The Estonian culture festival, ESTO 2019, kicks off in Finland

ESTO 2019, the XII Global Estonian Cultural Days, will start with a youth seminar and an opening concert in Helsinki, the Finnish capital, on 28 June.

ESTO 2019 is the XII global Estonian cultural festival. Originally started in 1972 by the Estonian expats abroad – most of whom were refugees who had fled the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1944 – ESTO festivals have been held every four years, around the world, from Toronto to San Francisco to Melbourne. Along with preserving the Estonian language, identity and culture, the aim of ESTO was always to send political messages.

Focus on youth

The times have changed – Estonia has been independent country again for almost 28 years – but ESTO has continued to this day. In 2019, ESTO returns home, taking place from 27 June to 3 July in Tallinn and Tartu – the two largest towns in Estonia – as well as in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. The theme for ESTO 2019 is “Our Future” and the focus will be on Estonian youth around the world.

For the first time in the history of ESTO, the festival starts in Finland and the opening events in Helsinki are organised by the Finnish Estonians. The organisers of the event told Estonian World that the spectators can expect a “multifaceted and spectacular” opening ceremony in Helsinki on 28 June. A youth seminar discussing the future of Estonian expats abroad at the Helsinki Cathedral and the opening concert, the “Bridge Across Times”, debut the festival. In the Finnish capital’s Senate Square, the Estonian craftsmen will showcase their art and design work throughout the day.

Helsinki’s Senate Square. Photo by Ralf Roletschek/Wikipedia.

Finland now hosting the largest expat Estonian community

According to Sirle Sööt, the chair of the ESTO 2019 executive committee, Finland is just the right place to start the festival. “Currently, the largest Estonian community outside Estonia is in Finland, with as many as 60,000 Estonians living there permanently. Thus, the Estonian cultural days increase awareness of the Estonian identity and contribute to the continuous development to move forward, emphasising Estonian culture as a whole,” she said.

Aavo Reinfeldt, chairman of the Toronto, Canada-based Estonian Central Council (ÜEKN), emphasised the need to uphold the ESTO tradition as well as the importance of continuity. “It is incredibly important that the ESTO heritage is treated with respect. It played a crucial cultural and political role and Estonians around the world must remember its history,” he said in a statement.

ESTO 2019 takes place in Helsinki, Tartu and Tallinn from 27 June 2019 to 3 July 2019. A more detailed programme of the festival is available on the ESTO 2019 website.

The cover image courtesy of ESTO 2019.

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