Culture of Estonia
Estonian culture combines an indigenous heritage, represented by the country's Uralic
Uralic languages
The Uralic languages constitute a language family of some three dozen languages spoken by approximately 25 million people. The healthiest Uralic languages in terms of the number of native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Mari and Udmurt...

 national language Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

, with Nordic
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

 cultural aspects. Due to its history and geography, Estonia's culture has been influenced by the traditions of the adjacent area's various Finnic, Baltic, Slavic and Germanic peoples as well as the cultural developments in the former dominant powers Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. Traditionally, Estonia has been seen as an area of rivalry between western and eastern Europe on many levels. An example of this geopolitical legacy is an exceptional combination of nationally recognized Christian traditions: Western Christian
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church is a Lutheran church in Estonia. EELC is member of the Lutheran World Federation...

) and the Eastern Christian
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

  (Orthodox Church
Orthodoxy in Estonia
Orthodoxy in Estonia is practiced by 12.8% of the population, making it the second most identified religion in this majority-secular state after Lutheran Christianity with 13.6%. Orthodoxy, or more specifically Eastern Orthodox Christianity, is mostly practiced within Estonia's Russian ethnic...

). The symbolism of the border or meeting of the east and west in Estonia is well illustrated on the reverse side of the 5 krooni
5 Krooni
The Estonian 5 Krooni bill is a denomination of the Estonian currency. Paul Keres , who was a world famous Estonian chess player, international Grandmaster, prominent chess theorist, is featured with an engraved portrait on the front side of the bill.On the reverse side of the bill features...

 note. Like the mainstream culture in the other Nordic countries, Estonian culture can be seen to build upon the ascetic environmental realities and traditional livelihoods, a heritage of comparatively widespread egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 out of practical reasons (see e.g.: Everyman's right and universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

), and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency refers to the state of not requiring any outside aid, support, or interaction, for survival; it is therefore a type of personal or collective autonomy...



Though Estonian written language could be said to exist since Jacob Johann Köhler
Jacob Johann Köhler
Jacob Johann Köhler was an Estonian printer who published the first Estonian-language Bible in 1739.-References:...

 translated the New Testament into Estonian in the 18th century as a result of the Reformation, few notable works of literature were written until the 19th century, which saw the beginning of an Estonian national romantic movement. This prompted Friedrich Robert Faehlmann
Friedrich Robert Faehlmann
Friedrich Robert Faehlmann was an Estonian philologist and an Estophile active in Livonia, Russian Empire...

 to collect Estonian folk poetry and Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald
Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald
Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald was an Estonian writer, who is considered to be the father of the national literature for the country.-Life:Friedrich's parents were serfs at the Jõepere estate, Virumaa. His father worked as a granary keeper and his mother was a chambermaid...

 to arrange and publish them as Kalevipoeg
Kalevipoeg is an epic poem by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald held to be the Estonian national epic.- Origins : There existed an oral tradition within Ancient Estonia of legends explaining the origin of the world...

, the Estonian national epic. The era saw a rise of poets and novelists who wrote in Estonian, notably Lydia Koidula
Lydia Koidula
Lydia Emilie Florentine Jannsen, , known after her pen name Lydia Koidula was an Estonian poet. Her sobriquet means ‘Lydia of the Dawn’ in Estonian. It was given her by the writer Carl Robert Jakobson...


After Estonia became independent there was a rise of modernist writers, most famously Jaan Kross
Jaan Kross
-Early life:Born in Tallinn, Estonia, studied Jacob Westholm´s Grammar school, Kross attended the University of Tartu and graduated from its School of Law...

. The second World War prompted a repression of national interests. Literature in modern Estonia is in a healthy state, with detective stories enjoying a particular boom of popularity.


Despite its relatively short history of art music, Estonia today is well respected for its musicianship, with a quality education of classical musicians having produced a high proportion of world-class conductors and singers. Estonian art music came to the forefront as a part of the national romantic movement.

Modern Estonian popular music has received attention also in foreign countries, especially on the rock and metal scenes, with such bands as Vanilla Ninja
Vanilla Ninja
Vanilla Ninja is a three-piece Estonian girl band which has enjoyed chart success in a number of countries across Europe, especially in Estonia, Germany and Austria....

, Metsatöll
Metsatöll is an Estonian folk metal band.The name "Metsatöll" is an ancient Estonian euphemism for wolf, which is reflected in the harshness of their lyrics...

 and composers as Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt is an Estonian classical composer and one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music. Since the late 1970s, Pärt has worked in a minimalist style that employs his self-made compositional technique, tintinnabuli. His music also finds its inspiration and influence from...

 gaining international acclaim.

Visual arts

The Art Museum of Estonia was founded on November 17, 1919, but it was not until 1921 that it got its first permanent building – the Kadriorg Palace, built in the 18th century. In 1929 the palace was expropriated from the Art Museum in order to rebuild it as the residence of the President of Estonia.

At present there are five active branches of the Art Museum of Estonia: Kadriorg Art Museum (Kadriorg Palace and Mikkel Museum), the Niguliste Museum
St. Nicholas' Church, Tallinn
St. Nicholas' Church is a medieval church in Tallinn, Estonia. It is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron of the fishermen and sailors. Originally built in the 13th century, it was partially destroyed in Soviet Bombing of Tallinn in World War II...

, Adamson-Eric Museum, Kristjan Raud House Museum and KUMU Art Museum.


Theatre of Estonia dates back to 1784 when August von Kotzebue
August von Kotzebue
August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue was a German dramatist.One of Kotzebue's books was burned during the Wartburg festival in 1817. He was murdered in 1819 by Karl Ludwig Sand, a militant member of the Burschenschaften...

 founded an amatheur theater company in Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. Most of the plays at the time were comedies for the amusement for local Baltic German
Baltic German
The Baltic Germans were mostly ethnically German inhabitants of the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, which today form the countries of Estonia and Latvia. The Baltic German population never made up more than 10% of the total. They formed the social, commercial, political and cultural élite in...

 nobility. In 1809 a professional theater company was established having its own building in Tallinn. The repertoire was mostly in German but also plays in Estonian and Russian were performed.

After centuries of serfdom that was abolished in Estonia in 1816, the position the native Estonian population had fallen to since the Livonian Crusade
Livonian Crusade
The Livonian Crusade refers to the German and Danish conquest and colonization of medieval Livonia, the territory constituting modern Latvia and Estonia, during the Northern Crusades...

, the first native Estonian musical society Vanemuine was established in 1865. Lydia Koidula
Lydia Koidula
Lydia Emilie Florentine Jannsen, , known after her pen name Lydia Koidula was an Estonian poet. Her sobriquet means ‘Lydia of the Dawn’ in Estonian. It was given her by the writer Carl Robert Jakobson...

's the Cousin from Saaremaa in 1870 staged by the Vanemuine society marks the birth of Estonian theater.

The Vanemuine
Vanemuine, a literal translation from is a theatre in Tartu, Estonia. It is the first Estonian language theatre, founded as the Vanemuine Society on June 24, 1865 following the idea of Johann Voldemar Jannsen. In 1869 Vanemuine Society organised the first song festival in Estonia...

 society was headed by August Wiera from 1878 to 1903. In 1906 a new building was erected for the society and it theater company became directed by Karl Menning. Plays by Western writers such as Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of prose drama" and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre...

, Gerhart Hauptmann
Gerhart Hauptmann
Gerhart Hauptmann was a German dramatist and novelist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1912.-Life and work:...

, Russian Maksim Gorky and Estonian August Kitzberg, Oskar Luts
Oskar Luts
-Biography:Oskar Luts was born into a middle-class family in central Estonia, at that time in the government of Livonia . He attended Änkküla village school in 1894. He went to Palamuse Parish parish school in Jõgeva County, attending from 1895–1899. From 1899–1902 he studied at the Tartu...

 and Eduard Vilde
Eduard Vilde
Eduard Vilde was an Estonian writer and a pioneer of critical realism in Estonian literature.-Works:* Musta mantliga mees...

 were staged.

The Estonia Theatre
Estonia Theatre
The Estonia Theater is an opera house and concert hall in Tallinn, Estonia.The Jugendstil building was designed by Finnish architects Armas Lindgren and Wivi Lönn. It was built as a national effort with the leadership of Estonia society in 1913 and was opened to the public on August 24th...

 is an opera house and concert hall in Tallinn, Estonia. It was built as a national effort with the leadership of Estonia society in 1913 and was opened to the public on August 24. At the time, it was the largest building in Tallinn.

In 2004 there was 20 theaters in Estonia.

46% of urban population and 40% of rural population visited theaters in 2009.

Cinema and broadcasting

A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 in Estonia
started in 1896 when the first "moving pictures" were screened in Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. The first movie theater was opened in 1908. First local documentary was made in 1908 with the production of a newsreel
A newsreel was a form of short documentary film prevalent in the first half of the 20th century, regularly released in a public presentation place and containing filmed news stories and items of topical interest. It was a source of news, current affairs and entertainment for millions of moviegoers...

 about Swedish
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 King Gustav V’s visit to Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. The first Estonian documentary was created by Johannes Pääsuke
Johannes Pääsuke
Johannes Pääsuke was an Estonian photographer and filmmaker.-Life:Very little is known of the youth of Johannes Pääsuke, the fourth of six children to a comfortably-off couple living in Tartu, Livonia, Russian Empire. Johannes's siblings were well educated, but all that is known about Johannes's...

 in 1912 that was followed by a short film Karujaht Pärnumaal
Karujaht Pärnumaal
Karujaht Pärnumaal is the first Estonian narrative film 1914, directed by Johannes Pääsuke....

(Bear Hunt in Pärnumaa) in 1914.

The first full length feature film was made in 1924 Shadow of the Past directed by Konstantin Märska
Konstantin Märska
Konstantin Märska was an Estonian cinematographer.Märska is buried at the Rahumäe cemetery in Tallinn.-External links:...

. Theodor Luts
Theodor Luts
Theodor Luts an Estonian film director and cinematographer, brother of an Estonian classic writer Oskar Luts, was the first major figure of Estonian cinematography...

 Noored kotkad (Young Eagles) (1927) is generally regarded as the cornerstone of Estonian cinema

In the 1960s a story of Prince Gabriel
Furst Gabriel or Last Days of the Pirita Monastery
Furst Gabriel or Last Days of the Pirita Monastery is an Estonian historical novelle by Eduard Bornhöhe.This historical story, first published in 1893, is the last of Eduard Bornhöhe's historical novelles, as in 1893, the Russian Empire's censorship prohibited publication of historical novelles,...

 by Estonian writer Eduard Bornhöhe
Eduard Bornhöhe
Eduard Bornhöhe , born Eduard Brunberg , was an Estonian writer.Bornhöhe is generally considered a pioneer of the genre of Estonian historical novel, as a lion's share of his creations consist of romanticism-influenced historical adventure stories.- Bibliography :*1880 Tasuja *1890 Villu võitlused...

 was turned into a movie script by Arvo Valton
Arvo Valton
Arvo Vallikivi , commonly known under the pen name of Arvo Valton, is an Estonian writer known for a number of books and, among other things, the script for Viimne reliikvia, the highly successful movie adaptation of Eduard Bornhöhe's Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimsed päevad...

. Grigori Kromanov
Grigori Kromanov
Grigori Kromanov was an Estonian theatre and film director. He directed some of the most known Estonian movies, including Viimne reliikvia and "Hukkunud Alpinisti" hotell .- External links :...

 was named to be the director of Viimne reliikvia
Viimne reliikvia
Viimne reliikvia is a 1969 Estonian film adaptation of Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimsed päevad , a historical novel by Eduard Bornhöhe...

(The Last Relic) , released in 1969 by Tallinnfilm.

In 1997 the Estonian Film Foundation
Estonian Film Foundation
The Estonian Film Foundation is Estonia's public film funding organization financed from the state budget of the Republic of Estonia. Founded in 1997 by the Estonian Ministry of Culture, the foundation finances and promotes film productions where at least one participating producers is an...

 was founded by the Estonian Ministry of Culture
Ministry of Culture (Estonia)
The Ministry of Culture of Estonia is a Cabinet-level governmental agency in Estonia in charge of conducting and organising the country's cultural affairs and policies.-Structure of the ministry:...

. In 2007 about 10 feature films were made in Estonia. Most notable perhaps Sügisball (2007) by Veiko Õunpuu receiving among other awards Best Director at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, International Film Festival Bratislava
International Film Festival Bratislava
The International Film Festival Bratislava is an international film festival established in 1999 and held annually in Bratislava, Slovakia....

 and Venice Horizons Award at the 64th Venice International Film Festival
64th Venice International Film Festival
The 64th Venice International Film Festival, held in Venice, Italy, opened on August 29, 2007, with Joe Wright's Atonement and closed September 8, 2007. Host of the event was Italian soubrette Ambra Angiolini. The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to American director Tim...

. Georg (2007) by Peeter Simm is a movie about the life of legendary Estonian singer Georg Ots
Georg Ots
Georg Ots, People's Artist of the USSR was an Estonian opera singer...


Most successful Estonian animation director
Animation director
An animation director is the director in charge of all aspects of the animation process during the production of an animated film or animated segment for a live-action film...

 has been Priit Pärn
Priit Pärn
Priit Pärn is an Estonian cartoonist and animation director whose films have enjoyed success among critics as well as the public at various film festivals....

 the winner of Grand Prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival
Ottawa International Animation Festival
-History:In 1976, the Canadian Film Institute founded the biennial Ottawa International Animation Festival . First held August 10 to 15, 1976, the OIAF created a gathering place for North American animation professionals and enthusiasts to ponder the craft and business of animation...

 in 1998 for Porgandite öö (Night of the Carrots).

Estonian Television Eesti Televisioon or ETV is the national public television station of Estonia. Its first broadcast was on July 19, 1955, and it celebrated the 50th anniversary on July 19, 2005.


The history of formal education in Estonia dates back to the 13—14th centuries when the first monastic and cathedral schools were founded. The first primer in the Estonian language was published in 1575. The oldest university is the University of Tartu
University of Tartu
The University of Tartu is a classical university in the city of Tartu, Estonia. University of Tartu is the national university of Estonia; it is the biggest and highest-ranked university in Estonia...

 which was established by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great,...

 in 1632. In 1919, university courses were first taught in the Estonian language.

Today's education in Estonia is divided into general, vocational and hobby education. The education system is based on four levels which include the pre-school, basic, secondary and higher education. A wide network of schools and supporting educational institutions has been established. The Estonian educational system consists of state, municipal, public and private educational institutions. There are currently 589 schools in Estonia.

The University of Tartu
University of Tartu
The University of Tartu is a classical university in the city of Tartu, Estonia. University of Tartu is the national university of Estonia; it is the biggest and highest-ranked university in Estonia...

, a member of the Coimbra Group
Coimbra Group
The Coimbra Group is a network of 40 European universities, some among the oldest and most prestigious in Europe. It was founded in 1985 and formally constituted by charter in 1987....

 was established by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632. Bengt Gottfried Forselius
Bengt Gottfried Forselius
Bengt Gottfried Forselius was a founder of public education in Estonia, author of the first ABC-book in the Estonian language , and creator of a spelling system which made the teaching and learning of Estonian easier...

 (ca 1660-1688) was the founder of public education in Estonia, author of the first Estonian language ABC-book, and creator of a spelling system which made the teaching and learning of Estonian easier.

Historical aspects

The area of modern Estonia has historically been inhabited by the same people as today, mostly speakers of Estonian, but some minorities (Russian) have immigrated recently. Before the Great Northern War
Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in northern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance were Peter I the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of...

, Estonia was considered at the periphery of the Swedish empire, then was incorporated into the Russian Empire. So although it was alternatively ruled by Sweden and Russia, and while Baltic Germans who ruled Estonia enjoyed considerable autonomy with the administrative language being German, the indigenous population retained their native language and culture.

The formation of a more defined Estonian cultural identity in the modern sense was accelerated in the 19th century during the period of overall national Romanticism
Romantic nationalism
Romantic nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs...

 and Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 in Europe. Support from the German speaking Estophiles
Estophilia refers to the ideas and activities of people not of Estonian descent who are sympathetic to or interested in Estonian language, Estonian literature or Estonian culture, History of Estonia and Estonia in general. Such people are known as Estophiles...

 in upper strata of the Estonian society for a separate Estonian identity led to the Estonian Age of Awakening


Today, the Estonian society encourages equality and liberalism, with a popular commitment to the ideals of the welfare state, discouraging disparity of wealth and division into social classes. The Protestant work ethic
Protestant work ethic
The Protestant work ethic is a concept in sociology, economics and history, attributable to the work of Max Weber...

 remains a significant cultural staple, and free education is a highly prized institution.

The traditional occupation of Estonians, like most Europeans, is agriculture. Until the first half of the 20th century, Estonia was an agrarian society, but in modern times Estonians have increasingly embraced an urban lifestyle. Nonetheless many Estonians maintain a fondness for a rural lifestyle close to nature, and it is a very typical practice to visit a summer cottage in the countryside during vacations.

Family structure

Estonian family life is nowadays centered around the nuclear family
Nuclear family
Nuclear family is a term used to define a family group consisting of a father and mother and their children. This is in contrast to the smaller single-parent family, and to the larger extended family. Nuclear families typically center on a married couple, but not always; the nuclear family may have...

. Members of an extended family typically live apart, and youths seek independence and typically move from their parents' residence around the age of twenty.

Divorce rate is close to 60%. Estonia has one of the biggest percentage of single parents in Europe. The average percentage of single parents in Europe is 13% (2009)., while in Estonia in year 2000, 19% of families with children under 18 were families with only one parent. In year 2006 the percentage was 16%. The decline may also be affected by the overall decline in birth rate.

Festivities and traditions

Estonian holidays are mostly based on the Western Christian calendar and Protestant traditions.

Notable among these is Jaanipäev, the Estonian Midsummer which involves seeking one's way to non-urban environments and burning large bonfires and [participating in the] drunken revelry of Jaaniõhtu
St John's Eve and St John's Day are the most important days in the Estonian calendar, apart from Christmas. The short summer seasons with long days and brief nights hold special significance for the people of Estonia...

. The midsummer traditions also include different versions of pairing magic, such as collecting a number of different kinds of flowers and putting them under one's pillow, after which one is meant to see the future spouse in one's dreams.

The Estonian Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

, Jõulud, is generally in line with the North and Middle European traditions of Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

s and Advent calendar
Advent calendar
An Advent calendar is a special calendar which is used to count or celebrate the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Some calendars are strictly religious, whereas others are secular in content...

s and traditional meals, involving a number of dishes which are typically only eaten on Christmas. Christmas is the most extensive and appreciated and commercialized holiday in Estonia. Holidays start from the 23rd December and continue through Christmas Eve (24th), Christmas Day (25th). In schools and in many workplaces, the vacation continues until the New Year.

The Estonian independence day is the 24th of February and a national holiday.

Food and drink

Historically Estonian Cuisine has been simple peasant food, which today is influenced by many countries. Today it includes many typical international foods. The most typical foods in Estonia are black bread, pork, potatoes and milk-related products. Estonians themselves have considered blood sausage
Blood sausage
Black pudding, blood pudding or blood sausage is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. The dish exists in various cultures from Asia to Europe...

 (verivorst) and sauerkraut
Sauerkraut , directly translated from German: "sour cabbage", is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid...

 "typical Estonian foods", but mostly those are eaten only at Christmas.

See also

  • Estonian Song Festival
    Estonian Song Festival
    The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity...

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