On Saturday, June 11, Pride will be held in Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city, for the first time ever. Dedicated this year to the history of LGBT+ people in Estonia, organizers hope that Tartu Pride could become an annual event.
While the first relevant legal amendment dates back to 1929 already, Tartu Pride will mark 30 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in post-occupation Estonia, the Estonian LGBT Association said in a press release.
The Estonian Lesbian Society (Eesti Lesbiliit), the first LGBT+ organization in the entire Baltic region, was founded in 1990, followed that same decade by the Estonian Gay League (Eesti Gayliit) and trans union Gendy.
With the central message of "How much longer?" ("Kaua võib?"), one of the objectives of Tartu Pride, in addition to celebrating LGBT+ people, is also to draw attention to the fact that in the more than 30 years since Estonia regained its independence, the Estonian state has taken only a handful of steps to ensure the rights of LGBT+ people.
To date, Estonia does not allow same-sex marriage, and has yet to adopt the implementing provisions for the gender-neutral Registered Partnership Act that was passed in 2014 and entered into force on January 1, 2016. According to advocates, the 90s-era gender recognition process for trans individuals needs to be updated as well.
According to Kaisa Linn, director of the nonprofit Tartu LGBT+ and one of the organizers of the upcoming inaugural event, Tartu Pride will create an opportunity to celebrate people's differences and similarities and shared achievements while also acknowledging areas of concern in need of change.
"Tartu is a city of young and smart people who care about the future," Linn said. "This is why it's important to involve Tartu in the fight for human rights."
Estonian LGBT Association cooperation coordinator and Tartu Pride co-organizer Anette Mäletjärv values Pride as an event that helps boost LGBT+ people's visibility in society.
"Developments in the rights and welfare of LGBT+ and especially trans people have been at a standstill for some time now, and we're taking to the streets to ask 'How much longer?'"
"Tartu offers a friendly home and opportunities for self-realization to everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or creed," said Tartu Deputy Mayor Gea Kangilaski (SDE), who was recently named a 2022 Rainbow Hero by the Estonian LGBT Association. "This is why I welcome Pride taking place in Tartu — to dedicate a day of celebration to an open and friendly Tartu."
Other Pride events will be held in various parts of Estonia as well, including a House of Danger drag and burlesque show at Odeon on June 9 and the first birthday of the Moscow-based queer techno party series Popoff Kitchen at Sveta Bar on June 11, both in Tallinn, and a Tartu Pride sign workshop on June 8 and the official Tartu Pride closing party organized by Vikerruum on June 11, both at Tartu's Genialistide Klubi.
View this post on Instagram
'The people wanted Pride'
Speaking with ERR News on Wednesday, Estonian LGBT Association communications director Kristiina Raud said that Tartu Pride was born of the local LGBT+ community's desire to see Pride return home, i.e. to Estonia, and more often than just once every three years, as is the case with Baltic Pride, which rotates between the capital cities of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Baltic Pride 2020 being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic left an even larger gap since the last Pride was hosted in Estonia.
"As people really wanted Pride, the 30th anniversary [of homosexuality being decriminalized in post-occupation Estonia] gave us the motivation and encouragement to celebrate events and achievements important to Estonia specifically" Raud said.
According to Raud, Tartu Pride is not officially part of Baltic Pride, but the Estonian LGBT Association is a co-organizer of both.
"Plans for the future aren't quite clear yet, but one thing is for certain — people want Pride," she said. "So there's hope that we'll start having other regular events as well in addition to Baltic Pride."
According to Kangilaski, a deputy mayor of Tartu, there's been talk in the European Capital of Culture 2024 team about how it would be great to see Pride return to Tartu in 2024, if not sooner.
"But why not under the Tartu Pride name every year?" she continued. "We don't even have to necessarily avoid it taking place in parallel in both [Tallinn and Tartu]. Personally, I'd be thrilled to see Baltic Pride take place on a rotating basis between Tartu and Tallinn. Of course, that's up for the organizers to decide, but I think it would be great to discuss and propose as well."
Speaking on behalf of Tartu LGBT+, Linn agreed with Kangilaski. "The current Tartu Pride could become part of the bigger network," they added.
Baltic Pride 2022 kicked off in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Tuesday.
Tartu Pride is being organized by the nonprofit Tartu LGBT+, Vikerruum and the Estonian LGBT Association.
Click here for Tartu Pride's official Facebook event and additional info regarding other Pride events going on around Estonia this month.
Editor: Aili Vahtla