Crisis can't dampen Estonia's traditional song fest

Mon Jul 6, 2009 9:43am EDT
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By David Mardiste

TALLINN (Reuters Life!) - The tiny Baltic state of Estonia might be in the grip of its worst post-Soviet recession, but the crisis did not prevent over 188,000 people from enjoying a song festival that only comes around once every five years.

Like the other Baltic states, song and dance festivals are a key part of Estonia's heritage, particularly as the countries have been ruled by foreign powers for most of their history.

Though worries about rising unemployment were on people's minds, the festival was well attended.

"I will be going as it is an important part of being Estonian and I want to show it to my daughter. I would like her to see it is part of our tradition and Estonian culture," said Imbi Hepner, an advertising account manager before the concert.

However, she added: "I will still be thinking about my job. It will not be a celebration to forget my worries."

Thousands of singers, musicians and dancers performed during the three days of the festival, which ended on Sunday.

These are impressive numbers in a country with a population of just 1.3 million and at a time when the economy is expected to slide by 15 percent this year and unemployment is growing.

The festival was born in the 1800s as an expression of national awakening when the country was part of Tsarist Russia.   Continued...