Estonia is a Northern European country composed of a mainland and over 2,000 islands. The country is bordered by Latvia, Russia, the Gulf of Finland, and the Baltic Sea. The culture of Estonia is considered to have grown out of Germanic culture. It is also influenced by the cultures of other nations like Russia, Sweden, and Denmark.
6. Ethnicity, Language, and Religion in Estonia
Estonia is home to a population of around 1,244,288 people. 68.7% of the population comprises of ethnic Estonians. Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns account for 24.8%, 1.7%, 1%, and 0.6% of the population respectively. Estonian is the country’s official language and is spoken by 68.5% of the population. The ethnic minority communities speak their own native languages. The Communist rule in Estonia had a massive impact on the country’s religious scene. Today, nearly 54.1% of the nation’s population do not adhere to any religion. Christianity is the largest religion in the state with its various denominations like Lutheranism, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, etc., having a significant presence in the country.
5. Estonian Cuisine
Traditional Estonian cuisine is based on meat, rye bread, potatoes, and fish (in coastal areas and near water bodies). However, today the cuisine is influenced by many other cuisines like German, Russian, Scandinavian, etc. Pork is the most widely consumed meat. Potato salad is often served with sausages, meat, and pickles. Meat, vegetable, or fish-filled pastries are also eaten. A wide variety of seafood like Baltic dwarf herring, crayfish, crabs, smoked or marinated eel, etc., are popular in Estonia. Soups are consumed as starters or main course. These are usually made of chicken or meat stock mixed with vegetables. Leivasupp is a unique soup made of black bread crumbs and apples. It is seasoned with sugar and cinnamon and served with sour cream. Kringle, curd snack, kama, and kissell are popular desserts of the cuisine. Birch sap beverages, wine, vodka, etc., are popular alcoholic drinks of Estonia. During summer, Estonians love to barbecue. Pickles, jams, and preserves are heavily consumed during this season. The traditional Estonian Christmas menu features blood sausage, roasted potatoes, sepik bread, sauerkraut, and head cheese.
4. Literature and the Arts in Estonia
Estonian literature refers to literary works in the Estonian language. The earliest of these works date from the 13th century. The growth of Estonian literature was, however, quite slow because of the domination of the region by the Germans, Swedes, and Russians for significant periods in the country's history. The earliest Estonian written literary works featured historical accounts and folktales. Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald is considered to be the father of Estonian national literature. The epic poem Kalevipoeg written by him is regarded as the national epic of Estonia. Oskar Luts is a prominent Estonian prose writer. Kevade, a lyrical school novel written by him, is read widely even today. Andrus Kivirähk and Tõnu Õnnepalu are two of the country's most celebrated writers of the 21st century. They produced literary works with elements from Estonian mythology and folklore.
Like literature, Estonia has a rich heritage of art beginning with the cave paintings of the Stone Age era. The Gothic Age in Estonia lasted between the 13th and 16th centuries. Gothic art in the form of church paintings, religious sculptures, etc., were predominant artworks of this period. Medieval Estonian art came next and was heavily inspired by Swedish art. Art pieces from this era were usually flat and had little association with reality. Skeletons and walking corpses were featured in many artworks of this time. Soviet-era art, lasting from 1940 to 1991, was based on socialist realism. Today, Estonian art is about both realism and surrealism.
3. Performance Arts in Estonia
Estonian music has a long history and dates back to the 12th century. Accounts from this time mention Estonian warriors singing the night before an epic battle. Folksongs in Estonia can be categorized into two traditions, the older folksongs in the poetic meter regivärss and the rhythmic folksongs of the 18th century. Following the national awakening in Estonia in the 19th century, professional Estonian musicians emerged for the first time. Rudolf Tobias, Heino Eller, Cyrillus Kreek were some of the most renowned composers of this time. Folk and classical music were prominent in the 20th century. Today, Estonian music and dance cover a variety of genres ranging from folk to classical and contemporary. A number of music and dance festivals are held in the country to inspire the nation’s performance artists. Ewert and The Two Dragons is one of Estonia’s most celebrated indie folk rock bands. Many of the country’s modern musicians and songwriters incorporate folk elements in their work.
2. Sports in Estonia
Sport is an integral part of the Estonian culture. A large variety of sports are played in the nation including basketball, beach volleyball, cricket, cycling, fencing, floorball, football, swimming, tennis, formula racing, ice hockey, judo, and more. Estonian athletes also participate in the Olympic Games and have won many medals for their country. Ice Cricket is an Estonian variety of cricket played on frozen lakes in the nation. Tallinn, the capital city, hosts the Ice Cricket World Championship every year. Skiing and other winter sports are very popular in Estonia. Otepää is regarded as the country’s “winter capital”. Cross-country skiing World Cup event is held there every year.
1. Life in the Estonian Society
The Constitution and law of Estonia grant equal rights and freedoms to both men and women. However, Estonian women are still not equally represented in the country’s workforce and under-represented in the government. Women also receive lower wages and lower positions in office than men in many areas of employment. Women, working or not, are expected to manage the household and children while working men generally do not engage in these activities.
Marriages on Estonia are generally based on a couple’s choice and there are no restrictions on such choice. However, marriages to foreigners, especially Russians, is not welcome, but also not forbidden. Divorces are common in Estonia. Estonian households are mostly of the nuclear type consisting of a couple living with their single child or maybe more than one child. Grandparents often assist the parents in bringing up the children, especially in households where both parents work outside the home. Education is highly valued and university education is prized.
Estonians tend to be private in nature. They usually keep to themselves in public places. Eye contact and loud voices in public are avoided. However, Estonians are warm and friendly within their personal space and love to enjoy their time with close friends and family.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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