Aims and activities of Tartu as a City of Literature

The main aims and an overview of the recent and upcoming initiatives




In the autumn of 2014 the City Government of Tartu summoned a committee of the representatives of various cultural and educational organisations and institutions to outline the main aims, plans and courses of action which would help the city to present its application to UNESCO this for membership of the Creative Cities Network as a City of Literature and would also remain the central strategy for the development of the literary field whether or not Tartu will be accepted to the network. These aims and activities have been formulated as five main courses of action, which include a wide range of necessities and plans for the future, but also many projects and activities at work already.

1) Encouraging and developing the reading habit, including educational programmes and the popularisation of reading and literature in a variety of ways
Courses of action:
Educational programmes for parents and teachers at the day-care centres to inspire the parents to introduce their children to books and literature and to help the teachers make more informed choices when selecting books for the nurseries.
Increasing children's interest in books and reading, creating better reading environments and setting example
Systematic cooperation between the schools and the Tartu Public Library
Regular literary events in the public space
Assuring the availability of the recommended books and cultural magazines for the students
Improving the availability of the new books and providing information about the contemporary literature
Increasing the awareness about the benefits of reading fiction
Improving the reading environment, creating new opportunities to enjoy reading outside home
Introducing the writers and literature related to Tartu in the public space

2) Developing the literary scene, extending the cooperation and partnerships between different cultural organisations and institutions; increasing the international reach and cooperation

Courses of action:
Improving the conditions for creative work
Developing the international exchange programmes
Extending the scale of the Tartu International Literary Festival Prima Vista
Developing the Tartu Writers' House to make it the main centre of Tartu as a City of Literature
Creating a mobility foundation for the organisers of literary events
Developing the identity of Tartu as a City of Literature through public campaigns and various types of media

3) Contributing to the development of creative writing, literary studies and translating

Courses of action:
Educational programmes including both academic higher education and further education for teachers of Estonian language and literature, the participation of the scholars of the University of Tartu in developing the study programmes for schools and compiling educational materials.
Offering creative writing courses at the University of Tartu and extending the learning opportunities through international cooperation.
Launching new courses at the University of Tartu, including an interdisciplinary seminar "Phenomenological Tartu" and a lecture course "Texts From The Contemporary World Literature". 
Offering opportunities of internships and practical experience for the students of literature and other fields related to literature: internship of cultural management, internship of intercultural relations, museum internship, practice in editing, translating, writing book reviews and guiding city tours; finding publishing opportunities for the practical studies of translating fiction.
Encouraging the students of the University of Tartu to choose research topics related to Tartu as a literary city.
Compiling and publishing an anthology of poems related to Tartu
Organising translation competitions

4) Protecting the freedom of speech and creative freedom

Courses of action:
Developing the Russian programme of the Literary Festival
Developing the activities of Tartu City Museum to introduce the actions and ideas of dissident thinkers
Developing the research of the Finno-Ugric cultures at the Estonian Literary Museum
Considering the possibility of joining ICORN
Contributing to making the dissident ideas and activities visible.

5) Supporting the diversity of the literary culture

Courses of action:
Supporting and introducing the Finno-Ugric, Russian, Southern-Estonian and other literatures represented in the literary scene of Tartu historically or in the present times.
Increasing general cultural knowledge


NEW INITIATIVES AND UPCOMING PROJECTS During the application process and especially since the designation various literature-related activities and projects have been initiated in Tartu. Here is a brief overview of the activities undertaken by the City Government and the Estonian Literary Society as Tartu City of Literature Office. 

In 2015 the city introduced the award for the best work of children's/youth fiction. The award is financed by the city and given out by Tartu Public Library in cooperation with the Tartu Toy Museum. 

Since 2015 the city supports the schools to invite writers to perform via the programme Writers to Schools.

In autumn 2015 a new project Bus Poetry was launched by the City of Literature Office to introduce literature in the urban space: stickers with poems are placed in the city buses of Tartu. The selection of poems changes once a year. During 2017 Bus Poetry introduces authors from 12 Cities of Literature.

In 2016 various new series of events - literary salons, seminars and storytelling nights - were initiated by Tartu City of Literature Office as well as Tartu Department of Writers Union and the independent bookshop Utoopia. 

In 2016 the Department of Culture of Tartu City Government, in collaboration with Tartu City of Literature Office, published a bilingual (Estonian-English) map of the literary Tartu. The map is available at the tourist information centre as well as at various cultural institutions.

In 2016 the City Writer scholarship was approved by the city council. The scholarship is funded by the city in cooperation with Tartu Cultural Endowment and it will be given to a local writer for one year. The first City Writer, selected in February 2017, is Kristiina Ehin.

In July 2017 Tartu City of Literature Office announced first international residency programme for writers and translators. The first resident will be hosted in Tartu during 2 months this year, October-November. 

In September 2017 the first Festival of Children's And Youth Literature will be held in Tartu, organized by Tartu Public Library, the Association of Estonian Language Teachers and Tartu City of Literature Office.



Tartu City of Literature Office is convinced that the more members contribute to networking, the more they gain from it. Next to the local initiatives, active membership, communication and cooperation with our partners is therefore a priority for Tartu. The participation in joint activities and programmes currently includes:

Drop the Mic – a mobility programme of Northern and Baltic slam poets
Since 2016 Tartu participates together with Reykjavik and Copenhagen in the mobility project Drop the Mic  supported by the Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme where in addition to the mentioned cities UNESCO Cities of Literature Krakow and Heidelberg take part. The aim of the project is to offer the slam poets of Tartu Reykjavik and Copenhagen opportunities for performing and to support their interrelations and exchange of experience. 

Exhibitions introducing the Cities of Literature 

Social media campaigns, such as the Cities of Literature Recommend reading list compiled every summer and the joint list of children’s books shared in social media on the International Literacy Day, September 8th.

Sharing information about the highlight events and mobility programmes to the local community

Joint celebration of the World Poetry Day on March 21st.