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Naked Truth improves the debate culture in Tartu with the help of a sauna: The sauna is a solution to the confrontation plaguing society

In cooperation between Finns and Estonians, the 10th-11th a festival on the banks of the Emajõe River in Tartu, which brings discussions to the saunas. There will be 12 different saunas at the festival area, among others a front-line sauna sent to Ukrainian soldiers as a charity project. In addition, as part of the festival, you can enter a genuine Southeast Estonian smoke sauna in Haanja.

23. Apr

The debate festival will take place on 10-11 May, by the Emajõgi river, on the city beach next to Lodjakoja. The Naked Truth is part of the main program of the Tartu 2024 European Capital of Culture.

All discussions take place in the sauna heat rooms. Discussions motivated by the motif of “The Arts of Survival” start at full hours and proceed according to the principles of the sauna without titles and hierarchies – everyone is equal on the sauna stage. 

“The sauna is a solution to the antagonism that plagues society. Leil transforms us into a better version of ourselves, we become peaceful and friendly. For us, the sauna is so self-evident that we are not used to seeing it as an example of a wider dialogue and discussion culture,” said Hannele Valkeeniemi, the responsible producer of the festival and head of the Finnish Institute.

From Finland, a larger group from the Oulu 2026 capital of culture will arrive at the festival, where the sauna is also part of the capital of culture program. The people of Oulu build a foldable pop-up sauna for the festival, which later moves on to other similar events. In addition, participants come from Tampere, which holds the title of sauna capital of the world.

Discussions start at full time and last about 30 minutes. Discussions are in Estonian and English. The leaders (masters) of the discussion are Rein Sikk, the “minister of saunas”, Ilmar Raag, who organizes frontline saunas in Ukraine, Marianne Ostrat, the producer of the film “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”, writer Mika Keränen, and Triinu Laan, the project manager of UT World University.

The discussion is based on the dialogue format of constructive discussion developed in Finland (Erätauko/Aeg maha/Timeout). No harsh words are thrown during the conversation. After the conversation is over, you can cool down outside or throw a stronger steam inside. A new debate will begin at the next full hour. The saunas are divided between three discussion topics: rohe (environment/green thinking), rehe (traditions) and rahu (peace). The event ends on both days with a soothing sauna ceremony.

At the festival, you can also enter a genuine Southeast Estonian smoke sauna. As part of the event, on Saturday, May 11, the Mooska smoke sauna awaits, where a separate transport has been organized. “A real smoke sauna is only real in its right environment,” said smoke sauna owner Eda Veeroja, who leads discussions in Mooska.

Sauna is a common deep root of Finnish and Estonian culture and a growing part of urban culture. The goal of the organizers is to support the sauna culture in both countries.

The event is open to all interested parties. In order to fit everyone in the saunas, a 5-euro ticket must be purchased in advance (children under 12 are free). If there are seats, you can also buy tickets on the spot.