Estland

Cultural diversity – backbone of the Estonian identity

According to many Estonian folk songs, myths and poetry it is only natural that the Baltic countries successfully expressed their desire for national independence in 1988 by a “singing revolution”.

 

Tanzfest Kalev-Stadion Tallinn
Traditional dance event at Kalevi Stadium in Tallinn.

At that time several thousands of Estonians came to the capital, Tallinn, to take part in a traditional song festival. Their aim was to protest peacefully, by singing, against the ruling Soviet regime - a public expression of the Estonian national consciousness that had been suppressed for much too long.

 

Prior to that, the country had seen nearly eight centuries of almost continuous and often changing foreign rule. Danish, Swedish, German, Polish and Russian people had eternalised themselves as leading ethnic groups in the Estonian history.

 

Kulisse Wassermusikkonzerte Südestland
The setting of for Water Music concerts in South Estonia.

Despite oppression and paternalism the Estonians managed to develop national consciousness by maintaining their regional myths and legends. Moreover, they managed to turn this consciousness into a powerful movement.

 

When the downfall of the Soviet empire started, it became evident that Estonians can finally start ruling their own country. On August 20, 1991 Estonia declared independence. Thus the cultural diversity and consciousness for traditions can be considered very important driving forces behind the Estonian regaining of autonomy.

 

Estland-Theater
Theatre Estonia.

The first signs of Estonian national consciousness appeared already in the 19th century when Estonian people started to turn back to their own language and culture.

 

Since then, there have always been outstanding cultural figures in Estonia. Many of them have been engaged in the research of local myths and legends, which were often handed down from generation to generation only orally.

 

Under the title of “Kalevala” a collection of 20 songs was published about the long history of oppression in Estonia and the almost hopeless fight for freedom led by Prince Kalevipoeg. This epic is today considered one of the most important works in the independent Estonian literature.

 

Midsummernight Jaanipäev
Jaanipäev - the midsummernight. In Estonia as important as christmas.

Some of the internationally best-known authors of this period are the poet Juhan Liiv (1864-1913), the dramatist Eduard Vilde (1865-1933) and the novelist Oskar Luts (1887-1953). Presently, the most famous author of the country is Jaan Kross (born 1920) who has written a number of successful novels.

 

His very detailed descriptions of the living conditions and the diverse landscape in Estonia are considered to be part of the most important literary works of these days. Accordingly, his works are available in more than 20 different languages.

 

Further important components of traditional and contemporary arts are painting, theatre and music. Johann Köler, (1826-1899) who was a former professor of the Arts Academy in Saint Petersburg is today considered to be a precursor of the Estonian painting.

 

Famous artists in the area of music are Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918), Artur Kapp (1878-1952) and Eduard Tubin (1905-1982). These are only some, who are still known in the world today.

 

 

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