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Ingrian Finnish Song and Dance Festival

On 8-9 May 2023, the Ingrian Finnish Song and Dance Festival was held in Põllküla and Padise, Estonia.

ingerisoomlaste  laulupidu
Photo: Hannele Valkeeniemi

The two-day celebrations began on Saturday, 8 July at 14:00 with an open-air mass in the Põllküla memorial garden and Paldiski City Cemetery. On the same day, at 17.00, a seminar on Finnish and Estonian clergy in the service of the Ingrian Finns was held at the Kallaste tourist farm. On Sunday, 9 July at noon, the Finnish, Estonian and Ingrian flags were raised on flagpoles in front of the Padis community centre and welcoming speeches were held. Afterwards, a service took place in the Padise monastery church, after which dance and singing groups performed on the monastery grounds. Catering was provided by the “Ingrian Café” from Tartu.

The film director with Ingrian roots, Arvo Iho, has explained why the active involvement of the local Ingrian community is important: “It gives peace of mind. For older people it gives a sense of belonging, and for younger people who may not have appreciated it at all, it gives a new depth. At the moment, all kinds of ancestry research is very much appreciated around the world.” To confirm Iho’s words, the Song and Dance Festival also saw the presentation of an ethnographic collection by Stella Tukia, who studied fashion design at the Estonian Academy of Arts and discovered her Ingrian background through her schoolwork. Focusing on the more painful times of the journey of the Ingrian Finns, her collection tells the story of not just one family, but an entire nation.

Every Estonian can name several acquaintances who have a Finnish-origin name and quite probably Ingrian Finnish roots. In general, it is well known that the Ingrian Finns arrived in Estonia after a difficult and long refugee migration through Finland, Central Russia, Western Siberia and Karelia. What is much less well known is that the Ingrian areas have been linked to Estonia’s cultural and intellectual space for centuries, since Swedish times. The national flag of the Ingrian Finnish people, which was adopted in the wake of the Ingrian freedom struggle, will soon be 105 years old. It will also mark the 125th anniversary of the beginning of the Ingrian Song Festival tradition. After a long period of occupation, since 1989, annual song and dance festivals have again been held in beautiful places in Estonia, this time in and around Padise Monastery.

This year’s Ingrian Finnish Song and Dance Festival was also special because it is the first time that a representative body of the Estonian-Finnish minority was elected, the aim of which is to unite local Finns and Ingrian Finns and their descendants, and to preserve and promote their common cultural heritage.