cultural Evolution, was devoted to a more philosophical theme, to the development of human culture seen in a long-term perspective. It was opened by Professor Sabsay, who expressed his concern for the future of culture in a world dominated by global economic integration, science, and high technology. The global market of capital is also a global market of ideas and values with profound influence even on systems and programs of education.

The basic project for the future is "learning to live together.” For the twenty-first century we need education for tolerance and solidarity. We are living in a world in which peace is often interrupted by ethnic, economic, and religious confrontations, creating confusion as to the cultural identities of nations. Social reality propels us towards a technological civilization without frontiers. In this situation, government and public opinion should understand that social and political problems are more important than rapid economic growth.

Professor Eva Kushner regards cultural evolution from another perspective by asking how we ensure that younger generations will be prepared and motivated to transmit their cultural heritage and to benefit from it in their own lives. In a stable society, inherited culture can inspire diffidence or hostility towards the culture, ethnicity, and religion of others. We can see two ways of envisioning cultural identity: one of becoming rooted in a culture without threatening that of others, and one of exploiting cultural difference and inflating the collective ego to squeeze out other collective egos. The first approach is the correct one; culture must be a home and not a prison.

A culture can be regarded as having three levels: the first is the lifestyle (food, clothing, customs, etc.); the second is a common historical memory, language, shared victories and defeats, and the third level is formed of aesthetic, intellectual, religious, and spiritual values. The more open the society, the less the three levels are coercively linked together. In some places and regions, young people willingly appropriate the values transmitted by their elders, but in many others, traditions are more or less forcibly imposed. The abandoning of old traditions in a new multicultural society should be gradual to avoid a vacuum in cultural identity. The speaker concluded: "Thus all the treasures of the intangible heritage are there for the developing subjects to make their own, in a way that may deepen and enhance their relationship to their own culture and open their minds to that of others.”

Professor Marcel V. Locquin pointed out how important it is to join science and culture in the study of cultural evolution. The basis of general evolution is physico-chemical life processes. In cultural evolution, the biological paradigm is superseded by psychological, linguistic, and sociological paradigms and finally by rational reflection. This should be taken into consideration in education, study, and research.

The last speaker, Professor Kirkinen, presented a general outline of contemporary theories about cultural evolution by adopting as a starting point the emergence of human culture in biological evolution. He sees germs of cultural behavior already in some species of higher hominids, but man alone has continued to develop his cultural heritage to a higher rational level. Humankind has advanced enormously in technological culture but still has strong atavistic instincts in social and cultural life and a general and awful aggressivity that seems to have roots in genetic heritage. The human being exercises an effect on biological and cultural development but has not yet learned to deeply dominate his forces. The human consciousness of its own place in nature is still obscure and human ethical behavior towards other persons, societies, and cultures that differ is suspicious and repulsive. However, a positive cultural evolution is possible, and we still are able to learn positive values: tolerance, respect, cooperation, and even principles and actions of human solidarity. UNESCO is the best international organization for the coordination and the leadership of the common effort towards the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of all nations and cultures on the earth. A practical aim could be a convention for the protection of the diversity of cultures, as we have an agreement by nearly all nations (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) concerning the protection of the diversity of biological species, which is a precondition of biological evolution.

Application of the 1989 Recommendation

The questionnaire prepared by UNESCO in partnership with the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, and the European answers to this questionnaire formed a background for the discussions of all themes presented at the Joensuu Seminar. Specific themes produced recommendations, and answers to the questionnaire resulted in conclusions. Together they tell about studies and experiences of cultural life at the end of the twentieth century. They also give hints and advice for our work in safeguarding and developing traditional culture and folklore. Therefore, it is useful to present this part of the seminar to the participants of this conference.

We begin with an introductory text of the seminar in Joensuu, the address presented by Mrs. Noriko Aikawa, Director of the Intangible Heritage Section at UNESCO and personal representative of the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Federico Mayor.

Excerpts from the Speech of Mrs. Noriko Aikawa

It is symbolic that the present meeting is taking place in Karelia, the "land of the Kalevala,” the world-renowned Finnish national epic. Representing UNESCO, I shall describe some aspects of our program on intangible heritage in general and the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore in particular.

What is intangible cultural heritage? UNESCO interprets the term culture in its broadest sense, i.e., the set of spiritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features which characterize a society. More often the words "cultural heritage" call to mind monuments and art objects. But there is also an intangible cultural heritage. UNESCO uses the term intangible cultural heritage in the identical manner as the term used for “traditional and popular culture” in the Recommendation. Para. A of the Recommendation gives the following definition: "Folklore (or traditional and popular culture) is the totality of tradition-based creations of a cultural community, expressed by a group of individuals and recognized as reflecting the expectations of a community in so far as they reflect its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means. Its forms are, among others, language, literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs, handicrafts, architecture and other arts."

Confronted with great diversity in forms of cultural expression, UNESCO focuses its program on languages, oral traditions, the performing arts such as music and dance, and handicraft skills.

Nine years have passed since the Organization's General Conference adopted the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore in November 1989. During this period after the fall of the Berlin Wall, political upheavals shook many former Communist countries. Today, they are undergoing profound transformations and changes. A number of new countries were born, and many ethnic groups searched for their roots in their rediscovered cultural heritage, which is regarded as a symbol of people's identity. More particularly, many basic aspects of intangible heritage, such as people's traditional philosophies, religions, and knowledge, whose practice had often been prohibited, became important elements of support in the process of nation-building.

In the early nineties, it also became clear that certain economic "development strategies" could not be applied to some communities without taking into account their specific socio-cultural context. Therefore, it was deemed necessary to conduct a thorough study of the history, the traditional ways of thinking, and the functioning of local social systems.

More recently, economic globalization and the rapid progress of communication techniques have accelerated the growing uniformity of cultures around the world. Thus, it has become a matter of urgency to preserve the traditional and popular cultures specific to each community if we want to perpetuate the cultural diversity of the world.

These are the reasons that preserving intangible cultural heritage has become an important issue for UNESCO Member States since the adoption of the Recommendation and the appearance of new parameters of humanity's development. When these states started to consider their traditional and popular cultures, they realized that most of them had already been lost or that many of the surviving parts were on the verge of disappearing.

Today's seminar occupies an important place within the framework of UNESCO's activities in the assessment of the present situation of preserving the world's intangible cultural heritage. Soon after the adoption of the Recommendation in 1989, the Swiss, Italian, and Spanish national committees of the International Council of Organisations for Folklore Festivals and Folk Art (CIOFF) organized, in cooperation with UNESCO, seminars on the implementation of the Recommendation. Those meetings drew the attention of public and private circles in these countries to the need for actively implementing the UNESCO Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore.

In 1995, UNESCO began regional surveys to observe to what extent the provisions of the Recommendation had been applied in each country. The surveys also allow UNESCO to assess the current situation of intangible culture heritage in the Member States. The method used was to first send questionnaires to the countries of the region concerned, then identify the specialized institution capable of analyzing the replies to the questionnaire in order to draft a synthesis report, and, finally, organize a regional seminar in order to examine the synthesis report, assess the situation, identify the problems, and make recommendations for future actions.

UNESCO will carry on the surveys on the application of the Recommendation in Tashkent (Republic of Uzbekistan) in October 1998 for Central Asia, in Fiji in December 1998 for the Pacific region, in Accra (Ghana) in January 1999 for the African region, and in Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic [actually held in Beirut, Lebanon, May 1999. Ed.] ) in February 1999 for the Arab region. In June 1999, a World Conference will be organized in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (U.S.A.). This conference will evaluate the results of all conducted regional surveys, assess the present situation and the role of the intangible cultural heritage in the world today, identify and analyze the major problems encountered in safeguarding and re-dynamizing intangible cultural heritage, and give guidance to a new orientation that UNESCO should follow in its program about intangible cultural heritage.

The present seminar was organized at the kind invitation of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities in order to integrate the assessment seminar for the Western European region within the framework of the Academy's seminar on intangible cultural heritage. All the following points put forward in the agenda of the present seminar, i.e. legal protection of minority groups’ intangible heritage, the use of a mother tongue, redynamizing traditional performing arts, the use of technology for dissemination of intangible heritage and cultural evolution, and its future, are key issues for the future of the intangible cultural heritage.

What does UNESCO expect from the present seminar?

  1. To scrutinize the present situation of the intangible cultural heritage in Western Europe.
  2. To identify its socio-cultural role today with particular reference to its relation to the main issues raised such as globalization, environmental problems, ur­ban problems, youth problems, immigration, unemployment, etc.
  3. To identify the problems specific to the safeguarding and promotion of the intangible heritage in this region. For example, how to maintain cultural specificity in a Europe soon to have a common currency, where globalized culture increasingly prevails: the place given to traditional and popular culture versus that of so-called high culture; the problem of so-called folklorization; policies necessary to safegu­ard and protect the traditional and popular culture of minority groups; legal measures to protect against the illicit use of this genre of culture, and so forth.
  4. To draw-up proposals for solutions to these problems through positive utilization of new technology and international cooperation.

The world will soon enter the third millennium. Cultural evolution is a main part of our future. In 1947, Albert Einstein stressed: "We are here to counsel each other. We must build spiritual and scientific bridges linking the nations of the world." Cultural dialogue, a multicultural world, creative diversity, international cultural exchange; all are prere­quisites for a peaceful future. Are existing conditions favorable for such a noble destiny for the entire world? Guaranteeing the survival of local cultures specific to each tradition and thus maintaining the cultural diversity would be a real challenge for the future of a unified Europe.

Survey Report on the Answers to the Questionnaire

We are studying the place, role, and meaning of our intangible cultural heritage, the essential part of our cultural identity in a contemporary multicultural Europe in the middle of rapid cultural change. The answers given to the questionnaire prepared by UNESCO came from fifteen Western European countries. They were prepared by National Commissions for UNESCO (8) or responsible State officers (7). They came from Andorra, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. They represent traditional occidental Europe quite well, including countries from different geographical and cultural areas and countries of different size.

This report is not a complete scientific analysis of the problems connected to the intangible cultural heritage but an organized synthesis of the attitudes, conceptions, actions, and plans concerning the safeguarding, use, and future of traditional culture in Western Europe today as expressed by the answers given by persons who appreciate it and are engaged in the work of safeguarding and promoting it. The questionnaire and answers were prepared on the basis of the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore adopted in the General Conference of UNESCO in 1989.

General Application of the Recommendation

The definitions of traditional and popular culture (folklore) seem to be generally adopted. Only Rheinland (Germany) indicates that "folklore" in Germany does not belong to "popular" culture; Israel remarks that institutions of learning and religious institutions seem not to have been taken into consideration in the transmission of traditional culture. Ten of fifteen answers confirm that the bodies and organizations concerned are aware of the Recommendati­on, and in seven countries it has been disseminated in the language of the country. Very few countries have submitted reports to UNESCO. Only two countries have not answered this question. The general application has been more active than the dissemination.

Matters concerning traditional culture/folklore are handled mainly on a national level in most of the countries, on a regional level or as separate policy in some of them. This action seems to have some effect on the transformation of countries but not very much. It has at least added interest to the study of the folklore and to the safeguarding and revitalization of traditional culture in many countries. Some examples -- Andorra: services developed in the Ethnological archives; Denmark: work for folklorists at the universities; Finland: regular action in collection of traditional culture, teaching, and research; Monaco: revitalization of the local language; Spain: network of museums; Sweden: study of present-day phenomena; Switzerland: safeguarding cultural diversity.

Not very much is written about the new measures needed, especially given the rapid changes in European societies. Andorra expects active collection of oral and written materials of traditional culture. Austria and Greece would like new legal measures for the protection of traditional culture, especially by copyrights. Denmark is waiting for more jobs for folklorists in museums and archives, and Finland for a national body of experts to gather knowledge for counseling activities in the work of safeguarding and promoting traditional culture. Iceland expressed a hope that the authorities would be more conscious of the value of the traditional culture of the country. Monaco suggested more cooperation between the cultural organizations and the state institutions; Norway, between the researchers and politicians. Several answers express hope of more cooperation between their own country and UNESCO.

Identification and Preservation of Folklore

Practically all the countries consulted have museums of traditional culture and folklore and most of them also have ethnological or folklore archives. Most of them have lists or inventories of folklore institutions; only Andorra and Monaco seem not to need them. Most of them are at least partially computerized, and special databanks exist in nearly all countries. These institutions of collection and conservation are generally not nationally coordinated (some of the countries did not answer this question). In Finland, Folklore Archives and the Finnish Literary Society function as leading coordinators on matters of collection and conservation. In Monaco, the central cultural administration has this task, and in Spain regional governments are responsible for it.

The preservation, dissemination, and active use of traditional culture is quite well guaranteed in Western Europe. According the answers received, traditional culture is taught in school in all countries except Portugal and Sweden. In most countries it is also taught outside of schools in special courses and seminars (especially music and dance), in popular high schools (Nordic countries), and museums (Greece, Iceland). Ethnology or folklore is in university programs in all countries except Andorra and Monaco, which have no university. In Spain university teaching is limited to languages, music, and dance, in Sweden to contemporary ethnology. Traditional culture has quite a strong position at the universities of the Nordic countries.

The great majority of answers assures that research has contributed to the preservation of traditional culture and folklore. Andorra, like some other countries, appreciates documented oral materials collected by researchers from the people, and Norway adds to that the educational materials produced on the basis of research. Finland remarks that it has experience of 150 years in the safeguarding and research of folklore, which has contributed greatly to the success of folklore in Finnish culture. Greece, Hungary, and Israel underline studies and publications produced by research and mention the favorable climate created by this knowledge in the revitalization of traditional culture. Iceland and Monaco thank research for creating new materials for educational and other media.

In general, authorities and amateurs of traditional culture believe that research can enlarge and deepen awareness of the value of traditional culture in the society. However, the National Commissions of Austria, Denmark, and Sweden consider that research has not contributed positively to the preservation of traditional culture in their own countries. In these countries also university teaching and research of traditional culture are not very much developed compared with other countries like Finland, Norway, and Hungary.

All the responding countries have constitutional or legal guarantees of personal rights and liberties for all citizens. These guarantees are interpreted in the democratic spirit of a citizen’s free access to his or her own culture. In the Constitution of Portugal, traditional culture is specially mentioned. In Spain, the supervision of legal liberties is delegated to the regional governments. In Sweden, the law gives to Saame peoples and Finns, in their traditional areas of habitation, the right to learn their own language and to use it in limited cases before the State or communal authorities.

In six countries, there is a national council or other organ for coordination and support of the preservation of traditional culture. In Austria it is Forum Volkskul­tur, in Finland the above-mentioned Folklore Archives and Finnish Literary Society; in Monaco two governmental offices partially direct the preservation of traditional culture; in Norway there is a Council of Folkmusic and Dance for this activity; in Portugal the CIOFF organization has partially the same function.

None of these organizations totally directs the preservation of traditional culture; rather they coordinate and give support to the activities of different institutions and organizations working in this field. In all countries financial support comes from state subventions and/or private sources, independent institutions, foundations, and other organizations. The media were mentioned as a source of support and subvention to traditional culture in the answers of Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Monaco, Sweden, and Switzerland (for Romanish language). This area of cooperation could be fruitful in many other countries too.

Dissemination and Protection

The most positive information came from the concrete life of traditional culture and folklore in Europe today. Every country from which we received answers is full of activities in these fields. There are plenty of festivals, courses, seminars, congresses, exhibitions, concerts, dances, open air-theaters, films, audiovisual programs, and other manifestations of traditional culture. Every nation seems to have its own specialties in this great cultural life especially in summertime, but in many cases also in winter or throughout the year.

These events concentrate the results of long field work and preparation made mostly by cultural organizations, communal or regional societies, and private persons. CIOFF is one of the most active international organizations for cooperation in this field. In every country these events receive support and subventions from the state authorities and communal or regional administrations. Many private enterprises, societies, and cultural organizations take part in the subvention of these manifestations.

All this is a new expression of increasing awareness of the importance of traditional culture and folklore for the identity of persons and com­munities who want to know and manifest their own roots and specific characteristics. Traditional culture forms a basis of their creative capacity in cultural action and strengthens their participation in international exchange. This exchange is one part of a general globalization of knowledge, technology, economy, and culture. Traditional culture and folklore have been drawn into the same process of growing cultural cooperation and exchange in the world. The European cooperation and exchange program has grown towards a more global scope. In traditional culture and folklore we meet cultures very different from ours, and the transformati­on of cultures continues at a rapid pace. Different cultures must adapt to common life and cooperation and safeguard their creative identity at the same time.

The European organizations of traditional culture have more and more common events with those of other countries. In this process, individuals, organizations, and communities must have a clear consciousness of their own roots and identities. Otherwise they would not be able to contribute in a creative way to the cultural development of our new international community. They might lose their own identity and become assimilated to a passive mass-existence. We need more knowledge and experience in modern international cooperation. It seems that nations have become aware of the necessity to develop cultural cooperation and to support it morally and materially.

The mass media are an important new actor in the field of traditional culture. They can also be a partner and supporter, as we have seen in several answers to the questionnaire mentioned above. Generally speaking there is no coordinated system or infrastructure for promoting folklore materials for media; the main cultural organizations produce materials, and the media take initiatives asking for ideas and materials. Some countries have institutions that prepare and disseminate information through media, like the Folklore Archives in Denmark and Finland and Amt für rheinische Landeskun­de in Germany. In many countries universities and cultural organizations prepare educational materials on traditional culture and folklore for schools, for the open market, and today also for the Internet.

In most Western countries, open discussion and public critique are the best methods of assuring that traditional culture and folklore are used in a proper way. Some countries have institutions which try to keep an eye on such approaches, e.g., Ministry of National Cultural Heritage in Hungary and the Council of Folkmusic and Folkdance in Norway. The "intellectual property aspect" also is included in the general legislation on copyrights and other rights of citizens. In general, artists in traditional cultures barely sustain themselves by their earnings. But in some countries like Denmark, Finland, Israel, and Norway, they have regular support from the state or from the private sector.

The protection of the collected materials of traditional culture and folklore is assured in most European countries by general legislation concerning archives and museums and by copyright regulations. In 1985 Spain adopted a special law on the matter; Swedish legislation emphasizes free access to all materials conserved in public archives and museums.


The answers given to the questionnaire prepared by UNESCO may not solve all the problems we studied and discussed at the seminar in Joensuu, September 1998. They do, however, give a general picture of the current life and the role of traditional culture and folklore in Western Europe. We can draw some conclusions that help guide our continued work promoting the life and further development of European and universal intangible heritage:

  1. In a rapidly changing world, traditional culture and folklore play an essential role in preserving the identity and diversity of our European cultural heritage.
  2. The definition of traditional culture and folklore elaborated by UNESCO has been largely adopted in common use, and we can speak about the same things using the same concepts.
  3. Issues regarding traditional culture and folklore are usually handled on the national level, which promotes national cohesiveness and the equal development in different parts of country. The regional and local aspects are taken into consideration.
  4. Not very much was written about the problems and measures of future cultural development. This theme could be studied more deeply in another seminar.
  5. All countries in Western Europe have good archives and museums of traditional culture and folklore, many of them well organized and computerized. Most countries also have rich private collections. The archives and museums offer free access to their collections with very few, specific, exceptions.
  6. The preservation and dissemination of culture is quite well organized. In most countries traditional culture is taught in schools, and in several countries, in special institutions like high schools of folk culture, institutes for music and dance, etc. University teaching and research in traditional culture is organized by nearly all the countries.
  7. For the most part, answers recognize that university teaching and research contribute positively to dissemination of knowledge about and awareness of the significance of traditional culture in the life and development of national culture.
  8. Legal guarantees of rights and liberties of citizens are included in the Constitutions and other laws of the countries in question. Laws also define the free access of all citizens to their own cultural heritage and the intellectual property of cultural creation.
  9. Traditional culture and folklore are subsidized by national, regional, and local authorities and by private funds. The mass media have begun to show interest in traditional culture and folklore and to give subventions for cultural activities.
  10. Public programs featuring traditional culture and folklore have attained a great popularity today. Many kinds of festivals, congresses, seminars, concerts, dances, and other manifestations are organized in every country. This is one of the most important features in the general picture of European culture.
  11. A growing international cooperation in the field of traditional culture and folklore creates benefits in globalization, a process which opens possibilities for development, challenges cultural identities, and creates the need for cultural safeguards.
  12. Several answers expect more cooperation with UNESCO in the study and planning of future development in traditional culture and folklore. That is a challenge for UNESCO.

The seminar on the Protection and Development of Our Intangible Heritage held in Joensuu prepared, discussed, and adopted a list of seventeen recommendations addressed to UNESCO for possible consideration in the preparation of future projects and actions of this great international institution. Several recommendations are directly related to the UNESCO Questionnaire on the Application of the Recommendation of the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore in countries of Europe, specifically to the answers described in this report.