Estonia’s visibility on the global cultural map can be attributed to many great artists. The works of Arvo Pärt, the Järvi family, Age Oks and Toomas Edur, and Priit Pärn are a visible cultural phenomenon in the world’s artistic metropolises – they are introduced to the world by professional agencies, choice networks, and prominent and powerful institutions. The direct connections of different professionals from different areas promote the cultural relations. Therefore, the experts from UK are present at the biggest Estonian cultural events and festivals (Tallinn Music Week, PÖFF, Draamamaa). An Estonian actor Sergo Vares took the stage in Barbican theatre with Benedict Cumberbatch (one of the most famous actor from the UK), when he played the role of Fortinbras in ‘Hamlet’.
In 1996 Estonia and the UK signed an intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in education, science, and culture. Within the past dozen years we have developed a systematic and carefully planned strategy for introducing Estonian culture in the United Kingdom.
Although previously the only Estonian author whose works had been released by British publishers were Jaan Kross’s “The Czar’s Madman” (“Keisri hull”) (1992), “Professor Martens’ Departure” (“Professor Martensi ärasõit”) (1994), “The Conspiracy” (“Vandenõu”)(1995), and “Treading Air” (“Paigallend”) (2003) as well as Tõnu Õnnepalu’s “Border State” (“Piiririik”)(2000, Northwestern University Press), by the year 2011 works by many other authors had also been published – Kristiina Ehin, Doris Kareva, Imbi Paju, Ly Seppel, A.-H. Tammsaare, Mati Unt, and Livia Viitol – by the publishers Norvik Press, Oleander Press, Lapwing Publications, Coiscéim, and others. In 2005, Andres Ehin’s “Poems” (“Luuletused”)(Southword Editions) was published, in 2007 Viivi Luik’s novel “The Beauty of History” (“Ajaloo ilu”)(Norvik Press), in 2009 Tammsaare’s “The New Devil of Põrgupõhja”. In 2009 Kristiina Ehin’s poetry compilation in Welsh was published by Barddas Publications. In 2010 the Arc Publications published two books of Estonian poetry: Kristiina Ehin’s “The Scent of Your Shadow” and Doris Kareva’s “A Shape of Time”. In recent years Kristiina Ehin, Doris Kareva, Jürgen Rooste, Asko Künnap and Karl Martin Sinijärv have participated in the well-known Cheltenham and Ledbury festivals.
Estonian publishers have been present at the London Book Fair for several years, where they have also concluded many international co-operation projects. In 2018, Estonian literature will be in the focus of London Book Fair. At the initiative of the embassy a project involving Estonian children’s books for iPhone has also been launched. As of 2009 there have been close ties with creative writing professor at the University of Glamorgan and winner of the T.S. Eliot prize Philip Gross (who has Estonian roots).
Both Great Britain and Estonia have striven to record and to publicise historical events important to both countries. The Laidoner Museum has conducted research on the operations of the British Navy in the Gulf of Finland after the end of World War I, where the Navy blocked the further advance of the Bolsheviks. In 1936 the Republic of Estonia purchased two identical submarines from England – Lembit and Kalev. Lembit is now an exhibit in Estonia’s Maritime Museum – in 2011 drawings for the construction of the submarine were found in an archive in England, which allowed the museum to recreate the submarine’s original interior. On the isles of Naissaar and Vaindloo, the tombs of British soldiers have been marked. On 28 May 1998, a plaque in memory of the British seaman who served and gave their lives during the Estonian War of Independence from 1918-1920 was unveiled on the wall of the Maritime Museum by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. In the summer of 2003, a memorial tablet for all the British soldiers who perished in 1918-1920 during the Estonian War of Independence was unveiled in Tallinn’s Holy Spirit Church. In Great Britain, an equivalent memorial plaque was opened on 16 December 2005 in Portsmouth Cathedral by Prince Andrew and Chief of Estonian Defence Forces Admiral Kõuts.
Estonians in the UK
An estimated 10 000-15 000 Estonian citizens live in the UK, about 3 000-5 000 of them in London. The most active communities are in London, Bradford and Leicester. There are a total of 13 Estonian societies in the UK, the oldest being the London Estonian Society established in 1921. There is an Estonian School, Estonian Guild, Estonian Houses in London, Bradford and Leicester, and the Association of Estonians in Great Britain.
It is possible to study Estonian as an elective through the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSES) at University College London. With the support and help of the Estonian Embassy, the Estonian School in London started up in 2009, which offers supplementary Estonian-language education to children.