In 2018, Estonia embarks on a celebration, which will conclude on 2 Feb. 2020, of its 100 years of existence since Estonians in the Estonian and Livonian provinces united and declared their independence in February 1918, in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian revolutions of 1917.
The Estonia 100 anniversary programme will encompass all fields of life. The celebration will give Estonians the opportunity to reflect back on the country’s turbulent history marred by wars, the Estonian national awakening in the middle of the 19th century, its regaining independence in 1991 in the course of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, while also highlighting its present achievements, and focusing on its future.
Please read an interview with Jaanus Rohumaa, the head of the organising committee of Estonia 100, to learn more about what is installed during the celebrations in what can be described as the most prominent and grand anniversary of Estonia’s history.
Jaanus Rohumaa is a well-known actor and stage director in Estonia. He has headed the organising teams of many large projects, for example Tallinn 2011 - European Capital of Culture, and the Estonia 90 and Estonia 95 celebrations. He also served as the personal advisor on cultural matters to the former President of Estonia, Mr Toomas-Hendrik Ilves.
Tell us about Estonia 100?
The Estonia 100 celebrations were launched in mid-April 2017 to mark a century since Estonia's administrative borders took their current form. The festivities will peak with the official 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 2018 and other important historical dates throughout 2018 and 2019, and come to a close on the 2nd of February 2020 when we mark the 100th anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty. The state was not born overnight and that's why we plan to focus on more than just February 24th.
Will most of the events be held in Tallinn or will they be spread throughout the country? What can other Estonian towns expect?
For us, it is very important that the Estonia 100 celebrations are taking place all over the country, outside of Tallinn and as close to the people as possible. For example, the ‘Children’s Republic’ will bring the celebrations to communities throughout the country, students all over Estonia have been planting oak parks in honour of Estonia 100, and many city centres will be renovated during the celebrations. Probably the largest project will be “Estonia 100 in every village” which will include hundreds of local celebrations in villages and towns all over Estonia.
On the website you write that the Estonia 100 festivities will for the most part be shaped by the people of Estonia themselves, as this is everyone’s celebration. What type of celebrations do Estonians want?
An important part of the Estonia 100 programme will consist of events and initiatives – we call them gifts – that will be organised in honour of Estonia’s centenary. Organisations, companies and individuals are already working on hundreds of gifts – everything from buying instruments for young Estonian musicians to building a swing park with traditional Estonian village swings – that will improve the life of the local community and create a better future for Estonia.
Estonians are not into big parades or fireworks, we prefer to make something that will matter and last for years, to create a better future for our children. And after that, it will be time to celebrate, in our way, together with friends all around the world.
You just announced 30 new art projects happening all around Estonia during the Estonia 100 celebrations. Why are you incorporating art in the Estonia 100 celebrations?
The Estonia 100 art programme “100 Art Landscapes” brings to life very various projects celebrating the centenary and building bridges between different sectors of society. Art is a universal language we all understand. We can express much more and touch peoples hearts much deeper through art.
All of the selected projects treat Estonia and Estonian themes through contemporary art, and allow the public to celebrate Estonia’s centenary through an art experience. I am very pleased that most of the selected projects will take place outside of the capital Tallinn in very diverse places throughout the country, which will help us to reflect on today’s pre-centenary society and culture with a view towards the future.
Estonia 100 is undoubtedly one of the most important and greatest milestones in Estonia's history with great meaning for Estonians. What does Estonia turning 100 mean for you?
Estonia 100 has a great meaning for Estonians. We’ve been through difficult times, but we have survived and we can celebrate. We have our land, our people, our republic, freedom and a hopeful future. We are lucky – not all nations in the world have them all.
It’s a time when we can truly celebrate our achievements, be proud of our country and people, we can rise above the problems we face daily and feel a sense of community.
It is also a time that we can create a better future. I hope that one day when we think back to Estonia 100, we will remember it as a great period when we sowed the seeds of many positive things. The real harvest of Estonia 100 will be in the hands of future generations.
Estonia 100 website www.ev100.ee lists events abroad and an international programme. What Estonia 100 events will take place outside of Estonia?
The Estonia 100 and Estonian Presidency international programme is made up of more than 150 cultural, educational, research and technological events in 2017 and 2018 in more than 30 countries around the world.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest events will be World Cleanup Day on September 15, 2018, which will be a gift from Estonians to the world. Estonia will also be promoted in the public space of a number of European cities with a 'Digital Street Art’ creative solution, combining graffiti, history and digital technology. The digital street art project will be launched in Brussels this upcoming July.
The common thread running through these very diverse events is that they will all raise the profile of Estonia through some very talented people. It is in our hands to create an inspiring image of Estonia where we dare to be ourselves and show who we really are.
Estonian communities all over the world are also organising local Estonia 100 events.
It is said that the centenary programme will focus primarily on the future. What kind of a future does Estonia want to build for its people, and how does Estonia want to be seen by the world?
It is my hope that Estonia will always be a democratic country where people never stop trying to improve, never stop being curious and innovative, where we do everything to provide a happy childhood for our children by giving them opportunities to play, learn and discover, and live together as a strong society. It is also very important for Estonians that we preserve our language, our culture, our nature and our traditions.
I truly believe that there are many things Estonians can teach the world, for example how to use digital solutions to create balance and transparency in society. I see a great future for Estonia on the global scene.
Could you tell us about ‘An Instrument for Every Child’, this project you have to help fund the purchase of new musical instruments for music schools across Estonia? Why music? Why not science equipment?
Let’s be honest- can you imagine a party without music? We want to make sure that there will be live music at the Estonia 200 celebrations as well.
The goal of “An Instrument for Every Child” is to help purchase new musical instruments for children across the country. The aim is to upgrade the instrument collections of the institutions that offer musical education to children and young people. There is no doubt that music plays a very important part in Estonian society. We are proud of our song festivals, the Singing Revolution, our composers and music. Music is in our DNA.
By the way – we didn’t choose between music and science. There are also many initiatives related to science. For example, students are building a satellite which will be used to launch a recording of one of our beloved songs into space as part of the Estonia 100 celebrations. There will also be the Robotex robotics competition which the organizers want to turn into the biggest robotics competition in the world in honour of Estonia 100. These are just a few examples.
The ‘Children’s Republic’ will bring the celebrations to communities throughout the country, and you noted that students all over Estonia have been growing saplings for the Estonia 100 Oaks project to plant oak groves in honour of the centenary. How many trees are you planning to plant?
Every oak park consists of at least one hundred oaks and there will be at least one oak park in every county. But we are also inviting people to plant an oak in honour of Estonia 100 in their own yards or in their communities. So I think there will be thousands of oaks planted during the celebrations. The oak is a sacred tree for us, it is an old tradition to plant a family tree on a special occasion.
The Estonia 100 celebrations will consist of five different thematic stages: our land, our state, our people, our freedom and our future. What does the ''our freedom'' theme represent?
The freedom and independence of Estonia are self-evident, natural and even unnoticeable – when you have them. It’s easy to get used to. We already have a generation of adults who were born after Estonia regained its independence and who have lived their entire lives in freedom. But as you know, we have not always been free – over the last 800 years, we have only had true independence for less than 50. “Our freedom” will be the period during which we commemorate the most important and decisive battles in the War of Independence and think about what freedom really means. We want to remind ourselves that freedom is not self-evident and that we have to treasure and hold on to it.
How do you think Estonia is perceived around the world?
Estonia is a small country and we have to accept the fact that there are many people who have never heard of us. But I think that those who have heard something have rather positive feelings. Estonia is valued as a country of digital solutions, clean nature, a strong culture of both tradition and innovation and people who have achieved great things in many areas of life. Estonia is like a well-kept secret – we want people to feel they have found a treasure when they finally get to know who we are.
Are you expecting tourism to Estonia and the Baltic States to increase during Estonia 100?
We are inviting all friends and fans of Estonia all around the world to join in the Estonia 100 celebrations in 2018. There will be a rich programme in Estonia and also around the globe. There is a very good reason to come to Estonia in 2018. So the answer is yes, we hope to welcome more visitors next year.
What is the total budget for the Estonia 100 celebrations? And how have funds been allocated for the various cultural events? What should we expect?
The central budget for the Estonia 100 celebrations is about 24 million euro. New films, documentaries and a TV series make up the biggest part of the budget – 9.3 million euro, while spending for projects dedicated to children and youth will total 2.4 million euro. The cost of the international programme is about 3.2 million euro, and we are also providing support to a wide range of other events and initiatives.
Estonia 100 is not only a cultural programme, we want to create a positive change in society as a whole. That’s why we are supporting bigger initiatives that will create long-lasting effects in different spheres of life.
The centenary programme will engage almost every area of life and give Estonian communities around the world a chance to look back at our past, highlight the present day and set new goals for tomorrow.
Jaanus Rohumaa is a well-known actor and director in Estonia. He has headed the organising teams of many large projects, for example Tallinn 2011 - European Capital of Culture, and the Estonia 90 and Estonia 95 celebrations. He also served as the personal advisor on cultural matters to the former President of Estonia, Mr Toomas-Hendrik Ilves.
Join in the Estonia 100 celebrations! The Estonia 100 programme is available here: events.estonia.ee. The programme will be updated regularly.