Global Estonian | Anne-Ly Reimaa: Estonia’s diverse cultural heritage is our shared wealth
Anne-Ly Reimaa: Kultuuriministeeriumi kultuurilise mitmekesisuse osakonna nõunik

Anne-Ly Reimaa: Estonia’s diverse cultural heritage is our shared wealth

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This year has been designated Cultural Diversity Year by the Ministry of Culture. It is a year when we would like to highlight the unique culture of Estonia, but also the activities of Estonians abroad in preserving Estonian language and culture.

During this theme year, we are also prominently featuring the cultures and cultural heritage of other peoples living side-by-side with us. A shared cultural space created jointly by various communities, the people living in Estonia and Estonian communities abroad carries values that contribute to the preservation of the Estonian state. These values include a common cultural memory, shared history, openness and cooperation.

The culture of every country is like a melting pot that contains something unique to each nation, as well as offshoots from other cultures. Our experience of the past is enshrined in Estonian culture, carrying diverse traditions and customs developed over different eras. Estonia’s geographic position on the border between east and west has played a crucial role in shaping our cultural heritage. We have had close links with Baltic Sea states, and historically, our land has been divided into two main cultural regions – Northern and Western Estonia on the seaside, situated next to the former eastern route of Vikings or Austrvegr, and inland Southern Estonia.

The theme year highlights both the diverse cultural heritage of Estonia as well as the culture and customs of other peoples living here. Our national culture is characterised by its inner diversity: a small territory contains great regional differences in language, behaviour and mentality. Here, Estonians can find the cultural heritage of Baltic Germans, Russians and Coastal Swedes in addition to their own cultural traditions.

There are numerous other ethnic groups in Estonia, the largest being Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Finns, Latvians, Lithuanians, Jews, Tatars, but also representatives from further afield, such as Turks, Indians, Pakistanis, Brazilians and others. In total, representatives of 216 nationalities are living in Estonia right now, with more than 150 different citizenships and nearly 240 different mother tongues. The multitude of cultures is part of our society.

Preserving and passing on our cultural heritage, its customs, knowledge and skills is also part of modern life. Above all, this means that our heritage is used in our daily lives, but also in Estonian design, art and music, and other parts of our culture and space of customs.

To preserve our unique cultural spaces and dialects, seven different cultural spaces receive funding from the state in Estonia – Kihnu and Estonian islands, including the heritage of Coastal Swedes; Setomaa; Old Võromaa and Mulgimaa; and Virumaa, including the Lääne and Ida-Viru counties, and Peipsiveere, that supports the distinct heritage of Old Believers and the Kodavere Parish. The Estonian Folk Culture Centre offers support and advice on preserving Estonia’s cultural heritage, handicraft skills and conducting various kinds of training. The state also supports the activities of the cultural societies of various minority nations.

It is admirable how Estonians have been able to preserve their native language and culture while studying, working and living abroad. The choral singing movement and folk dancing with their long traditions, youth camps, drama societies, Estonian Cultural Days and many other things have made it possible to preserve the Estonian cultural space away from home.

Our cultural heritage informs our distinct identity and gives us a sense of continuity. In a great and increasingly globalised world, it is good to feel part of something special that provides support in our daily actions. The preservation of Estonian language and culture among Estonians living abroad is also reflected in the programme of this theme year. I would like to invite you to promote your events to the Integration Foundation that is managing this year’s theme year programme.

Cultural exchange and joint events provide joy to us all and help preserve the mental link with Estonia while abroad. I would like to wish Estonians across the world lots of wisdom and strength in preserving and passing on our ways of life at home and beyond. The increased prominence of Estonian culture contributes to raising Estonia’s profile in the world. Cultural diversity makes Estonia a fascinating country where both locals and visitors have a lot to discover.

Happy Cultural Diversity Year to us all! 

Anne-Ly Reimaa
Adviser at the Cultural Diversity Department of the Ministry of Culture




Veebilehte haldab Integratsiooni Sihtasutus.
Sihtasutuse asutaja on Eesti Vabariik, kelle nimel teostab asutajaõigusi Kultuuriministeerium.