Wednesday, 28 June 2017

12th Youth Song and Dance Festival / XII noorte laulu- ja tantsupidu ''Mina jään''

The time has almost arrived! The 12th Youth Song and Dance Festival will take place from 30th June 30 - 2nd July 2017 at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds and Kalev Central Stadium. The 12th Youth Song and Dance Festival, titled "Here I'll Stay" ("Mina jään"), is focused on the younger generation's ties with its land, culture and older generation, all of which are tied to the central theme of "roots."

The 12th Youth Song and Dance Festival will bring to Tallinn nearly 40,000 singers, dancers, gymnasts and musicians as well as tens of thousands of spectators.

Here are ten reasons to attend the festival:

1. The Youth Song and Dance Celebrations only take place every five years.
2. The theme of the 12th Youth Song and Dance Celebrations is Here I`ll stay.
3. Meet 40,000 dancers and singers at a time.
4. Five kilometers of procession.
5. The stage can fit up to 20000 singers and the whole area of the grounds can hold 120 000 people.
6. UNESCO World Heritage Event.
7. The unforgettable Estonian National Clothes.
8. Tradition dating back 1869.
9..Best time to visit Estonia.
10. Summer, sun, beautiful songs, interesting dancers, friendly spectators, fantastic view on the sea- what a great way to experience the most important cultural event of Estonia.

For more information, please refer to the ifficial website: XII noorte laulu- ja tantsupidu ''Mina jään''

Monday, 26 June 2017

Estonia to Issue New 2 Euro Commemorative Coin

On the 26th June 2017 a new 2 Euro coin dedicated to Estonia's independence will enter circulation. A total of 1.5 million coins have been minted with 10,000 coins available in an attractive collectors card. The coin bears an image of an oak tree and oak leaves. Estonia is one of the northermost places in the world where oak can grow which is one of the reasons why the tree is sacred to Estonians.

The new commemorative coin can be purchased directly from the Eesti Pank online shop. For more information please refer to their website. Eesti Pank

Friday, 23 June 2017

How to celebrate Jaanipäev like a true Estonian

All Estonians love to celebrate Jaanipäev! It's a highlight on the Estonian calendar that usually sees Estonians retreat to their country houses or head to the islands to party all night long. Travel website 'Visit' recently published an interesting article about Jaanipäev that is full of interesting tips and facts. Have a great night everyone!

In Estonia, the Midsummer festivities are as popular as Christmas, and probably just as important.  Every summer, St John’s Eve (Jaanilaupäev) is celebrated on June 23 and St John’s Day (Jaanipäev) June 24. It is a celebration filled with fun activities, Estonian music, good food and company, traditions, magic and romance. Estonians celebrated midsummer long before Christianity reached the Baltics and the old traditions are still going strong.

Midsummer is a magical time and has always offered a chance to rest and have some fun after all the work has been done in the spring, with summer about to start. Whole villages and communities have traditionally celebrated together. Going back, no one was allowed to work on the special day.

Today St John’s Eve and Day are celebrated with friends and family at home or at bigger gatherings called jaanituli. Many Estonians head from the cities to the countryside, meaning Tallinn can seem abandoned by the locals. But don’t worry, we’ll tell you where to find Estonians and how to celebrate St John’s Day in Tallinn like a true Estonian. Follow our lead and spend an unforgettable midsummer in Tallinn.

1. Go to a jaanituli (bonfire) on St John’s Eve
Take part in local midsummer bonfire festivals at Viimsi Open Air Museum and Kalev Stadium. For the most traditional St John’s Eve festivities, go to the Estonian Open Air Museum. These celebrations show what Midsummer means in Estonia. You’ll get to see bonfires, enjoy music and dance performances, eat good food, play midsummer games and meet locals. At the Estonian Open Air museum you’ll get to swing in the village swing with locals dressed in traditional folk costumes.

2. Make your future bright and happy
Estonians are quite superstitious and have many beliefs related to midsummer and especially bonfires. For example, according to legend, if you don’t go to jaanituli it will bring you misfortune; your house may burn down! You should walk from your home to the bonfire for good health. Once you get there go around the bonfire three times, then do another three rounds backwards. This will bring you great success, it is believed.

If you have something to throw into the fire as a sacrifice, it could be a small branch or flower wreath, then all your wishes will come true. The fire and smoke will also give you strength for the coming summer and year. It also brings relief to injuries and back pains. This is why older people sometimes sit with their backs turned to the fire.

3. Enjoy and have fun!
Eat: If you are trying to have an authentic Estonian St John’s Eve you should eat something with dairy, like pastries with quark, cheese etc. But nowadays the traditional Estonian summer dishes are shashlik, barbequed meat, sausages and vegetables served with potatoes and fresh salad made with sour cream, tomatoes and cucumber. Flush them down with cooling kvass (bread drink) or local beer. In the olden days every man used to brew their own beer for midsummer!

Play: Dance around the bonfire and sing along to Estonian pop music, nostalgic schlagers and mesmerising folk music.  Take part in local traditional midsummer games and sway in the big village swing. If possible, go to the sauna. In the sauna you should use a traditional viht, or a bunch of leafy birch branches, to gently beat yourself and stimulate your skin, or get a friend to help if you prefer. It relaxes your muscles and feels good, believe it or not. If the viht causes leaves to stick to your skin, you can use them to make someone fall in love with you. Ain’t the Estonian midsummer great?

Don’t sleep: This is the shortest night of the year, the sun barely sets. Make the most of it and stay up all night. Children love midsummer especially because they are also allowed to stay up until dawn. If it doesn’t rain in the night it will bring everyone good luck! So cross your fingers!

4. Search for the fern flower
It is a common misconception that ferns don’t bloom, but actually they do, once every year. And yes, you guessed it right, ferns bloom on St John’s Eve, but only for a short moment. You should be totally focused on this mission, as if you get distracted you’ll miss your chance. The one who finds the fern flower will instantly gain wealth, new abilities and will understand the secret languages of animals.

5. Jump over the bonfire
While you have been looking for the rare flower, the bonfire has almost gone out. This is the perfect time to jump over the bonfire. It will bring you happiness and health. A little advice on the romantic side: think about the one you love while you jump over the fire, and they will fall in love with you!

6. Roll in the morning dew
The dawn of St John’s Day is special. You can feel the dewy grass under your toes. The dew has a magical power, use it to wash your face to gain beauty, or turn a somersault on the ground to avoid back injuries. You can also collect the dew in a small bottle and take it home with you. Store it out of direct sunlight and you can use it for up to 50 years and it won’t lose its magical power.

7. Meet the love of your life in your dreams
Before heading to bed in the morning collect nine different flowers from the meadows and forests. You should do this alone and secretly for the magic to work. Place the flowers under your pillow and you’ll see your future love in your dream. This method has been shown to work by many Estonians!

8. Find a friend in Jaan!
There are almost 5000 men named Jaan in Estonia. So you are bound to meet a Jaan while staying in Estonia. Jaan is the Estonian version of John and Jaanipäev (St John’s Day) is the day of the Jaans. Famous Jaans include Jaan Tõnisson (politician), Jaan Poska (politician), Jaan Teemant (politician), Jaan Kross (writer), Jaan Koort (sculptor), Jaan Kaplinski (poet), Jaan Pehk (musician), and Jaan Tätte (artist), to name but a few. So go and find yourself a Jaan on Jaanipäev!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Estonian National Museum Opens Largest Folk Costume Exhibition of all Time

On June 22, the Estonian National Museum will open Estonia's largest national costume exhibition. 150 folk costume sets will be on display from all Estonian parishes that reflect the diversity of national costumes geographically and throughout the year. The exhibition is divided into four thematic spaces - summer, winter, spring and autumn.

One hundred years ago, the Estonian National Museum managed to collect the richness of unlimited wealth, patterns, traditions and fashion in peasant clothing. But only now, in a new museum building, can they exhibit this richness in its entirety.

Alongside the exhibition, the museum offers information on folk costumes and their culture of worship in the form of numerous books, catalogs, instructional materials and workshops.

For more information, please click here: Eesti Rahva Muuseum / Estonian National Museum


New book! Eesti rahvariiete ajalugu is considered to be the most comprehensive book written about the history of Estonian folk costumes. It can be purchased from the museum's online giftshop for 70€. ERM: Eesti rahvariiete ajalugu

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Video: Estonian Presidency of the Council of EU 'This is Estonia'

Estonia will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time from July 2017 to the end of December 2017.

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union changes every six months. Estonia will be taking the baton of the Presidency over from Malta to hand it over to Bulgaria six months later. Three consecutive holders of the Presidency agree which areas to focus on more at the European level. This ensures that important topics remain in the centre of attention for 18 consecutive months. Estonia forms a Presidency trio with Bulgaria and Austria.

In the Council of the European Union, 28 Member States make decisions on policies affecting the welfare and security of more than 500 million EU citizens. The role of the presidency is to seek common ground among the different opinions of Member States, and guide the Member States towards agreements - to be an honest broker acting for the common benefit of the whole. The presidency will also communicate to the media and the international public, the process of reaching common positions as well as the substantive topics and issues discussed. The presidency is responsible for organising the sessions of the Council of the European Union and the duties of working groups – to prepare agendas and chair meetings. The presidency presents and supports agreements between Member States in negotiations with the European Commission and the European Parliament. In the last stage of the negotiations, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament adopt decisions that are binding to all Member States and shape the day-to-day life of 500 million European citizens. Estonia, within the presidency, will have to address some 500 different issues.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg

It's great to see Estonia going from strength to strength with its e-governance and technological innovation. Estonia’s pilot project – the world’s first data embassy – could set an example for the rest of the world. writes about the history behind the project. and how Estonia has emerged as a digital society. 

In the last 20 years, Estonia has developed into what the World Development report, compiled by the World Bank, last year called “closest to a digital society”. However, being digital and therefore dependent on information and communication technology also creates challenges. One of them is the question of how to secure all the data that could become vulnerable in the case of a cyber or indeed a real military attack.

For example, when Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it had to determine who its rightful citizens were.   Approximately 80,000 people had fled the country during the last world war and there was the problem of how to return land and property to those whose assets were confiscated during the Soviet occupation. In order to establish this paper records and archives were used. However, in the digital society the country no longer stores this information on paper, raising the question of continuity or as in the case of Estonia today, digital continuity.

The country had its first experience with cyber-conflict back in 2007, when attacks originating from Russia managed to take fifty-eight Estonian websites offline at once, including those of the government, most newspapers and many banks. Although no information was lost during this event, Estonia had been backing up important data outside of its borders even before the attack, storing it in Estonian embassies across the world. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 brought the question of continuity back to the forefront of public discussions in Estonia and the government’s Cloud Policy stated that, “to ensure service functionality and data continuity, capabilities needed to be developed outside of the country’s borders.” So even if a crisis develops, digital authentication and authorisation services would remain operational. To achieve this aim Estonia considered two options: a physical embassy for data in a friendly foreign country or a virtual embassy for data in a privately owned public cloud.

“One of the most important tasks of any country is to ensure continuity both on a state level as well as in terms of public services. The Estonian digital and information society is already so highly sophisticated that it is no longer possible to move back to a paper era. Therefore, we have to do our utmost to ensure cyber security, including maintaining the digital continuity,” Siim Sikkut, the government’s ICT policy adviser, noted. “We have back-up data storage facilities in Estonia, but in order to be prepared for any occasion, if, for example, the state suffers a large-scale cyber-attack, natural disaster or a conventional attack on a datacentre – we need back-up sites outside our borders,” he added.

One of the two options to achieve the digital continuity – the cloud technology – was tested in late 2014, when Estonia embarked on a research project with Microsoft to see whether a public/private cloud computing partnership model could function. However, Sikkut said that this was not enough. “The cloud technology provides a good opportunity, but the state also wants to maintain the full control and jurisdiction of their data and systems. For this reason the private cloud services are not exactly suitable for us,” he said. “Therefore, we started to develop and enhance the data embassy concept, just like Estonian embassies abroad, these are our sovereign embassies in foreign data centres.”

During the last few years Estonia has held talks with a number of countries and has now succeeded with one of the smallest countries in the European Union.  The first data embassy will be based in a high-security data centre in Betzdorf, a commune in eastern Luxembourg. “The Luxembourg site will store the copies of the most critical and confidential data,” Sikkut explained, adding that the first data embassy should become operational by the end of this year, or at the latest, at the start of 2018. “Once the first one is running, we will analyse and evaluate whether we need to enhance our capabilities. It is highly likely that we will set up additional data embassies, but that all depends on the cost and our experience,” he said.

The two countries are expected to sign a mutual agreement this summer, but it is already clear that the Estonian data embassy will have the same protection and immunity as the traditional embassies. “Luxembourg has been a very good partner. In essence, we are creating a new precedent in terms of international law and practice, a kind of innovation.  Luxembourg has been keen to think along with and contribute to the creation of the new concept. The ‘physical’ embassies are our sovereign territory under the Vienna Convention. Now we want to bring the same concept to the cyber world and data centres, Sikkut explained. This effectively means that officials from the host country will be barred from accessing the data.

Estonia’s pilot project could, again, set an example to the rest of the world.

Source: Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Estonia ranked fifth in the world and first in Europe in cybersecurity

According to the Global Cybersecurity Index 2017 conducted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Estonia ranked fifth in world and first in Europe in cybersecurity. This is an excellent result placing Estonia ahead of its Nordic neighbours. Norway ranked 11th in the index, Finland 16th and Sweden 17th. In total the ranking included 195 countries.

The full report can be found here: Global Cybersecurity Index 2017

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Tamm remains the most common surname in Estonia

According to Statistics Estonia's Population Register the most common surname in Estonia as of January 2017 is Tamm (oak). Nearly 5,300 people in Estonia have this surname.  Other common surnames include Saar (found especially in Viljandi, Rapla and Lääne) Sepp (Saaremaa) and Kukk (Põlva).

Estonians typically derive their surnames from various trees, plants, animals, landforms and occupations.

My surname Lestal, which means 'flounder' (fish) is quite rare. As of 1 January 2017 only 16 men and 17 women in Estonia have this surname. They are mainly concentrated in Tartu county which is where my family originate. 

To do a name search and find data on your surname, please click here: Estonian surnames

Estonian Embassy Considered One of Washington DC's Most Beautiful Embassies

Travel website The Culture Trip recently published a list of the most beautiful embassies in Washington DC. Estonia appeared on the list alongside its Nordic neighbours Finland and Sweden. This morning Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted - 'I thought so when I picked it out, bought and renovated it 23 years ago.' Mr Ilves is obviously a man of good taste!

The Estonian Embassy
2131 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC

This house on Embassy Row was originally built for a doctor in 1905, and later was home to the Peruvuian Embassy, until Estonia bought it in 1994. The neoclassical style architecture makes it one of the standout buildings on Embassy Row.

To read The Culture Trip article, please click here: Washington, DC's Most Beautiful Embassies

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

In memory of the victims of the June 14, 1941 Soviet deportations in Estonia

Estonians across the globe will gather to light candles tonight in remembrance of the victims of the first mass deportation in the Baltic States. On the night of the 13th June 1941, the Red Army in Soviet-occupied Estonia rounded up 9603 innocent civilians and sent them to desolate and underdeveloped parts of Russia.  Of the victims, 3512 were men, 3024 women and 3067 children. The men were sent to prison camps in Siberia and the women were forced to work in hard labour camps. May we never forget this Soviet atrocity that tore families apart ruined a generation  of Estonians. There probably isn't a single Estonian family who did not lose somebody as a result of Stalin's deportations.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Video: A walk through Tallinn

Need abit of inspiration or motivation to visit Tallinn? Take a look at this video!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Two extensive history anthologies completed for Estonian centennial - ERR News

Avita Publishers and TEA Publishers held a joint book launch for two new and extensive anthologies designed for the centennial of the Republic of Estonia next year — "History of Estonia" and "Republic of Estonia 100."

TEA Publishers' reference book "Republic of Estonia 100" contains everything essential which characterizes the Republic of Estonia — its statehood, its fight for freedom and the history of the nation state as well as its nature, people, economy and culture, including its cultural traditions.

Avita Publishers' "History of Estonia" focuses on the history of the region, from the establishment of its earliest settlements through today. The work takes a territorial approach to portraying history, however the development of Estonians' national identity is analyzed as well.

To read the full ERR News article, please click here: Book launch

More information about the books can be found here:
TEA Publishers -  Republic of Estonia 100
Avita Publsihers:

Thursday, 8 June 2017

University of Tartu ranked 314th best university in the world

According to the QS World University Ranking, the University of Tartu is ranked the 314th best university in the world. This is an excellent result compared to the previous ranking in 2012 which placed the university at 501. The University of Tartu is now the highest rated university in the Baltics. 

To view to full list, please click here: QS World University Rankings

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Top 10 Tallest Buidings In Tallinn

Estonia is not known for its tall buildings however from 1549 to 1626 Tallinn's St.Olaf's Church was considered the tallest building in the world. Today however, hotels make up the majority of the cities skyscapers. To discover which buildings are the tallest in Tallinn, take a look at this video.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Ott Lepland's new single - Siin me kokku saime

If you're like me and enjoy listening to music by Ott Lepland then you'll be pleased to know that he has just released a new single. The song is called 'Siin me kokku saime' which translates to 'here we got together' in English. You can listen to it here. Enjoy!