Estonian culture combines indigenous roots, as shown by the Estonian language and the sauna, with mainstream Nordic and European cultural elements. Estonian culture has been affected by the traditions of the surrounding area’s diverse Finnic, Baltic, Slavic, and Germanic peoples, as well as cultural changes in the previous dominating powers Sweden and Russia, due to its history and location.
Today, Estonian society promotes liberty and liberalism, with widespread support for the principles of limited government, while opposing centralized authority and corruption. The Protestant work ethic is still a cultural mainstay, and free education is a widely valued institution. Estonian culture, like the mainstream culture of the other Nordic countries, can be seen to build on ascetic environmental realities and traditional livelihoods, a legacy of comparatively widespread egalitarianism for practical reasons (see: Everyman’s right and universal suffrage), and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency (see: summer cottage).
The Estonian Academy of Arts (Estonian: Eesti Kunstiakadeemia, EKA) offers higher education in art, design, architecture, media, art history, and conservation, whereas the Viljandi Culture Academy of the University of Tartu promotes native culture through curricula such as native construction, native blacksmithing, native textile design, traditional handicraft, and traditional music. In 2010, Estonia has 245 museums, with a total collection of more than 10 million items.
The first reference of Estonian singing may be found in Saxo Grammaticus Gesta Danorum (ca. 1179). Saxo tells of Estonian soldiers who sang in the middle of the night while ready for a fight. The earlier folk songs are also known as regilaulud, which are songs in the poetic metre regivärss, which is a tradition shared by all Baltic Finns. Runic singing was common among Estonians until the 18th century, when rhythmic folk melodies took their place.
Traditional wind instruments adapted from those used by shepherds were previously prevalent, but are increasingly becoming more popular. Other instruments used to perform polka or other dancing music include the violin, zither, concertina, and accordion. The kannel is a native instrument that is regaining popularity in Estonia. Viljandi’s Native Music Preserving Centre launched in 2008.
The tradition of Estonian Song Festivals (Laulupidu) began in 1869, during the height of Estonian national awakening. It is now one of the world’s biggest amateur choral festivals. The Song Festival drew about 100,000 attendees in 2004. The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) have hosted the festival every five years in July since 1928. The most recent event was held in July of 2014. Furthermore, Youth Song Festivals are conducted every four or five years, with the most recent one taking place in 2011, and the next one planned for 2017.
In the late nineteenth century, professional Estonian musicians and composers like as Rudolf Tobias, Miina Härma, Mart Saar, Artur Kapp, Juhan Aavik, Artur Lemba, and Heino Eller arose. Arvo Pärt, Eduard Tubin, and Veljo Tormis are the most well-known Estonian composers at the time of writing. For the fourth year in a running, Arvo Pärt was the world’s most performed living composer in 2014.
Georg Ots, an Estonian baritone, came to international fame as an opera singer in the 1950s.
Kerli Kiv, an Estonian singer-songwriter, has gained modest success in North America as well as in Europe. She composed music for the 2010 Disney feature Alice in Wonderland as well as the American television series Smallville.
Tanel Padar and Dave Benton won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001 with the song “Everybody.” Estonia hosted the tournament in 2002. Maarja-Liis Ilus has represented Estonia twice (1996 and 1997), while Eda-Ines Etti, Koit Toome, and Evelin Samuel have all gained fame as a result of the Eurovision Song Contest. Lenna Kuurmaa, together with her band Vanilla Ninja, is a well-known vocalist in Europe. “Rändajad” by Urban Symphony was the first Estonian song to chart in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Switzerland.
Estonia’s architectural history mostly reflects the country’s current growth in Northern Europe. The architectural ensemble that makes up Tallinn’s medieval old town, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is particularly noteworthy. Furthermore, the land contains many unique, more or less surviving pre-Christian hill forts, a significant number of still intact medieval castles and cathedrals, and the existence of a large number of manor homes from previous ages.
Historically, Estonian cuisine has been strongly affected by seasons and basic peasant fare, although it is now inspired by many nations. Today, it contains a wide variety of traditional foreign cuisines. In Estonia, the most common foods are black bread, pig, potatoes, and dairy products. Traditionally, Estonians like eating anything fresh throughout the summer and spring, including berries, herbs, veggies, and anything else fresh from the garden. Hunting and fishing have also been popular, but these activities are now mainly enjoyed as hobbies. Grilling outdoors in the summer is also extremely popular nowadays.
Traditionally, jams, preserves, and pickles are served at the table throughout the winter. Gathering and storing fruits, mushrooms, and vegetables for the winter has long been popular, but gathering and storing is becoming less frequent since everything can be purchased in shops. Preparing food for the winter, on the other hand, is still extremely popular in the rural.