We arrived to Mooska Farm in Võru, Estonia to experience the smoke saunas and from Ms. Eda Veeroja we were able to hear the whole story how they managed to inscribe the smoke saunas as Intagible Cultural Heritage.
“The reason why we became active to preserve smoke sauna culture is that is plays a role in our identity, and because the smoke saunas had started to diminish in this region.”
“It happened back in 2009, on vernal equinox, which is a special holiday in Estonia. The farming families of this area had gathered together to have a sauna event. Later we were in a sauna together with my father and we started thinking: “we should inscribe this splendid sauna culture as Intangible Cultural Heritage”.
The untold story up to inscription
I imagined that the inscription must have been strenuous, and so I asked Eda to explain concretely what it was like.
“First, I sent a mail to Unesco to let them know that we’d like to inscribe the Võru smoke sauna culture. When the answer came, I was let known of the procedures what it actually took. During the following two months I contacted over 100 people and at that time I met Ms. Epp Margna, a local artist, and Ms. Külli Eichenbaum, who worked at a governmental agency. Us three started having more and more meetings together and I guess that how the active pursue towards our common goal, the inscription, started.”
“After that, things started to gather speed quickly. We utilized Epp’s paintings and photographs and made a movie and a book, among other things. I started to feel that after releasing them, the awareness of the people in this area started to change. The awareness to protect the Võru style sauna culture rose everywhere in the region. People started to prefer the traditional chimneyless smoke sauna over the more modern style sauna with chimneys.”
” Four years passed. In 2013 we received the consent from the Estonian cabinet minister, which was required for the application. Also the personnel of the Finnish embassy, who hold sauna culture in a high value cooperated with us, and finally in 2014 November the inscription to the Unesco list became reality.”
Eda told us smiling happily and continued: “What we are proud of, is that we didn’t inscribe only the smoke sauna culture, but we included also the knowledge and the spiritual beliefs that are being handed down to the next generations in this region.”
The development from now on
We also got to hear their opinions regarding the development from now on.
“From now on, we’ve taken four tasks: First, to do promotion to spread the knowledge of our culture; Second, to utilize and combine tourism and other businesses into tune with the knowledge we have; Third, we’ll study thoroughly the Võru sauna culture in tune with the ethnological studies; And fourth, we’re planning to start cooperation with the local kindergartens in order to teach the children about our sauna culture; with these four task, we’re also hoping to contribute to Estonian tourism resources .”
Eda and the rest of the sauna actives still continues to strive to relay the local traditions to the future generations.