From the Jaan Kaplinski Society to the Kaplinski-Kallaste Culture Centre

Note the vision is also available in the Finnish language.

The writer, poet, and essayist Jaan Kaplinski (22.01.1941–08.08.2021), a native of Tartu, was and is an internationally acclaimed poet and thinker, the most cosmopolitan of all Estonian writers, however, at the same time, deeply rooted in Estonian soil and language. During his lifetime, he wrote and published more than sixty books in Estonia and as many abroad. His works have been translated into at least thirty languages, he was awarded several prizes, among them the European Literary Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times. Kaplinski’s poetry and ideas are known and valued not only in Estonia, but also in Finland, Scandinavia and in many other corners of the literary world.

In addition to his published works, Jaan Kaplinski has left us a substantial handwritten and digital legacy in the form of notebooks that contain his thoughts and notes, outlines for the lectures and speeches, drafts of his poems and stories, articles, essays, diaries, correspondence, etc. This collection, in addition to his personal library, presents broad cultural interest. Organising and reviewing all the material and making it available for future generations is a huge and time-consuming endeavour that exceeds the work of a single person, or even an institution, and will be achievable only by the joint effort of those inspired by Jaan’s works.

As the first step toward that goal the Jaan Kaplinski Society will be founded in May 2022. The Society will unite people and institutions for whom Jaan’s writings matter, and who wish that they would become available to as many people as possible, now and in the future.  The Society will bring together interested people and institutions from Estonia, Finland, and around the world who share the understanding about the essential activities related to Kaplinski’s legacy and are eager to contribute in measure of their abilities. Founding the Society as an NGO will enable to participate in different cultural projects, apply for funding from different foundations and private donors for research grants, stipends, prizes, conference funding, and other cultural events that would help to introduce and develop Jaan Kaplinski’s legacy. A broad-based membership and substantial activities, visible to everybody, will help inspire credibility in the Society, particularly regarding the founders’ second great goal – to renovate the prospective home for the Society, namely, the villa built in 1914 by Aino and Oskar Kallas, according to the design by Finnish architect Walther Thomé.

Below, the main lines of action of the Society are presented. They are sure to broaden and evolve over time.

The Society would:

  • Support the systemisation and research of Jaan Kaplinski’s legacy located in the archive of the Estonian Literary Museum, applying for scholarships and cooperating, if possible, with the students of all Estonian universities at all academic levels.
  • Introduce Jaan Kaplinski’s literary heritage via different projects and events where schoolchildren would also be able to participate.
  • Integrate Jaan Kaplinski’s ideas with the actual problems of the 21st century, such as the relationship between the human beings and nature, globalisation, AI, religion, etc., by organising international conferences, seminars, and other scientific events. To that end, the Society would cooperate with the University of Tartu as well as other academic institutions.
  • Raise awareness of and research the influence of Jaan Kaplinski’s works on other fields of culture and the interconnections between them in cooperation with notable specialists in these fields.
  • Seek like-minded people and supporters in Estonia and Finland, in order to renovate and put to use as a culture centre the villa located at the address Raja 31a, Tartu. In the years 1914–1923, the villa belonged to Aino and Oskar Kallas, and from 1934–1943 it was owned by Jaan Kaplinski’s grandfather, Jaan Raudsepp. As such, it was also Jaan Kaplinski’s birthplace and his home during the first three years of his life.

Since we are well aware that the renovation process of such a building is a time-consuming one, we have set 2026 as the preliminary deadline. Besides becoming the home of the Jaan Kaplinski Society, in the future the building would also function as a culture centre for the local community. Different events would take place there, such as meetings, performances, conferences, etc. There would be memorial rooms for Jaan Kaplinski, and Aino and Oskar Kallas, and an international residency for researchers and writers. Under the roof of the restored villa there would also be space for the other literary societies of Tartu, such as the Ene Mihkelson Society, the Karl Ristikivi Society, etc. All those activities would enrich the substantial activities of Tartu as the UNESCO City of Literature, and also enhance its international reputation.

The restoration and salvage for culture of this respectable building which might well be called a cultural bridge between Estonia and Finland, would be worthwhile for   Tartu, all of Estonia, as well as the cooperation and relationships between two closely related nations – the Estonians and the Finns.

In order to be able to renovate the building and manage the Kaplinski-Kallaste Centre, it will be expedient in the future to create a foundation. Jointly, it would be possible to raise funds to cover the expenses related to the purchase and renovation of the building and for supporting the subsequent activities. To this extent we will apply for public funding, ask for donations from private persons, participate in various projects and earn income from the guest apartments located in the same building. The relationship between the Society and the Centre, the participating organizations in the foundation and other questions will be specified in the coming years.

Jaan Kaplinski, and Aino and Oskar Kallas are people whose life’s work lasts longer than their life and era. The future Kaplinski-Kallaste Culture Centre would be a place where their legacy would find a home and tell its tales both to our generation as well as future ones.

The vision of the Jaan Kaplinski and Oskar and Aino Kallas Centre is supported by

  • Jaan Kaplinski’s family
  • The City of Tartu
  • The University of Tartu
  • The University of Tartu Library
  • Estonian National Museum
  • Estonian Literary Museum
  • Estonian Writers’ Union
  • The Tartu section of the Estonian Writers’ Union
  • Estonian Composers’ Union
  • Finnish Institute in Estonia