European Cities of Culture in Estonia

Organization and history

Two projects

The idea to form a network of European cities of culture in Estonia arose because of two circumstances.

The first was a tactical one and that might be called “Tallinn 2011.”

Tallinn, which will be the European Capital of Culture in 2011, is situated in the triangle of the important tourist magnets: Riga as the air gate to the Baltic’s, St. Petersburg as the most attractive town and Helsinki as the European Capital of Culture in 2002, also the capital of design in 2011 and at last also the centre between the European Capitals of Culture 2011 Tallinn and Turku.

In order to increase our cultural importance in this context and its interest to our town, Tallinn must become like a gate opening to whole Estonia. Tallinn should not be an end to the cultural route, but its beginning: from here on one can get to other Estonian towns! There is a lot to discover in Estonia, we have a rich history and exciting traditions, cool people and exquisite events. Estonia is the country undiscovered!

The second idea was a strategic one. And this project could be called “Tallinn 2012”. We would like the year of the European Capital of Culture would not be only as a range of events, but such an international occasion in the history of Tallinn and Estonia, which would determine and strengthen our positions on the cultural map of the 21st century Europe. We want the year 2011 to grant self confidence for Estonian culture in the future. So that we would courageously stay on the European cultural stage, acknowledging our value and daring to implement it not only on local basis in Estonia, but also inside European Union, Europe. Estonian culture is one of the most remarkable parts of European culture. European culture is preserved in our towns in an exclusive way. We do not need to be great in amount, but we are great in our spirit!

The Idea is put to practice

On 15th May 2009, on the Day of Tallinn, the chairmen of councils or mayors of nine Estonian towns signed an agreement to form a communication network “European cultural towns in Estonia 2011”. At the invitation of Tallinn the first joiner were Haapsalu, Narva, Paide, Pärnu, Rakvere, Tartu, Viljandi and Võru.

Põlva joined on 8th August 2009 and Valga, Elva and Otepää on 12th February 2010.



On 15th May 2010 the network still grew when Jõhvi, Sillamäe, Suure-Jaani, Tõrva and Türi joined it.


The representatives of towns specified on 3rd June 2009 in Paide and 19th March 2010 in Tallinn how to develop the all Estonian cooperation in culture, logistics and image.

During the visit of the representatives of Tallinn City Council in St. Petersburg on 12th – 17th February 2010 their logistical support to European towns of culture in Estonia in 2011 was agreed on.

Everybody’s Benefit

This undertaking will benefit from three different ways.

Firstly: At the same time when Tallinn will be the European Capital of Culture also the network of cultural communication of Estonian towns will be founded. Estonia will gain a cultural unity on a new basis.

Secondly: In addition to the Estonian new culture- logistical unity the towns will have an opportunity and necessity to find and strengthen their unique identity, their different image. The towns of the network will seek an answer to the question: What do we have, what others in Estonia or Europe do not have? How can we become more conspicuous in the world? They have begun to think of the image of their towns in the common picture of Europe – this is a rise to a new level of cultural consciousness, to a new scale of degrees!

Thirdly: Every Estonian town has got contractual cooperation partners in Europe and elsewhere in the world. The Year of culture 2011 will be an appropriate reason to refresh those contacts, to use the existent channels of communication for integrating Estonia into the European culture more vigorously.

The network of the towns of culture in Estonia is a new stage in the development of culture in Estonia. I am pleased that Tallinn City Council initiated and started this development. At the same time it took itself a task of state cultural regulation. This network will become a foundation to Estonian culture in 21st century because it will remain and function also after the year 2011 – as long as Estonian culture will exist.