Activists in Saaremaa hope to use Ö statues as cultural windows

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A statue of the letter Ö has been placed by the roadside on Saaremaa to note the differences in the isanders' dialect. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

A group of activists in Saaremaa hope to use symbols of the islanders' dialect peculiarities - replacing the letter Õ with Ö - more widely than just the one statue unveiled in December last year.

Saare County tourism developers say they have always envied regions in southern Estonia where people can take pictures through the 30 "yellow windows", focusing on local values and storytelling, placed throughout the region. Each picture taken and shared on social media is marketing after all, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday.

After a proposal for Saaremaa to mark the geographical midpoint of Europe on the island with a statue of the Ö letter was not taken up by municipality architects, another idea popped up - why not use the statues in the same manner southern Estonia uses "yellow windows".

"I personally like the Ö, because I was once told to use the same yellow boxes everywhere. I did not deem that correct, because it is not typical to Saaremaa. But here, on Panga pank, this Ö would fit well, because the people of Hiiumaa would then see that we have the Ö," said Saaremaa tourism developer Alver Sagur.

Legendary singer Ivo Linna, once chosen the Saaremaa person of the century, said it could work. "I think it would work well, because as we know, us Ö speakers are laughed at on the mainland sometimes and how our dialect sounds and... It would be nice if there were a few more," Linna said.

Geographer and original creator of the Ö statue Taavi Pae is not against the idea. "It definitely works well within Estonia. But if we take an educated German tourist for example, they will certainly have a question about what this is even about. And the Ö is exotic to them. And if there is a nice story for them somewhere, that most people of Saaremaa stand out because they do not say this Ö, it is possible to show it to the rest of the world too," Pae said.

Saare County government, the final decider on most things Saaremaa, is also supportive of the idea. "This is now a place where we will begin discussions and we can go on from there. These Ö letters will certainly not be here tomorrow, but we are speaking more in the sense of starting this process. I personally like it as an idea," said Saare County mayor Mikk Tuisk.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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