Photos: President Karis visits Setomaa, welcomed with traditional leelo

President Alar Karis and First Lady Sirje Karis together with Seto locals on a recent visit to Setomaa. May 22, 2022.
President Alar Karis and First Lady Sirje Karis together with Seto locals on a recent visit to Setomaa. May 22, 2022. Source: Alar Karis/Facebook

President Alar Karis spent Sunday and Monday in Setomaa, a culturally and linguistically distinct region of Southeastern Estonia, where he was met several times with traditional Seto leelo, visited various centers of local and Seto cultural life, met with local residents and leaders, and visited Värska High School and Värska Kindergarten.

During his visit, Karis visited the recently restored Luhamaa Church and newly built Luhamaa Village House, where he met with locals and planted an oak tree in front of the village house, according to the Office of the President.

Luhamaa will be hosting this year's annual Seto Kingdom Day on Saturday, August 6.

In the village of Härmä, the Estonian head of state had the chance to participate in a kirmas, or traditional Seto village party, celebrating migulapäev, or "Spring Nicholas," the springtime marking of St. Nicholas' Day observed according to the Orthodox calendar. He also met with various local leaders.

On Saturday afternoon, the president and his wife Sirje Karis also visited Värska Visitor Center, which is located in the restored historical summer home of General Nikolai Reek and the Obinitsa Museum and Kunstizaal, as well as attended the premiere of Kauksi Ülle's play "Nigu nõidus" at the art gallery Hal'as kunn.

Lummo Kati leelokoor greeting the Estonian president with his own dedicated leelo

President Karis' Monday in Setomaa

On Monday, the Estonian president taught a class to students at Värska High School, the municipality's only school offering upper secondary education through grade 12.

"Värska High School is likely the EU's first high school, when traveling in from the east," Karis wrote on his Facebook page. "The school welcomed me with smiles and a welcoming leelo especially written and learned for the occasion. As has already been said, once you've already been written into a song, there's no getting out of it anymore. So it is."

The president also paid a visit to the Seto-language class at Värska Kindergarten, which is one of a kind in Estonia in providing a full immersion in the local minority language and culture.

"The great idea to establish a Seto-language class came from parents with Southern Estonian roots who have moved to Setomaa from elsewhere and who value Seto culture," Karis noted in a photo caption on his Facebook page. "It's often the case that when you yourself are in the middle of something, then you may not even notice its value, but someone will come in from the outside and celebrate these values that tend to fade away."

While at the kindergarten, the president was also interviewed by Evelin Leima for Vikerraadio's weekly Seto-language radio news, which aired on Monday (segment in Seto and Estonian).

More photos of the president's visit shared by Setomaa Municipality


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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