The introduction of political democracy, freedom of speech, market economy, and political independence during the revolutionary period from 1988 to 1991, profoundly changed the role of cultural life in society. From having been fulfilling political and compensatory functions, cultural life lost some of the appeal it had gained due to the specific circumstances of the Soviet regime. The change was reflected by statistics on the population’s participation in cultural life. Most indicators show a sharp decline around 1992-1993, and after that, a stabilisation or slow revival. It should be noted however, that despite the overall decline, the average level of cultural participation in Estonia is still relatively high in international comparison. This is confirmed by the results of a survey commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and conducted in 2003 and 2006, and by similar results from time use surveys regularly conducted by the Statistical Office of Estonia, most recently in 2009-2010. According to the survey respondents, high prices of cultural services and the geographical distance along with problems in organising transportation are the main obstacles for more active participation in cultural life. Around 60% of respondents aged 20-64 years old had participated in amateur cultural activities during the previous 12 months (see Table 8 below). The most usual activities were crafts or construction (48%) and photography (43%). 9% sang and 5% played a musical instrument at least once a week. The findings also suggested that a steep decline in participation has taken place during the last ten years; this conclusion is, nevertheless, not supported by trends in participation data collected from cultural institutions (see Table 9 below). The problem may be, however, that some social groups have become increasingly marginalised both with respect to their participation in cultural activities, and to their consumption of culture products. According to results from other surveys, this particularly concerns elderly people outside the capital and provincial centres. There also seems to be great variance in consumption levels between different income groups. Large communities of non-Estonian people (mainly Russian speakers) have become more alienated from cultural life than ethnic Estonians, with the exception of some fields of culture (see also chapter 2.6).
A fragmentation of the population into active and non-active participants in cultural life seems to have taken place. Although this growing inequality of opportunities for participation in cultural life has been recognised by cultural policy decision-makers, they lack the instruments to counteract this trend, which is more a direct result of the overall development of society than a matter of cultural policy.
Table 8: Participation in at least one cultural activity (except sports) during the last 12 months, percentages
|At least once a week||Less than once a week||Never|
Total in % |
(in number of persons)
|Aged at least 75||23.5||22.5||53.9|
|Persons with below upper secondary education||35.2||29.0||35.7|
|Persons with upper secondary education||34.1||38.6||27.4|
|Persons with tertiary education||40.7||39.0||20.2|
|Employees within lower income quintile||36.1||34.4||29.5|
|Employees within second income quintile||34.6||33.8||31.7|
|Employees within third income quintile||33.5||33.7||32.7|
|Employees within fourth income quintile||36.6||38.9||24.5|
|Employees within higher income quintile||40.2||40.7||19.0|
|Full time employees||34.5||42.8||22.6|
|Part time employees||46.3||38.0||15.8|
|White collar workers||42.6||42.0||15.4|
|Blue collar workers||28.7||42.3||29.1|
|Household members with one dependent child||40.0||38.4||21.6|
|Household members with two or more dependent children||44.7||35.0||20.3|
|Household members without dependent children||30.6||35.6||33.7|
Source: Statistics Estonia, Estonian Time Use Survey 2009-2010.
Table 9: Participation in cultural life: selected indicators, selected years 1990-2011
|Indicators||1990||1995||2000||2005||2010||2011||2011 (per capita)|
Registered users of public libraries|
|Library loans (in millions)||8.9||13.6||14.0||11.7||12.1||12.3||9.50|
|Museum attendance (in thousands)||1 940||975.0||1 539||1 762||2 150||2 666||2.06|
Theatre attendance (in thousands;|
from 1996 including private theatres)
|1 242||908.6||921.2||843.0||899.9||1 008.3||0.78|
|Cinema attendance (in millions)||10.9||1.0||1.1||1.1||2.1||2.4||1.85|
Publishing of books and pamphlets|
(in millions of copies)
|Use of Internet , %*||–||–||23.2*||59.2*||70.8**||–||..|
Sources: Statistics Estonia; Peeter Vihalemm (ed.) (2004): Meediasüsteem ja meediakasutus Eestis 1965-2004.
* During the last 6 months, % of population aged 15-74.
** During the last 12 months, % of population aged 10 or older.