President-elect: Polarization is sign of our times

Alar Karis on culture show
Alar Karis on culture show "Plekktrumm" Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

President-elect Alar Karis said on the ETV's culture show "Plekktrumm" season's opening show on Monday that as a president, one of his important tasks will be trying to bring together a polarized society.

"I need to get started with sewing, this is clear. Everybody is polarized and not only here, it seems that it's a sign of the time. Communicating helps, talking about how you perceive things, then I think it's possible to persuade the people who think, I don't want to say wrongly, but in a way that is not based on scientific information. It's a long process and all presidents have done it at one moment or another, but now the times are different," Karis said, a former director of the Estonian National Museum.

"When we take time to think, then we'll end up with very important conclusions. When you have anger inside you, it doesn't need to be let out on others or used to insult your conversation partner," he said. "Anger is a comforting feeling in a sense. I understand that these commentaries are necessary because otherwise, things would be even worse," Karis said.

Concrete is part of the culture, but its content is as important

Discussing problematic issues in the culture sector, Karis highlighted lots of cultural objects are left alone after they're established, but the content of these buildings is as important as the concrete used to build them.

"Understandably, concrete is part of the culture, it's architecture. If we look at all these buildings, then it has two components - the architecture and what's inside. Concrete is part of the art, whether it's an opera house, art building or museum. The question is always how much are we able to do that. And it's most important that we build the buildings, but what will happen next? The National Museum is in the same trap a little bit in that we're earning money and the focus keeps shifting from the original aim. We're organizing events one after another. It's too much, we should make choices," Karis said.

Establishing a national concert house was also discussed as the 100th anniversary of the National Symphony Orchestra which will be at the end of Karis' term in 2026.

"It's hard for me to say how will I be able to affect these decisions, but I can definitely talk. The president can talk, it's their power. The question will be not speaking empty words. And I completely agree with the opera house, but I think that the concert house should come. I get magazines like BBC Music. There's an Estonian conductor in every release. This is cultural diplomacy and we are known for it. I think that Estonia should have its concert house," he said.

Regarding his own personal taste in music, he admitted that he enjoys different music genres and he has always loved operas. "I like opera, chamber music, orchestras, what I haven't related to is sololist music in German, everything else works just fine," he said.

Composed Rasmus Puur will be Karis' culture advisor. "The question isn't about me not handling culture, the museum is a part of the culture, but having people with different views in my team. Young people think differently, this is what enhances the culture. If I took a similar person, then he wouldn't be giving me advice. This would be wasting time and money. "

Estonia's trump card is educated

Karis, who is a researcher by training and a former rector at the University of Tartu, said he is planning to contribute to the education field. "I like that the Estonian Nation is highly educated and a wise nation. This is great thought where I would like to contribute to that," he said.

He said that it's not just important to get a degree but to gain knowledge throughout your life. "The question is not whether you have graduated from a university or you have a degree, the question is in different knowledge and it's not so linear anymore. Nowadays, you finish your doctorate and then go study to become a baker. These pieces of knowledge, understandably, need to create a system."

As a scientist, Karis finds it important to be close to nature. "I spent my childhood in nature. I have my beautiful country house, where my children have grown up and we still go mushrooming there. It's very common among Estonians. But it's clear that there's a generation that hasn't be outside of the city. We have to keep that connection," he said.

The guards in front of Kadriorg need more festive uniforms

Karis also shared his opinion on the uniform of conscripts guarding Kadriorg. In a recent interview with the Commander of the Defense Forces Martin Herem, journalist Toomas Sildam asked if he would be willing to consider changing the honor guard's uniform. Herem said he will if the order comes.

"I'm definitely not going to give out an order, but I think I'm going to talk to Herem about it. I think when the guards are standing them, they should look as if they're ready for war. I'm going to explain why it would be reasonable."

Cultural recommendation: "Come to the Estonian National Museum. Use the opportunity, there's a very unique fairytale exhibition. It's planned to also travel around Europe," Karis said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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