Culture and Arts Estonia

Culture and Arts Estonia

Small country, small population ... the picture might seem simple. Yet history has played many tricks on Estonia. German settlers, Tatar and Polish invaders, Jewish merchants, Russian workers and workers from other republics of the USSR, minorities form an essential component of the country's identity. Even today, only 69% of the inhabitants of Estonia today consider themselves Estonian (61% in 1989).

In terms of nationalities, today there are 84% Estonians, 7% Russians and 6% stateless persons. In Tallinn itself, Russian speakers represent 39%, against 53% for Estonians and 3,5% for Ukrainians.


The strongest minority is Russian-speaking: it represents 25% of the population, or 350 people and up to 000% in certain towns in the east such as Narva. This community was formed after the Soviet annexation of 100, then during a well-orchestrated operation (which today would be called ethnic cleansing?) During the 1940 years of post-war occupation.

There was a time when it represented nearly 40% of the population of the republic. This figure has been declining slowly since independence, with the emigration and naturalization of Russians from Estonia - even if many are slow to change their passports and if some still refuse to learn Estonian!

Gradually, the number of "citizens" has fallen from 32% in 1991 to 6% today, thanks to a program ofencouragement of naturalization which is enjoying some success, especially with the younger generations.

Citizens have special passports, they are free to travel in the Schengen area and they have the right to vote in local elections.

Old believers

All the Russians (also known as raskolniki) settled in Estonia in the XNUMXth century to flee persecution of which they were victims in the great cities of the Empire.

Resisting the reform of the Orthodox liturgy ordered by Patriarch Nikon, they founded free communities on the shores of the great Lake Peipus, where they still live according to their traditions. Their number is estimated at around 10 people.

The Setus

Finno-Ugric people, close to the Estonians, the Setus are distinguished by their beliefs: they adopted the Orthodox faith at the time when the country was in the hands of the Tsar. Some cultural renaissance has been observed since independence, and the Setu language is being taught again.

The Germans

Mistress of Estonia for more than six centuries, the German land aristocracy, resulting from crusaders and merchants settled from the XNUMXth century, played a major role in the country's history.

It was she who introduced the Lutheranism. The Swedish and then Russian conquests did not change its stranglehold on the economy and politics. Around 1900, a thousand agricultural estates belonging to the German minority controlled nearly half of the arable land of the country ... Never, however, did the community exceed 6% of the population! Some of the Germans emigrated after the failure of the German conquest of the Baltic countries in 1919, the others in 1939, on the eve of the Soviet invasion.

The Swedish

One of the oldest minorities in Estonia, the Swedes, settled on the islands and the west coast at the end of the XNUMXth century. Peasants and fishermen living in isolated areas, they first escaped serfdom, then found themselves forced into it ... even though Estonia had passed into the hands of Sweden! Their situation only improved with the independence of the country.

In 1944, fearing the arrival of the Red Army, most set sail to return to a totally unknown motherland - where the archaic form of Swedish language they spoke astonished ...
Only a thousand remained. The islands became military bases and were closed to navigation, Swedish schools closed.

Today, emigration survivors and their children retrace the traces of their past.

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