Interest in Estonia has been growing around the world, and rising along with it is the number of those intrigued by the Estonian language and culture, or whose aim is to foster cultural or business ties with the country. It is with these individuals in mind that the Tallinn University School of Humanities, in cooperation with the Institute of Social Studies, has now established the Estonian Studies master’s program. The program’s curriculum is crafted for students whose native language is not Estonian, but who wish to study Estonia’s language, culture, history, and social and political topics in the English language.

The globally unique Estonian Studies master’s program provides students with a broad and interdisciplinary education, as well as an understanding of both Estonia’s particularities and its ties to the greater world. One might even say that the program is a kind of representative Estonian state curriculum, the goal of which is to offer an academic education to anyone with a deeper interest in the country and its people.

The initial impulse for establishing the Estonian Studies program emerged seven years ago with a discussion on how to provide an academic master’s-level education to translators of Estonian literature into foreign languages. The Estonian Literature Center and the then-rector of Tallinn University Rein Raud launched the idea. As time passed, the plan expanded, and we found that English-based academic knowledge of Estonia could be offered to a wider circle of enthusiasts. I’m pleased to announce that now this high-quality curriculum has finally been established.

The Estonian language and culture are taught in 30 universities around the world. Without a doubt, one target group for the Estonian Studies program is university students who have already engaged in similar studies elsewhere in the world, and who wish to deepen their knowledge of Estonia in the English language while simultaneously developing their Estonian-language skills. The curriculum is also suitable for students who are trained in another field but have an interest in Estonian culture, history, and society, and who would like to speak Estonian at an intermediate level. Also welcome to join the program are individuals with an interest in Estonian literature, some proficiency in Estonian, and a strong desire to translate Estonian literature into their native languages in the future. The original impetus for launching the program, i.e. supporting the academic instruction of translators of Estonian literature, continues to be an important component. Students specializing in the translation of literature will have the opportunity to develop their practical translating skills over the course of their studies, and one part of the master’s program will be the full translation of an Estonian literary work.

The Estonian Studies master’s program will be conducted in cooperation with the Estonian Literature Center, the Estonian Institute, the Estonian Writers’ Union, and the network of Estonian language teachers at foreign universities. Students may apply for a range of scholarships to support their studies, such as the Estonian Literature Center’s scholarship for a student focused on the translation of Estonian literature.

Students who have completed the Estonian Studies program can expect to have attained a good grasp of the Estonian language (at least at the B1 level) and be highly knowledgeable of the country’s culture, history, and society. The education will enable the individual to work in the fields of business, economics, diplomacy, cultural export, and the arts, either in Estonia itself or in the student’s home country. Graduates will likewise have the necessary background to begin translating Estonian literature into foreign languages, and it is worth noting that foreign publishers’ interest in Estonian literature has been steadily rising each year. Naturally, graduates may also continue studying in a doctoral program.

We hope that the Estonian Studies master’s program will help to increase the number of Estonian experts and enthusiasts around the world. The coursework will help students forge a strong connection to the local culture, history, and social structure, thus making them Estonian cultural ambassadors around the world.

More information on the Tallinn University Estonian Studies master’s program can be found at

Piret Viires (b 1963) is a professor of Estonian literature at Tallinn University. Her research focuses on contemporary Estonian literature, postmodernism, post-postmodernism, and the interaction between literature and technology. She directs the TLU Estonian Studies master’s program, is on the board of the Estonian Literature Center, and is Vice-Chairwoman of the Estonian Writers’ Union. Viires has written academic articles on literature, books, and also original prose.