Es­to­nia 100 chief: Es­to­nia has a lot to teach the world

The Baltic Times - - FRONT PAGE - Michael Mustillo

In 2018, Es­to­nia em­barks on a celebration, which will con­clude on 2 Feb. 2020, of its 100 years of ex­is­tence since Es­to­ni­ans in the Es­to­nian and Livo­nian prov­inces united and de­clared their in­de­pen­dence in Fe­bru­ary 1918, in the af­ter­math of World War I and the Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tions of 1917.

The Es­to­nia 100 an­niver­sary pro­gramme will en­com­pass all fields of life. The celebration will give Es­to­ni­ans the op­por­tu­nity to re­flect back on the coun­try’s tur­bu­lent his­tory marred by wars, the Es­to­nian na­tional awak­en­ing in the mid­dle of the 19th cen­tury, its re­gain­ing in­de­pen­dence in 1991 in the course of the dis­so­lu­tion of the Soviet Union, while also high­light­ing its present achieve­ments, and fo­cus­ing on its fu­ture.

The Baltic Times spoke with Jaanus Ro­hu­maa, the head of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee of Es­to­nia 100, to learn more about what is in­stalled dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions in what can be de­scribed as the most prom­i­nent and grand an­niver­sary of Es­to­nia’s his­tory. Jaanus Ro­hu­maa is a well­known ac­tor and stage di­rec­tor in Es­to­nia. He has headed the or­gan­is­ing teams of many large projects, for ex­am­ple Tallinn 2011 - Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture, and the Es­to­nia 90 and Es­to­nia 95 cel­e­bra­tions. He also served as the per­sonal ad­vi­sor on cul­tural mat­ters to the former Pres­i­dent of Es­to­nia, Mr Toomashen­drik Ilves.

Could you tell The Baltic Times read­ers more about Es­to­nia 100?

The Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions were launched in mi­dapril 2017 to mark a cen­tury since Es­to­nia's ad­min­is­tra­tive bor­ders took their cur­rent form. The fes­tiv­i­ties will peak with the of­fi­cial 100th an­niver­sary of the Repub­lic of Es­to­nia on Fe­bru­ary 24, 2018 and other im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal dates through­out 2018 and 2019, and come to a close on the 2nd of Fe­bru­ary 2020 when we mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the Tartu Peace Treaty. The state was not born overnight and that's why we plan to fo­cus on more than just Fe­bru­ary 24th.

Will most of the events be held in Tallinn or will

they be spread through­out the coun­try? What can other Es­to­nian towns ex­pect?

For us, it is very im­por­tant that the Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions are tak­ing place all over the coun­try, out­side of Tallinn and as close to the peo­ple as pos­si­ble. For ex­am­ple, the ‘Chil­dren’s Repub­lic’ will bring the cel­e­bra­tions to com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try, stu­dents all over Es­to­nia have been plant­ing oak parks in hon­our of Es­to­nia 100, and many city cen­tres will be ren­o­vated dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions. Prob­a­bly the largest project will be “Es­to­nia 100 in ev­ery vil­lage” which will in­clude hun­dreds of lo­cal cel­e­bra­tions in vil­lages and towns all over Es­to­nia.

On your web­site, you write that the Es­to­nia 100 fes­tiv­i­ties will for the most part be shaped by the peo­ple of Es­to­nia them­selves, as this is ev­ery­one’s celebration. What type of cel­e­bra­tions do Es­to­ni­ans want?

An im­por­tant part of the Es­to­nia 100 pro­gramme will con­sist of events and ini­tia­tives – we call them gifts – that will be or­gan­ised in hon­our of Es­to­nia’s cen­te­nary. Or­gan­i­sa­tions, com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als are al­ready work­ing on hun­dreds of gifts – ev­ery­thing from buy­ing in­stru­ments for young Es­to­nian mu­si­cians to build­ing a swing park with tra­di­tional Es­to­nian vil­lage swings – that will im­prove the life of the lo­cal com­mu­nity and cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture for Es­to­nia.

Es­to­ni­ans are not into big pa­rades or fire­works, we pre­fer to make some­thing that will mat­ter and last for years, to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture for our chil­dren. And af­ter that, it will be time to cel­e­brate, in our way, to­gether with friends all around the world.

You just an­nounced 30 new art projects hap­pen­ing all around Es­to­nia dur­ing the Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions. Why are you in­cor­po­rat­ing art in the Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions?

The Es­to­nia 100 art pro­gramme “100 Art Land­scapes” brings to life very var­i­ous projects cel­e­brat­ing the cen­te­nary and build­ing bridges be­tween dif­fer­ent sec­tors of so­ci­ety. Art is a univer­sal lan­guage we all un­der­stand. We can ex­press much more and touch peo­ple’s hearts much deeper through art.

All of the se­lected projects treat Es­to­nia and Es­to­nian themes through con­tem­po­rary art, and al­low the public to cel­e­brate Es­to­nia’s cen­te­nary through an art ex­pe­ri­ence. I am very pleased that most of the se­lected projects will take place out­side of the cap­i­tal Tallinn in very di­verse places through­out the coun­try, which will help us to re­flect on to­day’s pre-cen­te­nary so­ci­ety and cul­ture with a view to­wards the fu­ture.

Es­to­nia 100 is un­doubt­edly one of the most im­por­tant and great­est mile­stones in Es­to­nia's his­tory with great mean­ing for Es­to­ni­ans. What does Es­to­nia turn­ing 100 mean to you?

Es­to­nia 100 has a great mean­ing for Es­to­ni­ans. We’ve been through dif­fi­cult times, but we have sur­vived and we can cel­e­brate. We have our land, our peo­ple, our repub­lic, free­dom and a hope­ful fu­ture. We are lucky – not all na­tions in the world have them all.

It’s a time when we can truly cel­e­brate our achieve­ments, be proud of our coun­try and peo­ple, we can rise above the prob­lems we face daily and feel a sense of com­mu­nity.

It is also a time that we can cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture. I hope that one day when we think back to Es­to­nia 100, we will re­mem­ber it as a great pe­riod when we sowed the seeds of many pos­i­tive things. The real har­vest of Es­to­nia 100 will be in the hands of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Your web­site lists events abroad and an in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme. What Es­to­nia 100 events will take place out­side of Es­to­nia?

The Es­to­nia 100 and Es­to­nian Pres­i­dency in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme is made up of more than 150 cul­tural, ed­u­ca­tional, re­search and tech­no­log­i­cal events in 2017 and 2018 in more than 30 coun­tries around the world.

Un­doubt­edly one of the great­est events will be World Cleanup Day on Septem­ber 15, 2018, which will be a gift from Es­to­ni­ans to the world. Es­to­nia will also be pro­moted in the public space of a num­ber of Euro­pean cities with a 'Dig­i­tal Street Art’ cre­ative so­lu­tion, com­bin­ing graf­fiti, his­tory and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy. The dig­i­tal street art project will be launched in Brus­sels this up­com­ing July.

The com­mon thread run­ning through these very di­verse events is that they will all raise the pro­file of Es­to­nia through some very tal­ented peo­ple. It is in our hands to cre­ate an in­spir­ing im­age of Es­to­nia where we dare to be our­selves and show who we re­ally are.

Es­to­nian com­mu­ni­ties all over the world are also or­gan­is­ing lo­cal Es­to­nia 100 events.

It is said that the cen­te­nary pro­gramme will fo­cus pri­mar­ily on the fu­ture. What kind of a fu­ture does Es­to­nia want to build for its peo­ple, and how does Es­to­nia want to be seen by the world?

It is my hope that Es­to­nia will al­ways be a demo­cratic coun­try where peo­ple never stop try­ing to im­prove, never stop be­ing cu­ri­ous and in­no­va­tive, where we do ev­ery­thing to pro­vide a happy child­hood for our chil­dren by giv­ing them op­por­tu­ni­ties to play, learn and dis­cover, and live to­gether as a strong so­ci­ety. It is also very im­por­tant for Es­to­ni­ans that we pre­serve our lan­guage, our cul­ture, our na­ture and our tra­di­tions.

I truly be­lieve that there are many things Es­to­ni­ans can teach the world, for ex­am­ple how to use dig­i­tal so­lu­tions to cre­ate bal­ance and trans­parency in so­ci­ety. I see a great fu­ture for Es­to­nia on the global scene.

Could you tell us about ‘An In­stru­ment for Ev­ery Child’, this project you have to help fund the pur­chase of new mu­si­cal in­stru­ments for mu­sic schools across Es­to­nia. Why mu­sic. Why not sci­ence equip­ment?

Let’s be hon­est- can you imag­ine a party with­out mu­sic? We want to make sure that there will be live mu­sic at the Es­to­nia 200 cel­e­bra­tions as well.

The goal of “An In­stru­ment for Ev­ery Child” is to help pur­chase new mu­si­cal in­stru­ments for chil­dren across the coun­try. The aim is to up­grade the in­stru­ment col­lec­tions of the in­sti­tu­tions that of­fer mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion to chil­dren and young peo­ple. There is no doubt that mu­sic plays a very im­por­tant part in Es­to­nian so­ci­ety. We are proud of our song fes­ti­vals, the Singing Rev­o­lu­tion, our com­posers and mu­sic. Mu­sic is in our DNA.

By the way – we didn’t choose be­tween mu­sic and sci­ence. There are also many ini­tia­tives re­lated to sci­ence. For ex­am­ple, stu­dents are build­ing a satel­lite which will be used to launch a record­ing of one of our beloved songs into space as part of the Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions. There will also be the Robo­tex ro­bot­ics com­pe­ti­tion which the or­ga­niz­ers want to turn into the big­gest ro­bot­ics com­pe­ti­tion in the world in hon­our of Es­to­nia 100. These are just a few ex­am­ples.

The ‘Chil­dren’s Repub­lic’ will bring the cel­e­bra­tions to com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try, and you noted that stu­dents all over Es­to­nia have been grow­ing saplings for the Es­to­nia 100 Oaks project to plant oak groves in hon­our of the cen­te­nary. How many trees are you plan­ning to plant?

Ev­ery oak park con­sists of at least one hun­dred oaks and there will be at least one oak park in ev­ery county. But we are also invit­ing peo­ple to plant an oak in hon­our of Es­to­nia 100 in their own yards or in their com­mu­ni­ties. So, I think there will be thou­sands of oaks planted dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions. The oak is a sa­cred tree for us, it is an old tra­di­tion to plant a fam­ily tree on a spe­cial oc­ca­sion.

The Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions will con­sist of five dif­fer­ent the­matic stages: our land, our state, our peo­ple, our free­dom and our fu­ture. What does the our free­dom theme rep­re­sent?

The free­dom and in­de­pen­dence of Es­to­nia are self­evi­dent, nat­u­ral and even un­no­tice­able – when you have them. It’s easy to get used to. We al­ready have a gen­er­a­tion of adults who were born af­ter Es­to­nia re­gained its in­de­pen­dence and who have lived their en­tire lives in free­dom. But as you know, we have not al­ways been free – over the last 800 years, we have only had true in­de­pen­dence for less than 50. “Our free­dom” will be the pe­riod dur­ing which we com­mem­o­rate the most im­por­tant and de­ci­sive bat­tles in the War of In­de­pen­dence and think about what free­dom re­ally means. We want to re­mind our­selves that free­dom is not self-ev­i­dent and that we have to trea­sure and hold on to it.

What is the to­tal bud­get for the Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions. And how have funds been al­lo­cated for the var­i­ous cul­tural events. What should we ex­pect?

The cen­tral bud­get for the Es­to­nia 100 cel­e­bra­tions is about 24 mil­lion Euros. New films, doc­u­men­taries and a TV se­ries make up the largest part of the bud­get – 9.3 mil­lion Euros, while spend­ing for projects ded­i­cated to chil­dren and youth will to­tal 2.4 mil­lion Euros. The cost of the in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme is about 3.2 mil­lion Euros, and we are also pro­vid­ing sup­port to a wide range of other events and ini­tia­tives.

Es­to­nia 100 is not only a cul­tural pro­gramme, we want to cre­ate a pos­i­tive change in so­ci­ety as a whole. That’s why we are sup­port­ing big­ger ini­tia­tives that will cre­ate lon­glast­ing ef­fects in dif­fer­ent spheres of life.

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