No. 34




Estonian culture, its formation and fate in the globalising world

14 December 2016


RiTo No. 34, 2016

The nature of culture has been discussed both at its general level, as a network of traditions, values, creativity and layers of time, and in terms of fine arts and research. The article deals with national culture, a special phenomenon that combines both the original and the borrowed elements.

The Estonian language is in particular focus. The uniqueness and vitality of the Estonian culture is determined by whether it is capable to reflect the whole world by and in itself, and describe everything in Estonian. The Estonian culture is clearly language-centred. Through our language, we have grown into a nation with a great culture, and therefore we have to provide our native language special care and protection, because our identity is expressed and preserved first of all in the language. When the level of interpreting in the native language weakens or disappears in a culture, this culture will soon cease to be viable.

The survival of Estonian as a rich language of culture is threatened by the invasion of the English language world, which can especially felt in the everyday level and also in higher education. Besides the language pressure, another problem in the research sector is project-based activity, which does not ensure results, but ensures disconnectedness of the work.

The system of financing of institutions of higher education has also been pointed out as a problem, because it favours three things: superficiality, mass learning and so-called internationalisation. None of these is concerned with giving a valuable input to the country. Also, not enough attention is paid to the special position of ethnic-national research. We should not expect that very Estonian-specific subjects and issues are of great interest in the world. And they do not have to be, the main thing is that they are of interest to us ourselves. Ethnic-national research must ensure the continuity of our memory and culture and their connection with the modern world.

In the globalising world, all small cultures are threatened, one way or the other. This is caused by the above-mentioned language pressure, and also the general invasion of mass culture. Cultural authority is ensured by the existence of the high culture layer. At present Estonia, and actually the whole world, has a great shortage of humanitarian minds whose words have real weight and whose personalities have authority. The structure of culture is founded upon names that have become symbols, historical and living authorities who give quality, or in other words, identity to our culture. Therefore it is necessary to acknowledge professionalism, talent and originality in culture, because they are the elements of identity. There should be more monuments to great people in the city space of Estonia, writing monographs about them should be financed more generously, the anniversaries connected with great people should be celebrated nationally and in a more visible way.

The existence of cultural environment should not be taken for granted, or as a private interest of a few people with a mission. Project-based activity, setting internationalism a priority and exaggerating with the idea of creative industry do not support high culture that can be taken seriously. It is especially important that the mental space where the younger generations live were here, in Estonia, and that they felt themselves as a part of the Estonian culture.