I recently received an email from a French who was interested in moving to Estonia and wanted to know more about it, among other things on the cultural aspect. I thought it would be interesting to share part of my answer here too.
For such a small population (1.4 millions inhabitants), I’m impressed by the richness of its culture. One should also consider that Estonia doesn’t have a long history as an independent nation. They are only free since 91 and during a 20 years period between the world wars, the first republic.
For example one of the things that stroked me during my first visits to Estonia was the impressive amount of books in Estonian language. Not only all classics have been translated, but the original production in Estonian is also impressive considering the small audience.
The country has a big singing tradition too. All year long chorals are preparing themselves in the whole country for the big song festival that takes places every 4 or 5 years in Tallinn. I was there last year and it’s really impressive. There are tens thousands of singers and hundreds of thousands of spectators, up to 400.000 during the eighties! The final chorals was composed of 30.000 singers, which represents 2% of Estonian population! It is during the song festivals that the Estonians started to manifest their independence desire in the eighties. This road to freedom that ended in 1991 is actually called the “singing revolution”.
There are also many concerts and opera performances, especially during summer where there are many festivals, concerts and even open-air operas organized. They are always very successful events and it’s highly advised to book your tickets in advance. For example the place where we got married, Leigo, is organizing every summer a famous concert on a lake.
On the cinema side, the local movie production is of course very small, but there are a few movies made every year. I have seen a few considered as classics on DVD (they were subtitled in English). One is The Last Relic (Viimne reliikvia), a classic made in 1969 that every Estonian knows and has seen many times. Another one I liked is Made in Estonia (Vanad ja kobedad saavad jalad alla), a great comedy, a bit on the weird side.
Tallinn has a big multiplex cinema that is very comfortable and with very nice screens. It shows all big American movies, even some French ones sometimes and they are always in original version with Estonian and Russian subtitles.
One important culture domain for food lovers like us is gastronomy! This is vast subject that I will cover in a future post.