With the award “Contribution to Estonian National Identity”, the university recognises an individual whose creative work has significantly promoted the national and state identity of Estonians and Estonia. The award was established in 2004.
Nominations for the award “Contribution to Estonian National Identity” may be made by members of the council and senate of the university, by the councils of faculties, institutes, colleges and non-faculty institutions, by the councils of other research and development institutions and by legal persons registered in Estonia.
The recipient of the award is selected by an eleven-member committee convened by the senate; the committee comprises the rector as chair of the committee, the recipient of the award from the previous year, four members from the university and five members from outside the university. The committee is convened for a term of three years and a recipient of the award becomes member of the committee in the year following the year of his or her selection.
The rector presents the award on 1 December at the ceremony marking the anniversary of Estonian national university.
In 2021, the University of Tartu gave the “Contribution to Estonian National Identity” award to composer Erkki-Sven Tüür.
“It is a great honour for the university to hand over the Contribution to Estonian National Identity award to composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, whose influential work touches the hearts of Estonian audiences and has gained wide resonance among the music public of the world. Erkki-Sven Tüür has made Estonia larger than its geographical borders, connecting the Estonian culture with modern world culture,” said Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser when presenting the award. He added that the impact and the idea of Tüür’s activities are well aligned with the function of the national university – to be a link between their home country and the outside world as an Estonian-language international university.
In 2020, the University of Tartu gave the award “Contribution to Estonian National Identity” to theatre researcher and historian, critic and lecturer Lea Tormis.
“By selecting this year’s recipient, the national university makes itself greater, we are once again widening the scope of national thought, the actual semantic field of this concept,” said Rector Toomas Asser in the video greeting on the anniversary of Estonia’s national university. According to the rector, the people who nominated Lea Tormis for the award have aptly said that her “thread” in the Estonian theatre is very bright: it is the culture of thinking of theatre, of creation, of national culture.
In 2019, the University of Tartu gave the award “Contribution to Estonian National Identity” to Hando Runnel. According to Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser, the decision of the award committee was unanimous. Granting the “Contribution to Estonian National Identity” award to Hando Runnel is a telling summary of the first century of Estonia’s national university. By giving this award, the national university confirms that Estonian people and the Estonian language, culture and thought are free. Hando Runnel by his example and with his special contribution helps us remember that the measure of a nation is its people’s internal dignity and values.”