The second largest city in Estonia is one of the more dynamically growing cultural centres. Tartu has an extensive heritage, while also being a city with a rich contemporary literary life. It is known as the intellectual capital of Estonia.
An important role is played by the University of Tartu, founded in the 17th century. In addition to bringing together eminent scholars and intellectuals, it is the main location for cultural events. Also not without importance is the Estonian Literary Museum. The library of the University of Tartu and the public libraries serve as additional cultural centres in the city. They offer huge collections and organise shared readings and meetings with writers.
The most prominent event associated with literature and held in Tartu is the Prima Vista International Literary Festival. The aim of the festival is to promote both domestic and foreign literature; it includes meetings with writers, presentations and lectures. Additionally, taking place during the festival are concerts, film screenings and a book fair. The festival of authors, publishers and readers has been organised since 2004.
Operating in the city is the Estonian Writers’ Union and the Estonian Literary Society, which contribute to the existence of the Tartu Writers’ House. The city is the birthplace of one of the most popular contemporary writers – Jaan Kaplinski, poet, philosopher and critic, winner of the 2001 Vilenica Prize, awarded by the Slovene Writers’ Association.
In 2015, a children and youth competition for the best work of fiction was introduced. The prize is funded by the city and will be awarded in the Tartu Public Library. Another interesting initiative is a project intended to introduce literature to the city – quotations from poems placed in buses and other public transport. A literary guide to Tartu is also being developed.
The city’s development has been planned in several directions and sectors: promotion of reading, development of the literary scene with the help of international institutions, development of creative writing, literary studies and translation, as well as support for literary life in the city. The reading habit is promoted through educational programmes for parents and teachers, regular literary meetings in Tartu and the improvement of the availability of new books in libraries. The literary scene of the city is expanded through collaboration between various cultural institutions, through the development of international exchanges and the expansion of the scale of the Prima Vista International Literary Festival. Development in translation, literary studies and creative writing takes place through the organisation of writing courses, educational programmes in universities and internship offers for students of literature. Particular emphasis is placed on the protection of creative freedom and freedom of expression, which is why in recent years, research into the Finno-Ugric culture has intensified at the Museum of Literature. The city also supports the remembrance of literary cultural diversity, and therefore presents other areas of literature in museums and during festivals.