15th May 2009 in the Town Hall

Organization and history

Toomas Vitsut: Dear colleagues from Estonian towns, chairmen of the town councils and mayors, dear honorary citizens, fellow townspeople and guests!

In the year 2011 Tallinn will be the European Capital of Culture and this will be far more important time in the history of our city than it was in 1980 when Tallinn was chosen to conduct the Olympic regatta. Culture is a broader and more powerful phenomenon than sailing or sports in general. Culture is people’s way of life and their creativity; it is peoples’ physical, mental and moral way of duration.

Having decided to become the European Capital of Culture Tallinn has taken the responsibility in front of Europe and the whole world, but first and foremost in front of Estonia. We have been open to different people and various cultures throughout our multicoloured history. We have kept our gate open to everybody who comes here by air or sea from all the corners of the world. Tallinn is the gate that opens to Estonia. We will not close it in 2011 when our city will be the European Capital of Culture. It will begin and open up in 2011 as a country of culture.

Towns last longer than states. That can be seen in the history of Europe as well as Estonia. But the chain is strong as long as its segments are strong. The same can be said of Estonia: it is strong as long as its towns keep it together and care about our country. And also the country must care about the towns. “Tallinn 2011” is more than only Tallinn; it is the year of self establishment for the whole country. The lot we will have done by the year 2011 will remain in the Estonian culture.

Let us face it – the moment will be here in a year and a half. At the same time let us bear in mind that it is a mere year that will pass quickly. What will we be like in the face of Europe and the world after that? What will our each town and Estonia is like? This period cannot pass altogether. Just after that we must stay on the map of Europe more clearly and firmly than today. We must be there all together as Estonia and each of its peculiar town by itself.

On the last day of the year 2011 we will be facing the question: how could we make use of our town in the interests of Estonia being in the centre of attention in Europe and the world? In what way could we turn the chance of history to the engine for the progress of Estonia?

For the visitors of the year of culture it may seem as an intensive programme of events. In order to carry out these events a foundation has been launched which, we hope, will manage the task and will also make use of cultural companies from other towns of Estonia. On today’s Day of Tallinn they will be performing here on Town Hall Square. In the future we would like to expand the Day of Tallinn into the Month of Tallinn where one day will be dedicated to our partners, sister towns from Estonia and abroad. However, Tallinn will not be merely a place for concerts – its mission is much larger.

Tallinn as the capital of the republic is in the habit of awarding the title of summer -, winter- and spring capital. Soon there will also be the title of autumn capital. Now Tallinn has made a proposition to other Estonian towns to join the Union of Estonian towns of culture. The agreement will be signed in no time. In this way we will be expressing our will and goal to seek and find new opportunities to signify Estonia in future Europe.

Tallinn, as the capital of culture, has the possibility and authority to involve other towns in the title of the town of culture. That will not be a mobile annual award but something more sacred which will label the town for ever. Those towns could even remain the European towns of culture.