This Saturday, the first ever Võro Congress is set to be held in Võru, south Estonia. After the congress, locals will form a human chain and hold a concert in protest against the planned expansion of the Nursipalu military training zone.
This Saturday, April 22, the first ever Võro Congress is set to take place in the city of Võru, Võru County. Delegates to the congress want, for the first time, to be able to define themselves as Võro people, a local indigenous group, in addition to being Estonians.
Following the congress, a human chain, resembling the Baltic Chain from 1989 will be formed, along with a demonstration and concert will take place. Both are in symbolic protest against the planned expansion of the Nursipalu military training ground in South Estonia.
The Võro people are an ethnic minority living in Southeast Estonia, comparable to the Sami in Finland, as both are Finno-Ugric. The Võro Congress, entitled "Võros Tomorrow and the Day After," has been convened to adopt three draft laws, which will define the Võros as an indigenous people, as well as to protect the Võro language and the natural environment in the region.
"I hope that we will be able to recognize ourselves as an indigenous people, and that in this way we will be able to legally keep our land fertile and poison-free," said Kauksi Ülle, a Võro language writer and one of the main organizers of the congress.
The Võro Congress takes place on Saturday April 22 and is open for ambassadors, observers and journalists to attend. People will begin gathering at the Kannel Cultural Center in Võru from 9 a.m., with the congress itself kicking off at 10 a.m.
More information about the congress is available (in Estonian) here.
In addition to the congress, two further significant events are also due to be held in Võru on the same day. According to a press release, their aim is to send a clear message to the newly appointed government of the Republic of Estonia regarding the importance of culture, history, and roots (our deeper sense of belonging to a place) in protecting a country's security and people.
First, at 5 p.m., locals will form a human chain, which they call "Nursipalu Chain 2.0" on Võru's beach promenade. The chain aims to demonstrate how locals are standing together to protect the indigenous values of the Võro people, including culture, nature, peace and the smoke sauna, which is included on UNESCO's List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
At 6 p.m., the "Nursipalu Night" demonstration concert takes place at the Roosisaare featuring folk and pop performers, some of whom played a role in the Estonia's Singing Revolution in the late 1980s. The headline act will be Mari Kalkun, who is well know both in Estonia and abroad for performing songs in the Võri language.
More information about the concert can be found (in Estonian) here.
Editor: Michael Cole