Estonia Culture and Traditions

Subjected for centuries to the Danish, German, Swedish and Russian dominations, Estonian culture is deeply affected by the suggestions coming from those countries. As far as architecture and visual arts are concerned, Estonian artistic expressions are quite consistent with those appearing in the same periods in the dominating countries. With the exception of the Romanesque, which had a marginal diffusion in the territory, one can observe examples of Gothic art (of Germanic origin), and the alternation of a Renaissance and Baroque style inspired by the Swedish one. The foundation of the first university also dates back to the time of Swedish domination (in Tartu, in 1632). After the Peace of Nystadt (1721) and the transition to Russian domination, the architecture followed canons inspired by Rococo, neoclassicism and empire style in vogue in the occupying country. For the emergence of a national literature in Estonian language (unique, among the Baltic languages, of Finno-Ugric stock) we have to wait until the nineteenth century, when the Kalevipoeg, an epic poem based on traditional legends, the progenitor of a vein, made its appearance literary that claimed the identity of the Estonian people, and that continued even in the twentieth century with the neo-realist works (above all the novel Truth and Justice by Tammsaare) and exiled writers. In the architectural field the twentieth century, after the art nouveau suggestions of the beginning of the century and the constructivist period, Russian influence remained predominant until independence. As far as traditions are concerned, the succession of foreign dominations has partly hindered the free manifestation of national taste and folklore, which has been handed down over the centuries especially in oral form (legends, songs, prayers). After independence, the recovery in the country of the language and national identity, above all as a reaction to the Russification suffered, is carried forward with force also at the political level.


According to a2zcamerablog, Estonia is a country located in Europe. Estonian folklore has managed to survive centuries of foreign domination thanks largely to a rich oral tradition of liturgical songs, verses and chants (rahvalaule) that celebrate the changing of the seasons, the cultivation of the land, family life, love and myths. The oldest Estonian song, dating back to the first millennium BC, is runic liturgical music. The most important folk festival of the year is celebrated on June 23, the eve of Jaanipäev, the night of St. John and the magical powers, during which Estonians sing and dance around bonfires. The traditions related to the winter period are instead more collected and meditative and the month of November in particular is dedicated to the memory of the dead (Time of the Spirits). Other events related to folklore are the Baltic Folk Festival, which takes place in July in the capital with exhibitions, dances and parades of various kinds; and especially the Estonian Song Festival, which is held every five years and offers traditional choral songs that attract a large audience. From the point of view of craftsmanship, the processing of amber (from the Baltic beaches) and clay. Woodworking is expressed in the sculpture of small religious images and in the art of decorating and carving spindles, tools, musical instruments, pillars and cornices of houses. § As far as gastronomy is concerned, smoked fish is an Estonian specialty, especially trout (suitsukala); but pork is the national food, and the main dish is verevorst, a pig’s blood sausage wrapped in guts and cooked at Christmas time together with smoked bacon. Blood sausages and pancakes (true pannkoogid) are served in most traditional Estonian restaurants. Beef is also widespread, served with potatoes and sauerkraut. Desserts made with berries and raisins are popular. The national liqueur is the sweet and herbal Vana Tallinn. There is also a high consumption of beer, coming from the island of Saaremaa.


Until 1870 only one German-language theater was active, which was joined, from the beginning of the century. XIX, staged by German amateurs, some shows in Estonian. In that year the Wanemuine association of Tartu and the following year the Estonia of Tallinn officially started a national theater. With independence, four theaters were established in the capital (with an acting school) and others in 8 provincial cities: mainly old and new texts from Western repertoires were recited. Equally intense was the theatrical life of Estonia as a Soviet republic: the fruits of this remain, for example, in Tallinn where there are a prose theater in Estonian and one in Russian, as well as an opera and ballet hall; or to Tartu, where Wanemuine is once again active. Operettas have always been very popular, often drawing inspiration from the local folkloric heritage. As far as cinema is concerned, the first production house was Tallinn Film, founded in 1955.

Estonia Culture