Saturday, 14 March 2015

Happy Estonian Mother Tongue Day! Emakeelepäev!

Today is Mother Tongue Day or Emakeelepäev as it is known in Estonia. This national holiday celebrates the beautiful Estonian language and marks the birthday of Kristjan Jaak Peterson (1801-1822) who is considered the founder of modern Estonian poetry. Sadly Kristjan's did not live to see his work published, he died from tuberculosis at the tender age of 21 but his legacy lives on.

The Estonian language is spoken by roughly 1.1 million people. It is closely related to Finnish and more distantly to Hungarian and belongs to the Finno-Ugric language group. Estonian has a number of dialects, broken into the larger northern and southern groups, the most distinctive of which are Võro and Seto.

The oldest records of written Estonian date from the 13th century, and in 1525, the first Estonian book was printed - a Lutheran Bible. Due to a long history of occupation, the nation's language did not have a chance to truly flourish until the 19th century.

On this special day national flags will be flying proudly across Estonia and no doubt, in the homes of Estonians living abroad!