Ten organisations involved in promoting Estonia’s indigenous languages and peoples have established the Council of Estonia’s Indigenous languages, to help preserve and develop Võro, Seto, Mulgi and Kihnu languages. The newly-established cooperation council will focus on advocacy of Estonia’s indigenous language communities in Estonia, the European Union and international organisations, including the United Nations system.

The Council holds that Estonia’s indigenous languages form an inalienable part of Estonia’s linguistic and cultural diversity; however, in order to survive they require additional support from respective language communities themselves, Estonian society and state as well as the international community.  

The Council of Estonia’s Indigenous Languages is an informal cooperation and advocacy platform whose members include organisations representing and supporting Estonia’s indigenous languages. Founding members of the Council include Võro Institute, Võro Society VKKF, Seto Congress Elders’ Council, Seto Information Society, Seto Institute, Mulgi Culture Institute, Society of Mulgi People, Kihnumare and URALIC Centre for Indigenous Peoples.  

Central activity of the Council will be domestic and international advocacy of Estonia’s indigenous language communities domestically, awareness-building of the situation of Estonia’s indigenous languages to the general public, cooperation with Estonia’s educational system, exchange of good practices with indigenous languages organisations worldwide and implementation of joint projects. The Council also plans to participate in the preparation and implementation of International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032 proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2019.  

One of the first concrete tasks of the Council will be to ensure that the next Estonian census in 2021 will enable to continue mapping the number of speakers of Estonia’s indigenous languages.  

According to the previous population census (2011), there were 74 512 speakers of Võro language, 12 532 speakers of Seto language and 9682 speakers of Mulgi language in Estonia. There are approximately 1000 speakers of Kihnu language.  

Photo: Preparatory meeting of the Council of Estonia's Indigenous Languages in Karilatsi (December 16, 2019)


Oliver Loode (URALIC Centre for Indigenous Peoples, oliver.loode@uralic.org, Tel. +372 513 2992)