Estonian-language university celebrates its 100th anniversary

The opening ceremony of the University of Tartu of the Republic of Estonia was held on 1 December 1919 and an Estonia-language university that was primarily aimed at Estonian students and served the Estonian society started operating. A hundred years later, on 1 December 2019, 138 new doctors and honorary doctors will be promoted at the anniversary ceremony and the National Thought prize and the visiting professor’s grant will also be presented.

Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser said that the opening of a university based on our own language only a hundred years after the abolishment of serfdom is an exceptional achievement for our small nation. “The fact that the Estonian-language universitas is still here a hundred years later and also among the top universities in the world shows the faith Estonians have in education and science.” said Asser. “But we’re certainly celebrating arrival right now, because the university now has to be a smart and responsible pathfinder in solving the problems that concern Estonia and the whole world.”

The official birthday of the national university on 1 December is somewhat quieter and calmer after the Saturday that is packed with events. The anniversary service will be held at 10:00 in Tartu St John’s Church, where the new Estonian flag of Estonia of the University of Tartu, which is a present from the Estonian Flag Society, will also be consecrated.

The traditional anniversary ceremony will start in the university’s assembly hall at 12:00 and it will be primarily dedicated to the university’s teaching staff and doctors. After the usual academic lecture, diplomas will be presented to 138 new doctors and four honorary doctors will be promoted. The honorary doctors appointed last year and honorary members from Finland, Sweden, Germany and the US as well as colleagues from partner universities will also visit the university.

The National Thought prize and the visiting professor’s grant will also be presented at the ceremony.

The poem “Congratulations on the Opening of the Estonian University” written by Gustav Suits for 1 December 1919 will be read again as a symbolic reminder of the ceremony held a hundred years ago.  The placement of chairs will be the same as at the opening ceremony held a hundred years ago.

The original text “To the students who fell in the War of Independence from 1918-1920” cast in bronze, which belonged to the sculptures in the assembly hall, was restored for the 100th anniversary of the national university. The monument, which was opened on the 20th anniversary of the Estonian-language university in 1939, was taken down by the soviet authorities about a decade later. The group of sculptures, which survived the occupation, was put back in its original sport in the assembly hall for the 75th anniversary of the national university after the restoration of independence. The monument has now been restored as a whole.

Participation in the ceremony is by invitation only. The ceremony will be broadcast via UTTV.

The University of Tartu of the Republic of Estonia was born with the state of Estonia. After the end of World War I, the Germany army transferred the university to Peeter Põld, who was the representative of the Estonian Government. Estonian was declared the official language of the university and after initial preparations, 351 students, 305 of whom were Estonian, started their studies on 6 October 1919. Today, the University of Tartu has ca 13,400 students, 1660 of whom are from abroad.

For further information, please contact: Kady Sõstar, Senior Specialist o Protocol, University of Tartu, 511 9188,