Literary Organisations

Literary organisations and institutions in Tartu

There are several literary and cultural organisations in Tartu contributing regularly to the literary scene and the academic research on Estonian culture and literature. 

Tartu branch of the Estonian Writers Union is the professional association for authors, critics and translators residing in Tartu and South Estonia. There are approximately 80 members (the amount is volatile due to authors’ mobility). Notable members include multiply awarded Jaan Kaplinski, Nikolai Baturin, Ain Kaalep, as well as the younger-generation writers Urmas Vadi, Mehis Heinsaar, Kristiina Ehin, Lauri Sommer and many others. The Tartu branch also runs the Tartu House of Literature, organising weekly Literary Tuesdays, which are often co-facilitated by other institutions in the building: Estonian Literary Society, the Ilmamaa publishing house, the editorial board of the youth literary magazine Värske Rõhk, and the newly found cultural club Arhiiv at the basement hall. The Literary Tuesdays include meetings with authors, presentations of books, literary anniversaries and conferences, but also concerts and theatre performances, various happenings and literary experiments. Furthermore, the Tartu branch mediates a Cultural Endowment grant for Tartu and Tampere exchange of authors and issues the yearly the Betti Alver Prize for the best literary debut. The Arhiiv club hosts theliterature and film quizzes while also presenting live music, film nights. In 2011, the Tartu branch of Estonian Writers Union, Prima Vista festival and the street art festival Stencibility cooperated in covering the wall of the Literature House with a literary-themed mural.

Estonian Literary Society is the oldest organisation in Estonia to popularise literature. The society has organised poetry readings, seminars, and academic conferences. In addition to having coordinated the Estonian Book Years, ELS is currently one of the key participants in running Prima Vista and Crazy Tartu festivals as well as Tartu Festival of Children's and Youth Literature. The Society in partnership with the Tartu Branch of the Estonian Writers Union and the City Government of Tartu was one of the key coordinators during the process of applying for the UNESCO designation as a Creative City of Literature. Since 2016 the Society acts as the coordinator and focal point of Tartu UNESCO City of Literature. The task of the ELS as Tartu City of Literature Office is to coordinate the action plan and strategies formulated by the committee during the application process; to initiate literary projects and activities, and to represent Tartu in the communication of the network. The current long-term projects of ELS include Bus Poetry (displaying literary works on stickers in Tartu city buses); coordinating the regular celebration of the World Poetry Day on March 21st in collaboration with other Cities of Literature, and coordinating the international residency program.

The Estonian Association of Comparative Literature (a member of the ICLA) organises biannual international conferences that have brought a number of literary scholars of international renown to Tartu; the association in cooperation with the University of Tartu Press also issues the academic publication series Interlitteraria.

Tartu Department of the Finnish Institute in Estonia has a library in the city centre and a diverse program including literary projects and events. The Goethe Society is focused on researching the rich Baltic German cultural history in the area, and the Learned Estonian Society is dedicated to furthering knowledge of the past and present of the Estonian nation, its language and literature)