The Opinion Festival was held recently in Paide, Estonia and KESKUS was a part of the influential event. KESKUS International Estonian Centre Project Lead, Ellen Valter, participated in a discussion forum on the topic of "Our Nation", addressing how "Estonia is bigger than Estonia itself".
The 9th annual event, known as Arvamusfestival, was held on August 13th-14th. The festival was established as an open and inspiring meeting place for different opinions and new ideas, where discussions and debates on important topics come to life. The mission of the festival is to bring together all societal groups, to empower people and through this – improve the culture of discussion.
Ellen noted: “The Opinion Festival is an educational and intense event where it was a pleasure to have a say and listen to others. A total of sixteen stages were set up, each with its own overarching theme. For two days in a row, every two hours, a new discussion begins on each stage with a new topic and with new panelists."
Participants & Listeners Worldwide
The initiators of the topic “Estonia is bigger than Estonia itself” were Ellen Valter from KESKUS and Keit Spiegel from the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The discussion focused on Estonians outside of Estonia and the opportunities these evolving communities present.
Keiu Telve, Director of Vabamu Museum, moderated and the panelists were Tuuli-Emily Liivak, a founder of the Global Estonian Youth Network; Kristjan Erik Liive, student and former head of the Edinburgh Estonian Society; Marin Mõttus, Diplomatic Representative of Global Estonian Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Ellen Valter.
Video greetings from Estonians in Siberia, Abkhazia and New Zealand were shared on the screen, evidencing the reach and commitment of Estonians around the world.
"An hour and a half of discussion time passed with lightning speed," Ellen said. "Estonians from the UK, USA, Canada came in person to listen and the discussion was watched live from many different places."
Insights on Estonia & ‘Estonian-ness’
The discussion revealed some key insights:
The need for face-to-face meetings continues to renew and strengthen the global network as people and their locations change.
Diaspora Estonian organizations have their own life cycle and their creation, evolution and winding-up is natural in order to keep up with the times and needs.
The Estonian diaspora can both promote and protect the interests of Estonia and support the interests and vitality of other Estonian diaspora communities.
The Estonian government can support Estonian-ness globally, both in the East and in the West, and support the activities of Estonians and their partners and friends, and ‘Estophiles’. This helps to maintain coherence both with each other and with Estonia itself.
There were 16 areas of discussion at the Opinion Festival, where the topics raised ranged from information manipulation, to mental health, education, green technology, and digital intelligence. In addition to discussions, a cultural program offered innovative exhibitions, concerts, and various activities, for adults and children.
Ellen notes: “It was also heartwarming for me personally that I ran into many people I know at the Opinion Festival. Spontaneous meetings took place, and many new acquaintances were made. I was able to talk less formally about KESKUS and its progress, which in turn generated new ideas, solutions and, apropos of the topic of the day, opinions! ”
A video recording of the “Estonia is bigger than Estonia” discussion can be viewed on the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Facebook page. An Estonian national daily newspaper "Postimees" published an article about the KESKUS project on August 13.
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