Newsletter: 25 years of the Integration Foundation

Table of Contents:

25 years of meaningful integration policy in Estonia

Kultuuriminister Piret Hartman Minister of Culture Piret Hartman:

25 years of meaningful integration policy in Estonia – there are already plenty of experiences, but also results and challenges!

The first yearbook of the Integration Foundation, which summarised the activities of the foundation in 1998–1999, began with the message that integration is a national policy for Estonia and that Estonia needs a cohesive society. Even though a couple of decades have passed, the idea still holds true. Furthermore, over the years, the integration of society has been thoroughly analysed and conceptualised, objectives have been set and updated based on the circumstances, actions have been planned and implemented, and results have been achieved. The Integration Foundation has been at the core of all of this work, forming the very heart of the integration field.

However, the environment in which this heart beats, regular and steady, has changed a lot in 25 years. We have come a long way as a society – we are stronger, more open, but also more diverse than ever before. In 1998, there were more than 100 different nationalities living in Estonia, but now, there are more than 200. We are all the richer for it, but also all the more in need of common values, a common language, and a common sense of nationhood to build on.

From the moment we took our first steps in the field of integration as a society, the Integration Foundation became a driver of innovation in the fields of language and civic education, support for national cultures, development of counselling services, development of the labour market, and digital solutions for integration. The Integration Foundation has drawn on international research and experience as well as our own knowledge. Once an apprentice, it has now become the master, an internationally renowned centre of excellence where representatives from other countries and international organisations come to learn and exchange experiences. This is particularly evident in the field of language learning, which has been one of the most important activities of the Integration Foundation through the years. Now that the Estonian education system is gradually moving towards learning in Estonian, the Integration Foundation is an important partner for the Ministry of Education and Research, offering not only language learning methodologies, but also experience in organising activities to support language learning, advising parents, and involving the general public.

The role of the Integration Foundation cannot be underestimated in finding solutions to the challenges of Ida-Viru County. Moving the headquarters of the Integration Foundation to Narva and opening the Estonian Language House in Narva is not a magic fix, of course, but it is certainly an important bridge between people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, creating and developing a common language, culture, and value space.

The Integration Foundation has never been a spectator. When Ukrainian refugees arrived in Estonia, the foundation took the lead in counselling them, offering them an adaptation programme, and communicating with them. Significant contact has also been made with Estonians living outside the country and with friends of Estonia. The Integration Foundation is a centre of excellence, an important implementing agency for the Ministry of Culture, but hopefully also still a leader of processes in society.

Will there ever come a time when we can say that there is nothing left to do in the field of integration? In my heart, I hope there will, but I know that striving towards a cohesive society is a journey. We are an exemplary and successful small country that people want to come to. So, the work of the Integration Foundation will continue for a while yet, but I very much hope that the number of partners we involve and our knowledge and skills will grow. I would like to thank all those who have been on this journey, the staff and partners of the Integration Foundation – all those who have put their heart and soul into it, who have helped, who have thought along, and who have not given up. Who has been involved in integration once will always be. I wish the Integration Foundation continued determination, perseverance, inspiration, and courage to continue to be the chief architect of a cohesive society.


We must continue what we started

Dmitri MoskovtsevHead of Integration Foundation Dmitri Moskovtsev:

Dear friends! Congratulations on the 25th birthday of the Integration Foundation that unites us! 

This wonderful anniversary was made possible by the cooperation of all of us. Since the beginning, integration has not only been the concern and joy of the foundation but has gripped the team that encompasses everything and everyone. A heartfelt thanks to each and every one who has dedicated themselves and their time so that we can live in an increasingly integrated Estonia: to the learners of the Estonian language and culture and teachers of their native language and culture, to the leaders and participants of the initiatives that unite different communities, to the volunteers and experts who help at every opportunity, to the authorities and enterprises contributing to the appreciation of integration, and to the employees who have committed themselves to it!

In a quarter of a century, we have come to one gratifying change: the cooperation of different ethnicities is normal. The founders of the foundation had to find answers to the question of how to find a common language between different ethnicities. Now we face the question of how to move towards a more united and integrated society even faster, while valuing our great wealth – cultural diversity.

There is no doubt that we must continue what we started. Many more challenges await, but when we work together, the journey is smoother, and we achieve more. From the bottom of my heart, I wish everyone continued dedication, infinite perseverance, and all-round support!

Looking back to the early days

How did the Foundation get started? What is different now? What’s next? These topics were addressed by Marju Lauristin, Professor Emeritus at University of Tartu, and Mati Heidmets, Professor Emeritus at Tallinn University, who have also contributed to the development of our Foundation as members of its first supervisory board.


A decision that continues to this day

Andra Veidemann

We recalled the days of the founding of the foundation with Andra Veidemann, who, as the Minister of Population, proposed forming the Integration Foundation to the government and was the chairman of its first supervisory board.

What were the circumstances under which the idea to create the foundation we know as the Integration Foundation was born?

Theory is one thing, practice another. The small office of the Minister of Population with its members and an essentially non-existent line in the national budget could not have been physically able to even start with all the activities listed in the document ‘Starting points of the Estonian national integration policy for integrating non-Estonians into the Estonian society’, which was passed with some cuts by the Riigikogu on 10 June 1998. 


A quarter of a century in photos

President Kersti Kaljulaid Võrus pereõppega tutvuma, 2017. Foto Viktor BurkivskiWe are working in partnership with thousands of people. To get an idea of what has been done so far, take a look at the photo gallery we put together with the people involved. These many captured moments tell more than words about our shared history.

Happy viewing! 




Support for cultural diversity

"LoomePada 2022" Jõhvis

Since our first days of operation, we have done our best to ensure that all nationalities living in Estonia find a common language here. How do the cultural associations we have worked with remember the past years?

  • The most important part of an organisation is its people. People who love their job, treat their partners with respect and patience, who advise, support, and guide them. Such are the people working at the Integration Foundation, and we are thrilled about it! /Ilona Uzlova, International Union of National Cultures Associations Lüüra/
  • We love working together. For nearly 25 years, the foundation has taught us how to manage public organisations and cooperate with schools that preserve our mother tongue. /Volodõmõr Palamar, Association of Ukrainian Organizations in Estonia/
  • The seminars, master classes, forums, etc. organised by the Integration Foundation helped to acquire new knowledge and skills related to the activities of the organisation both directly and indirectly. They have brought new contacts, professional connections, acquaintance with the culture and colleagues of other Estonian regions. /Natalya Zenchenko, Association of Russian Creative Collectives Kalinka in Estonia/
  • All these years, we have felt that cooperation with national cultural societies is one of the most important priorities in the work of the foundation. /Roman Ljagu, Association of Russian Cultural Societies Ruthenia/
  • The most memorable have been the joint trips to various Estonian regions, where, in addition to training, we have been able to get acquainted with other umbrella organisations and had the chance to exchange experiences with them. /Galina Ivanova, NPO Union of National Minorities Raduga/
  • Cooperation has always been pleasant, as the team of the foundation comprises not only competent experts in their field, but also people with a broad horizon and a genuine interest in the life of ethnic minorities. /Razmik Ivanjan, Estonian Armenian National Society/
  • We are listened to and heard by people whose everyday life, culture, and language are different to ours. And the other way around. That is the essence of integration. /Мarina Tee, Estonian-Russian Chamber of Culture NPO/
  • The consistent, planned, and friendly activities of the Integration Foundation provide new ideas and new creative energy. /Igor Jermakov, Union of Russian Educational and Charitable Societies in Estonia/
  • The projects of the Integration Foundation have helped the young people of our organisation develop their Estonian language skills and aroused their interest in Estonian culture and daily life. /Nina Savinova, Estonian Belarusian Association/
  • The knowledge acquired at the trainings was useful, helping to understand the processes taking place in society and the development of our culture. At the same time, they helped to create new acquaintances and contacts with other organisations. /Marina Varunina, Estonian Old Believers Cultural Centre/
  • The sincere interest of the foundation in the activities of the roundtable of the national cultural associations of Ida-Viru County, the regular participation of its representatives in the sessions of the roundtable and county events throughout these years has been very important and commendable. /Aleksandr Dusman, Ida-Virumaa Integration Centre/
  • The foundation has helped us in finding Estonian-speaking cooperation partners, our community is also one of the first to receive the integration award in 2006. /Nijazi Gadžijev, Non-profit organisation Estonian Azerbaijan Cultural Centre Ajdan/


Support for learning about the Estonian language and culture

Keelepraktika Tallinna eesti keele majasAs knowing the language and culture creates the best basis for adapting to a society, we have offered several exciting opportunities to this end. How do our partners and customers remember family learning, language cafés, culture courses, and much more?

  • Over the years, the professionalism of the foundation’s employees has been proven repeatedly – they were always happy to help us both in external communication and the coordination of cultural immersion projects, as well as in project reporting. /Valeria Mihhailova, NPO Etnoweb/
  • I have visited the Integration Foundation and the Estonian Language House in Tallinn with master’s students of linguistics from the University of Tartu, and we received a very warm welcome. They introduced us to their activities, showed us the spaces, it was an environment where everyone is happy to work. I wish you luck! /Helle Metslang, Mother Tongue Society/
  • The activities of the Estonian language and culture clubs have been exciting. Introducing the element of learning about culture has also expanded our social circles and horizons. Thanks to the Integration Foundation, we have also been able to develop our services and people over time. /Paul Kesküla, OÜ Mitteldorf/
  • Thanks to the culture course, we discovered a new target group, with whom we remained in contact even after the culture course. In 2019, we started the international club ‘Kultuuri(de) kohvik’ due to the desire of the course graduates to continue meeting and exchanging experiences. We have gained valuable experiences in working with people of various cultural backgrounds. /Virve Tuubel, Natalia Põllu, and Anti Lillak, Estonian National Museum/
  • Organising cultural trips for the teachers of Ida-Viru County was very memorable. The content of the projects was novel, exciting, and people’s interest and feedback was very positive. /Raul Ennus, Juunika Koolitus/
  • The cooperation with the Integration Foundation has always been great and our work has been supported in every possible way. Mainly with advice, if there was need for it. You can always turn to them. /Pille Kulberg, NPO Veeda Vaheaeg Võrumaal/
  • The former names of the Integration Foundation, MEIS and MISA, are now history, but our common goal remains unchanged – to offer language learning and promote integration as well as the preservation of the Estonian language in society. We would like to thank INSA, who has created many different learning environments and learning materials that support learning the Estonian language and are also accessible and free of charge to all language learners. /Kersti Võlu, OÜ Kersti Võlu Koolituskeskus/

The learners in the Estonian language Houses concluded what they have experienced so far:

Eesti keele maja on...









Support for Estonians around the world

Eestlaste rahvapidu Tamperes 20.08.2022. Foto Annela LiivatWe have taken care that people returning to Estonia adapt smoothly to society and that the compatriots living in foreign countries are in close contact with Estonia. How do returnees, those who participated in compatriot youth camps, and representatives of foreign communities summarise what has been done so far? 

  • The Integration Foundation has supported (and not supported) our initiatives in North America, but what is more important – has done so humanely and warmly, with help and guidance. You can get answers to your questions quickly, you are listened to, and you get the feeling that the Integration Foundation stands up for the compatriot community. /Ellen Valter, Estonian Arts Centre, Toronto/
  • The cooperation of Arena MTÜ with Estonians in London would have been an excessively expensive external project for us without the support of the Integration Foundation, which we would not be able to repeat in the near future. Thanks to the support of the Integration Foundation, we have the confidence to plan cooperation and joint projects with global Estonians in the future as well. /Rednar Annus, Estonian Improv Theatre/
  • My experiences have been very positive. They were a great help when I decided to return to Estonia after nearly 80 years abroad. /Elin Toona, writer and returnee/
  • I would like to thank the team of the Integration Foundation for helping our family. Your advice and guidance on gathering documents helped us get all we needed to submit the application. /Ronald, returnee from Moscow/
  • I attended the camp for the first time last summer. I liked the camp so much and made many new friends who I have kept contact with even after the camp. This is the first time I really feel like going back. /Alissa from Italy, who participated in the compatriot youth camp/
  • I learned so much about the Estonian language and culture in the previous camp. The group was very fun and positive. I liked it very much and hope to attend again this year. /Daniel from Ireland, who participated in the compatriot youth camp/
  • My hope for the future is perhaps to attend university in Estonia. And maybe even live in Estonia at some point. This camp helps me understand Estonia better and have a better connection with Estonia. /Miia from Canada, who participated in the compatriot youth camp/
  • I have been participating for 2 years and it is one of the best camps of my life! My wish is to come to Estonia for good when I go to high school. /Michelle from Ireland, who participated in the compatriot youth camp/
  • I have participated in the camp for two previous years. The camp has been a great help to me in learning Estonian with my peers. My mother is Estonian, and I only speak Estonian with her – of course, it is not enough on a daily basis. /Johanna from Germany, who participated in the compatriot youth camp/
  • I have much more confidence to speak and write, although I make many mistakes. I learned a lot about Estonian culture and nature in the camp. I want to speak Estonian better and this camp helped me a lot. /Nele from Germany, who participated in the compatriot youth camp/
  • Thanks to the project grants, we have been able to offer our community, especially young people, high-quality cultural experiences that strengthen the sense of belonging towards their homeland. /Kairit Kolsar, Belgian Estonian Society/
  • The Association of Estonians in Sweden has had a close relationship with the Integration Foundation ever since the foundation started managing grants for the global Estonian community. Cooperation has been good and constructive. We got to know each other better during the development of the new global Estonian agenda. There are high hopes for the joint development of the website Global Estonian. /Sirle Sööt, Association of Estonians in Sweden/