The Estonian Institute today
The Institute currently employs 14 persons, who work either in the Tallinn main office or branches abroad in Helsinki (founded in 1995) and Budapest (1998); previously, the Institute had offices in Sweden (1999-2011) and France (2001-2009). The Estonian Institute in Hungary is a branch institute of the Tallinn-based Eesti Instituut.
Also 13 lecturers of the Estonian language and culture work outside Estonia.
The contributors include several prominent people of their field as authors of the texts, editors, board members, designers and creators of information technology applications.
The basis of the activities of the Estonian Institute as a non-governmental institution is its constitution. The work is directed by the General Meeting and the Governing Board elected for three years. The Board elected in May 2015 includes Mart Meri (Chairman), Tiina Maiberg, Katrin Maiste, Eero Raun, Karlo Funk and Peeter Helme. As of May 2015 the non-profit organisation has 32 members.
The Institute also has an Advisory Board, with members as of 1 June 2011: minister of culture Urve Tiidus (ex officio), Maria Alajõe, Mati Heidmets, Tiina Kaalep, Heiki Loot, Ülle Madise, Urmas Reinsalu, Urmas Sutrop, Kaarel Tarand, Küllike Tohver and Piret Õunapuu.
The Estonian Institute is supported from state budget via the Ministry of Culture. This is supplemented by targeted financing from various sources for specific undertakings. In introducing Estonia abroad, the Institute’s long-time partner has been the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The teaching of Estonian language and culture is organised in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research.
The foundation of the Estonian Institute as civic initiative in the late 1980s derived from the practical need to establish permanent international contacts, which would no longer be controlled by the Soviet authorities. The plan compiled in summer 1988 by Lennart Meri listed the tasks of the Institute as follows: developing permanent cultural and educational foreign relations and introducing Estonia abroad. On 4 October 1988, the cultural council of the creative associations whose purpose was to restore Estonia’s independence, decided to found the Estonian Institute. The official permit was granted in April 1989, and thus for the first six months the Institute operated thanks to the work of volunteers and the support of Estonia’s friends.
During its first years, the Estonian Institute partly fulfilled the role of a hotbed for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the future Estonian diplomats. The Institute’s information and culture points operated in various places in Western Europe and Scandinavia, and quite a few developed into an embassy of the Republic of Estonia in the course of restoring diplomatic relations. Soon things took their normal course and the Institute focused on conveying information about Estonia and promoting its culture. Supported by the state, it has become a serious institution to carry out cultural politics.
Estonian studies abroad
In cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research, the Estonian Institute supports and organises the studies of Estonian language and culture in other countries. Since 2004, the secretariat of the council of the academic studies of Estonian language and culture abroad operates at the Estonian Institute, relying on the relevant state programme and the decisions of the programme council. The network of the academic studies includes over thirty universities across the world, involving more than five hundred students.
Within the framework of the Compatriots’ programme the Estonian Institute helps organisations, educational societies and schools of Estonians living abroad, also international schools in arranging the teaching of Estonian. The network contains over 50 institutions across the world.