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Oskar Seliaru papers

Identifier: IHRC3820


The Oskar Seliaru papers include programs, posters and other theater ephemera from theaters in Estonia, Germany and New York; professional correspondence; personal correspondence, greeting cards and scrapbooks; detailed records of activity for the Eesti Nukuteater and Seli Marionetid in the Augsburg and Geislingen displaced persons camps, 1946-1950; drawings and sketches of characters and puppets; the script for Seliaru’s original puppet theater production; & newspaper clippings and reviews.


  • Creation: 1926-1979


Language of Materials

Estonian, some English and German

Access Restrictions

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

For further information regarding the copyright, please contact the IHRCA.

Biographical Sketch

Oskar Seliaru was born 18 June 1906 in Rakvere, Estonia. Following a brief career as a journalist, he became involved with the theater in 1926, when he joined the Rakvere Näitlejate Ring. He remained part of that company for 10 years, working as an actor and dancer. In 1936, Seliaru relocated to Estonia’s capitol, Tallinn, where he joined the Eesti Draamateater and Nukuteater. During this time, his work focused on three areas: acting, children’s theater and puppetry. Seliaru was the puppet show stage manager and specialist for puppet shows at the Nukuteater.

In the autumn of 1944, Oskar Seliaru fled Estonia for Germany, where he spent the next six years in displaced persons camps, primarilly Augsburg-Haunstetten and Geislingen. Upon his arrival at Augsburg, he quickly joined a theater company. In 1946, he launched his own puppet theater company, Eesti Nukuteater and Seli Marionetid, with the December premiere of his original puppet production “See oli unenägu.” The company realized immediate success with their production and traveled to many displaced persons camps throughout Germany, performing for both children and adults of many nationalities. They performed “See oli unenägu” more than 70 times and staged several other productions over the next few years.

Oskar Seliaru arrived in the United States in April of 1950. In 1952, he became the director of the New Yorgi Eesti Teater. He directed and acted in performances staged by various New York Estonian theater companies until at least 1960, while simultaneously directing and acting in performances at the Lakewood Estonian Club in New Jersey. As of June 1956, Seliaru had acted in 27 productions since leaving Estonia, 17 of which he had self-directed, in addition to his puppet productions. Overall he had performed 310 times since leaving Estonia in 1944.

Seliaru was an active member of the Estonian theater scene in New York and New Jersey; he continued to attend productions and support organizations even after he was no longer formally involved with the performances. There is little information about Seliaru’s puppetry career after his immigration to America. His success as an actor, comedian and director is better documented. Oskar Seliaru died 14 June 1978 in Long Island, New York.


3 Linear Feet


Collection transferred to the IHRC from the Estonian Archives in the U.S.A. (EAU) in 2003-2005.

Related Collection

See also the Salme Neumann-Lott papers (IHRC3130). Box 4, folder 3 contains a script of Seliaru's "Muinasjutt."

Inventory of the Oskar Seliaru papers.
IHRC Archives
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding Aid in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Immigration History Research Center Archives Collecting Area