About Estonia

We would like to invite you for the Europa Cantat XX to Estonia, a Northern-European nation, which might seem small as the population is only 1,3 million, but certainly not with a small spirit!

© Jarek Jõepera / Visit Estonia
10% of Estonia is a nature reserve

The country of Estonia, larger than Denmark and Holland, is among the least densely populated countries in Europe, which makes Estonia a great nature and city break destinations – this is the place where the land meets the sea, bogs are interspersed with forests, fields and rivers and lakes. Over half of Estonia’s territory is covered with forests and woodlands!

Due to its location so close to the arctic circle, Estonians celebrate during summer the magical White Nights, when in the height of summer (late June) the sun barely sets over the horizon, and daylight continues all night long.

There are over 2000 islands, 100 lakes and 7000 rivers

Estonians are keen about their culture and traditions. The Estonian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family like Finnish and Hungarian. It contains about a thousand words and expressions that date back to the last ice age. Many visitors keep saying that the language sounds like singing or like elvish. Maybe this is also one of a million ways to sing – to speak in Estonian?

You cannot talk about Estonia without mentioning the ancient folklore and singing traditions.

Estonians have one of the biggest collections of folk songs in the world, with written records of 133 000 folk songs! One of the most striking examples of the culture of ancient Estonians has to be the rhythmic verse, as well as the aural tradition of folk song where each line is repeated several times with thematic variations. These days you can explore the remains of this culture on the island of Kihnu and the Setu border region in southwestern Estonia.

Some of the oldest Estonian words and expressions are “ema” – mother and “külma käes” – (in the hand of) cold.
© Toomas Tuul / Visit Estonia
© Toomas Tuul / Visit Estonia

The seto leelos are a way to express thoughts and emotions, to collect memories and pass them on to the future generations as the setos themselves consider singing natural and as a part of everyday life. The singing tradition in Setomaa is kept alive and well by the older and younger generations alike. The most famous local singers throughout the history were able to recall up to 20,000 rhymes, earning the title "Seto Mother of Songs."

The Kihnu cultural space and the seto leelo are listed on UNESCO’s list of intangible Cultural Heritage.

One of the highlights for every Estonian has to be the Estonian Song and Dance Festival, which has been held every five years for almost the past 150 years. Around 100 000 people gather together dressed in colourful national garments to the Tallinn’s Song Festival Ground to sing together as a giant choir. This is also one of the reasons why Estonians are often referred to as the “singing nation”. The uniqueness of this mesmerising event has even earned the song and dance celebration a place at UNESCO's prestigious list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In 2019, the Song Celebration will celebrate its 150th anniversary.
© Sven Zacek / Visit Estonia
© Sven Zacek / Visit Estonia

Music has also played an important role in the recent history of Estonia – the country’s break from Soviet rule is often called the “Singing Revolution”, which gains its name from the mass folk song events that took place in Tallinn’s Song Festival Grounds in the summer nights 1988.

The highlight of the Singing Revolution was the song festival “Song of Estonia” where 300 000 people gathered on the Song Festival Grounds.
In 2014 Estonia launched the e-residency program, which allows non-Estonians access to digital services.

It might seem that Estonia lives pretty much in the past, but in fact Estonia, or e-Estonia, is one of the most progressive countries in the field of digital society and IT. Most people use e-banking, pay parking with a mobile phone and pay taxes, even vote online. The right to internet access is one of the fundamental human rights in Estonia - wireless internet is almost everywhere and almost always free. The digital society makes life in Estonia much easier – it takes only 15 minutes to establish a company and tax returns take less than 5 minutes!
No wonder that Estonia is the country of origin for Skype, TransferWise and KaZaA.

While it seems that Estonia is a hidden gem far away from the mainland Europe, it is actually easily accessible – you can fly, sail, ride or drive to Estonia from anywhere in Europe. This small coastal country is a short ferry trip away from Finland and Sweden, a coach ride away from such European capitals as Warsaw and Berlin, and an overnight train from Saint Petersburg will land you at the heart of Tallinn!

Come and join us at one of Europe’s biggest choral events in the magical place called Estonia and explore the million ways of singing!