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Tartu and Southern Estonia Kick Off European Capital of Culture Title Year With Grand Ceremony

On 26 January, Tartu and Southern Estonia began their year as the European Capital of Culture. Following Bad Ischl-Saltzkammergut in Austria and preceding Bodø in Norway, the second largest city in Estonia ushered in the year full of 1000 events with a grand opening show “All Is One!”

An audience of thousands in the banks of the river Emajõgi
27. Jan

An audience of thousands gathered in the heart of the university town on the banks of the river Emajõgi. The show, with a cast of over 100 actors, dancers and musicians, was opened by the President of Estonia Alar Karis, the representative of the European Commission Kadri Simson and the Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas.

President Alar Karis highlighted in his opening speech that Tartu has been the center of Estonian culture and spirit throughout the ages. “I hope that the spirit of those, on whose shoulders we stand, powerfully carries the entire European Capital of Culture title year both here in my hometown and throughout the rest of Estonia.” 

The Mayor of Tartu referenced President Lennart Meri and his idea of an affirmative Europe. “President Meri said that a prerequisite for a functional European Union is saying yes. Yes to differences, which in turn is yes to strength. I believe and hope that Tartu and Southern Estonia’s year as the European Capital of Culture will be a year of saying yes throughout Europe.” The mayor underlined Tartu 2024’s theme, the Arts of Survival, which emphasises freedom and strength in diversity.

The opening performance “All Is One!” centered on the importance of being with loved ones and building connections. In addition, it showed Tartu’s past, present and future through dance, song and visual art. Beloved Estonian acts Trad.Attack!, Sander Mölder, Lonitseera and many other artists, actors and dancers took the stage along with local children and elders. In total, more than one hundred people were on stage.

The grand opening day began with a Children’s Disco for kindergarten groups. A Warm-up Party in the Tartu Town Hall Square set the pre-ceremony mood with electronic music. Following the grand opening performance, a festive street procession led the masses to the Estonian National Museum for an outdoor rave.

European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 is the main event in Estonia this year. The year-long programme in Tartu and Southern Estonia presents over 1000 events inspired by the artistic concept Arts of Survival or the knowledge, skills, and values that will help us lead a good life in the future.