Alar Karis: Through Estonian literature comes Estonian spirit and thought

President Alar Karis.
President Alar Karis. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

We must care for our culture and its creators as having one's own language and culture is never a given for small nations, President Alar Karis said in a speech to mark the Estonian Literature Day.

January 30 marks a momentous day in Estonia's cultural history – we celebrate Estonian literature, one of the core pillars of our culture, as a national holiday. On December 7, 2022, our parliament found literature to be important enough to be the wind under this popular initiative's wings. And with good reason.

Only through Estonian literature are the spirit and thought of Estonia born, developed and retained; the things around us named and what is happening inside us, our story, told. It takes place nowhere and speaks of no one else.

January 30 is the 145th birth anniversary of Anton Hansen Tammsaare who phrased an interesting and telling paradox in 1934: "The most national creators over time become the most international."

The more specific a perception, feeling or story, the more personal but also universal it is.

During a time when the entire world seems to be switching to headlines and slogans, a smart people must know that true knowledge and understanding can only be found when delving deep and reading critically.

Reading literature – especially in one's own language – broadens a person's thinking, perception of the world as well as others and oneself. We learn to express ourselves more accurately and delicately, develop our own style and specialty. We need the skill to express ourselves succinctly in every walk of life, situation and place, as many conflicts that arise in our lives are due to insufficient self-expression and the ability to understand others.

Too often do we seek abundant life and to escape the fear of missing out by browsing social media or news portals. And yet, all of it breathes and is crystallized much more radiantly in the diversity of Estonian literature. It hides truths that will not be forgotten after a few days.

We must care for our culture and its creators as having one's own language and culture is never a given for small nations. Let the Estonian Literature Day serve as a reminder for us.

I wish you many good reads and thoughts!


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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