Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity begins with each of us, gains momentum in our daily activities and sometimes becomes almost self-evident. 

Here you will find facts that help to notice and raise awareness of our common cultural diversity, thereby appreciating and preserving it.

 

A CULTURALLY diverse ESTONIA

How to measure Estonia's cultural diversity? However we do it, the result is the same this common value of ours is infinitely great!

Estonia's cultural diversity can be measured in many ways. You could start with where cultural diversity itself begins – with the individuality of each of us. Next, it is worth exploring the differences and similarities arising from national identity, an endless list which begins with unique languages and ancient customs. Even more broadly, cultural diversity is part of our everyday life – from the myriad flavours of different cuisines to eye-catching buildings.

Statistical data confirms that today’s Estonia is richer in culture than ever before. For example, the number of peoples to whom Estonia is home has reached a record of sorts. According to the very first census of the Republic of Estonia* (in 1922), in addition to Estonians, representatives of several other peoples lived in Estonia, including Russians, Germans, Swedes, Jews, Latvians, Poles and Finns. Their communities made up a total of 12.5% of the population. According to the latest census** (in 2021), the share of representatives of other nations in the Estonian population has increased to 27.5%. The largest national minority communities are of Russian, Finnish, Latvian, German, Jewish, Ukrainian and Belarusian descent***.

The number of mother tongues spoken in Estonia is now also at a record high. According to the latest census, the number of native languages spoken in Estonia has increased to 243**. Estonian is spoken by 84% of Estonians, with 67% as their mother tongue and 17% as a foreign language****. In turn, 17% of native speakers of Estonian speak a dialect**. Of the other mother tongues, Estonians speak Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish, English and Latvian the most****.

Worth knowing:

  • As of December 1, 2023, Estonia has a population of 1,365,884. 925,892 residents have marked their nationality as "Estonian" and 67% have indicated "Estonian" as their mother tongue***.
  • The biggest leap in growth among Estonian communities in the last decade has been made by Igbos. In 2011, there was one representative of this community and that rose to 152 in 2022***. A list of the nationalities living in Estonia can be found here.
  • The oldest native languages spoken by Estonians are Hebrew and Tamil. Estonia has seen the largest increase in speakers of Iranian languages, Niger-Kordofan languages, Sindhi and Mandar.***** You can see the list of native languages spoken in Estonia here.

* Population of Estonia. Five generations and ten censuses. (pp. 119–121)

** Demographic and ethnocultural characteristics of the population

*** What nationalities live in Estonia?

**** Population Census. 76% of Estonia's population speak a foreign language

***** 243 mother tongues spoken in Estonia

 

Estonian communities

How many Estonian communities are there? The exact answer is more than one!

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so we also understand and recognize cultural diversity differently. Estonian nationality and Estonian national culture have always been based on the heterogeneity of communities and at the same time on a common will to be a distinctive people and culture in the world. This is still the case today: if you try to list Estonian communities, there are endless ways to do it. For example, if we look from the point of view of language accessibility requirements, there are at least two communities of Estonians, at least three* in terms of Estonian dialects, at least 31** by country of residence, by city – at least 47, by municipality – at least 64, in terms of folk costume patterns – at least 117***, by national cultural societies – at least 1300, by villages – at least 4438 communities.

Worth knowing:

  • Two major dialect groups have historically been spoken in Estonia – North and South Estonian dialect groups, which have several dialects and local idiom. In addition, the Northeastern coastal Estonian is distinguished as a third group.
  • According to the 2021 census data, about 17% of native Estonian-speaking people speak a dialect language****. The largest share of dialect speakers is in Võru County (74%), followed by Põlva (60%) and Saare Counties (42%). Looking at the whole of Estonia, the Võru dialect group stands out, spoken by 11% of native Estonian speakers.

* https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eesti_keel#Murded

** https://globalestonian.com/et/global-estonians-in-numbers

*** https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eesti_rahvar%C3%B5ivad

**** Demographic and ethnocultural characteristics of the population

 

National minority communities

How many communities are there among the national minorities living in Estonia? Like Estonian communities – the answer is more than one!

According to the 2021 census, representatives of 211 nationalities live in Estonia. The largest ethnic groups are Estonians (919,693), Russians (315,242), Ukrainians (approximately 60,000 in 2023), Belarusians (11,605), Finns (8543) and Latvians (3827). In order to preserve their cultural heritage in Estonia and to introduce it to others, representatives of different nationalities join cultural societies.

Despite its small size, Estonia is a culturally very rich and diverse country. Many representatives of different nationalities have lived here through the ages and still live here today.

Estonia's own culture has been mainly influenced by Finno-Ugric, Germanic and Slavic cultures. Every nation that has come into contact with Estonians has brought with it its own traditions, languages and beliefs. We are proud of the fact that in Estonia, representatives of different nationalities have had the opportunity to preserve their cultural heritage and traditions, and these have become part of our own culture. This is why here you can enjoy a wide variety of cultural events, diverse national dishes, music of the peoples of the world and other aspects of culture that enrich our society.

Our cultural diversity is also reflected in the languages that are spoken every day in Estonia. Thanks to the contribution of different cultures, Estonia's literary and cultural heritage is rich in both genres and forms – participating in this heritage is an enlightening experience that allows all Estonian people to understand and respect other cultures and establish relationships with representatives of other nationalities. This is what makes Estonia an open and developing country.

Worth knowing:

  • There are more than 300 national minority cultural societies operating in Estonia. Almost 290 societies are concentrated in 17 associations, which in turn are united by the Cultural Advisory Board of National Minorities at the Ministry of Culture.
  • At the initiative of national minority cultural societies, there are 32 hobby schools operating in Estonia, where the language, customs and crafts of the people are kept alive.
  • On September 24, we celebrate National Minorities Day in Estonia.

 

AROUND THE WORLD

For the people of Estonia, home is not only incomparable Estonia, but also the entire, vast world. According to Statistics Estonia*, more than 190,000 people originally from Estonia live in other countries. In other words, more than 15% of people with Estonian roots live abroad. Every year, approximately 7,000 people originally from our country return to live in Estonia.

The largest emigration in Estonian history took place before the Second World War. People with Estonian roots found new homes mainly in Germany and Sweden, as well as in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Communities that emerged in different parts of the world created organisations in order to maintain ties with each other and with their homeland. Through various initiatives, they tried to preserve and pass on the priceless wealth of Estonian culture.

Organisations that unite people with Estonian roots continue these initiatives, covering more and more countries around the world as time goes by. According to the data collected within the framework of the Global Estonian Programme**, Estonian communities are united by 577 organisations, which our people have created in at least 47 countries. Among these organisations, there are 26 societies whose goal is to support the bearers of Estonian culture all over the world***.

An overview of Estonian communities in the world and the contribution of our people world culture can be found at the Global Estonian information gateway****.  

* According to Statistics Estonia.

** Global Estonian: in numbers and community groups.

*** The Association of Estonian Cultural Societies consists of societies outside Estonia.

**** The website is managed by the Integration Foundation in cooperation primarily with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Research.

 

FIND OUT MORE

You can find more detailed information about Estonia's cultural diversity and related issues in the public databases, in published research and other information sources below.

If you would like to supplement the list of information sources for cultural diversity with a survey, database, event etc., please share the information with us by writing to [email protected].

STATISTICS

Database of Statistics Estonia: Statistics Estonia

Statistics on migration to and from Estonia: Ministry of Culture

Eurostat database

World Population Review

STUDIES

Estonian Integration Monitoring (once every two years): Ministry of Culture

Public opinion surveys (quarterly): Government Office

DEVELOPMENT PLANS

Cohesive Estonia Strategy: Ministry of Culture

Estonian Diaspora Action Plan: Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

EVENTS

Integration conference: Integration Foundation

 

Communities

National minority cultural societies

What distinguishes or unites people who come to Estonia from other countries? You can get answers from national minority cultural societies.

National minorities living in Estonia actively participate in public life, preserving their cultural heritage in accordance with their interests and needs. Representatives of minorities cherish their cultural heritage and pass it on to future generations. They hold traditional events, celebrations and performances, such as folklore and dance festivals, art exhibitions and concerts, to introduce their unique culture to a wider Estonian public.

The majority of representatives of national minorities speak and teach their mother tongue in their communities by organising language courses or community events. Communities also invest in youth education by offering language learning and cultural programs that help children maintain their cultural identity. In addition, national minority cultural societies operate in community buildings and hobby schools, where traditional forms of art, music and dance are taught.

Representatives of national minorities contribute enthusiastically to community life in the regions. They participate in community activities and organisations, take part in local events and festivals, share their culture, represent the interests of the community and cooperate with other communities.

Everyone in Estonia contributes their unique cultural knowledge, becoming a co-creator of the rich and diverse cultural landscape here.

Worth knowing:

  • The majority of national minority cultural associations are concentrated in associations that are part of the Cultural Advisory Board of National Minorities, established at the Ministry of Culture. The 17 organisations unite almost 300 cultural societies, whose contact details can be found here: National minority cultural societies.
  • In addition, there are several cultural associations operating in Estonia which bring together representatives of the cultures of the peoples who have created their homes here in recent decades. Their contact details can be found here: Cultural associations operating in Estonia.

If you consider it necessary to supplement our contact details, please send more detailed information to [email protected].

 

 

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