Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Johannes Carl Assmuth: the man behind the winning choir of the first Estonian Song Festival

As the 150th anniversary of the Estonian Song Festival approaches, now is the time to take a look at its history. The event originally began in Tartu as a competition for male church choirs and brass bands and has since bloomed into something much bigger and spectacular. Today,  male, female, children and mixed choirs  participate in the event dressed in the national costume.

Tallinn's Jaani Kirik (St.John's Church)
Produced fine male choirs.

Singing has always been apart of Estonian culture and Estonia can boast one of the largest collections of folk song in the world.  Johann Voldemar Jannsen initiated the first Estonian Song Festival as part of the Estonian National Awakening movement. His daughter Lydia Koidula penned the lyrics “Mu isamaa on minu arm”, a song that performed regularly to this day.

For centuries the church played an important role in Estonian lives. Local parishes were the keepers of family records and song often united people. By the 1860s the men's choir at St. John's Church in Tallinn had earned itself a reputation of producing fine singers. The cantor of that church Joahnnes Carl Assmuth (my fourth great uncle) was a respected man in Tallinn at the time and was the head of the men's choir. When his church heard the news about the first ever Estonian Song Festival they decided to take part in the event. It wasn't an easy task however, they had to borrow wagons for the journey to Tartu, which in those days took four days. It was well worth it though for they won the competition!

Elfriede Lender, the founder of the first Estonian-language girls' school in Estonia and wife of former Tallinn Mayor Voldemar Lender, had this to say about Johannes Assmuth:

'I liked the clerk of St. John's Church, Assmuth, who looked like a clergyman with his intelligent face and great beard. He was a well-known figure in Tallinn and considered to be a great story, especially as he had the same surname as one of St. John's Church's teachers (Alexander Carl Woldemar Assmuth (1845 - 1929). People used to talk about them having the same family name and differentiated them by saying the teacher was German and the cantor was Estonian'. 

("Ka meeldis mulle Jaani kiriku köster Asmuth, kes oma intelligentse näo ja suure habemega nägi välja nagu vaimulik. Ta oli tuntud kuju Tallinnas ja temast peeti õige palju lugu, eriti veel sellepärast, et tal oli sama liignimi kui ühel Jaani kiriku õpetajaist (Alexander Carl Woldemar Assmuth (1845 - 1929)). Inimesed arutasid omavahel, et sakslasel ja eestlasel oli sama liignimi, seega peeti õpetajat sakslaseks, köstrit eestlaseks. -- Elfriede Lender:.)

Song Festival Grounds Tallinn

The Estonian Song Festival is a truly wonderful event cherished by all Estonians. Every five years the event takes place and sees tens of thousands of people singing together. It is a magical, emotional and deeply enriching spectacle to behold.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Saturday, 15 June 2019

78 years since the June 1941 Soviet deportations

Around 10 000 people were deported from Estonia by Soviet authorities on 14 June 1941. While embarking trains fathers were separated from their wives and children and taken to labour camps. The members of their families were mostly deported to the Kirov and Novosibirsk oblasts of the USSR. Many families were never able to reunite. This video interviews survivors who were deported in 1941 and 1949.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Remembering the victims of the Soviet mass deportations

Today Estonia honours the victims of the June mass deportation with a “Sea of Tears” in Tallinn. On the 14th of June 1941 the Soviet authorities deported approximately 11,000 people, including children and the elderly to remoted areas in Siberia. Many perished in the harsh conditions, few made it home. Such crimes should never be forgotten.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Estonia ranked the best country in the world for digital life

Estonia ranks 1st out of 68 countries when it comes to the best and worst countries to live a connected life. This is according to the first Digital Life Abroad Report from the biggest online expatriate network, InterNations, which broke down the best and worst countries to live a digital life abroad.

The results, based on the group’s annual expat insider survey, reveal Estonia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand are tops when it comes to offering a digital environment. Expats in these countries are very satisfied with their unrestricted access to online services and the possibility to pay without cash almost anywhere.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Nedsaja Küla Bänd - Sinna ja tänna

A few years ago I attended the Ostrova Music Festival and had a fantastic time. It was so unlike anything I had experienced before. I would love to go back again but unfortunately I can't this year. Here's one of the bands due to perform on July 20.  Sounds good!

Friday, 7 June 2019

Estonia gains a seat at the UN Security Council

Fantastic news! Estonia has gained a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2020-2021, following a vote at the international body's headquarters in New York.

To learn more, you can read the full ERR News story here: Estonia gains non-permanent UN Security Council seat Well done Estonia!