Minister of Culture: The winners of the Integration Prize have helped to create a more cohesive society in Estonia

  • 2021-12-06

On December 3rd, the Ministry of Culture and the Integration Foundation recognised the most outstanding promoters in the field of integration during 2020-2021. Awards in the field of integration were presented to the following: the non-profit Estonian Institute; Tiina Pärtel, the founder of the Found in Estonia podcast; the Estonian épée team; and the non-profit Sofiit-Klubi.

The purpose of these awards is to recognise those who have worked to establish contacts and develop cooperation between people with different mother tongues, and to find a common language among the various communities. 

“The integration of Estonian society has been a consistent and positive process. However, concerns still exist that need to be addressed. The greatest challenge is how to create and support a common space where people of different nationalities can establish more positive contacts among themselves, as well as stronger ties with Estonia. The people and organisations that have received the awards today have made an invaluable contribution to creating this common space,” said Minister of Culture Tiit Terik.

Award winners were announced in three categories. In each category, the winner, who were recognised as having made the greatest contribution in the field of integration, were awarded a prize of €1,000. This year, two prizes were awarded in the Spark of the Year category.

The prize in the Bridgebuilder of the Year category was awarded to the non-profit Estonian Institute, which implemented the Cultural Step programme, in order to bring people of different nationalities closer together and help those with a mother tongue other than Estonian to better understand Estonian society. A total of 341 training sessions were held in Russian and 91 in English. More than 1,500 people completed the full Cultural Step programme, during which they visited various museums and attended training sessions, became acquainted with the different regions and the natural resources of Estonia and communicated closely with Estonians.

In the Messenger of the Year category, the integration award was won by Tiina Pärtel, who established the Found in Estonia podcast in order to introduce the foreigners that live here to Estonians through personal and humorous stories about their experiences. The jury’s assessment was that Found in Estonia is an excellent example of how to use state-of-the-art solutions to promote the theme of integration in an inspiring and effective way. The podcast started by Tiina Pärtel has been listened more than 15,000 times. 

This year, two winners were announced in the Spark of the Year category.

The first integration prize in the Spark of the Year category was awarded to the Estonian épée team members Julia Beljajeva, Erika Kirpu, Katrina Lehis and Irina Embrich. Winning the gold medal at the Olympics showed how sport can unite people and how successful a diverse team can be, when everyone's contribution is valued and everyone counts, regardless of any differences. The jury believes that this achievement provides an inspiring example for many and reminds us that we are only strong when we work together.

The second winner in the Spark of the Year category is the non-profit Sofiit Klubi, that produced Eduard Tee's bilingual play Slow Breathing. This show is about destinies, worries and joys that make one think about life and values. The intertwined lives of two women – one Estonian and the other Russian -- reflect the historical context while, at the same time, caring and friendship help to better understand each other and overcome any conflicts. The performance is made especially lively by the decision not to translate the dialogue: the actors often speak in one language, respond in another – just like in in real life.

A total of 18 applications were received for the integration projects competition for 2020-2021.

The Integration Foundation has been awarding prizes for development projects in the field of integration since 1999 and for media projects since 2009. The competition for prizes in the field of integration for 2020-2021 are financed by the Ministry of Culture.