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).
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 December 2012 includes Mart Meri (Chairman), Merle Pajula, Katrin Maiste, Eero Raun and Toomas Liivamägi. As of December 2013 the non-profit organisation has 33 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 Estonian Institute is member of the European Union National Institutes for Culture EUNIC. The Institute's activities rely on the principles of the code of ethics of Estonian non-governmental organisations.
History of the Estonian Institute
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.