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Cultural consumption of young people in Estonia
In general, the situation with cultural consumption is excellent in Estonia, when we look at event participation. The overall level of cultural consumption is remarkably high. The Eurobarometer cultural consumption index reveals that 30% of Estonians belonged to the group with a very high or high level of cultural consumption in 2013. No new data from the Eurobarometer is available, but based on the data of Statistics Estonia, the percentage of people (from age 15) participating in cultural life was 78.7% in 2017. In 2016, Triinu Lukas of the Statistics Estonia compiled an analysis that showed that Estonian residents are active culture consumers. In 2015, 84.4% of Estonian residents of at least 15 years of age were active cultural consumers, i.e. they attended at least one cultural event in the past year.
In 2017, within the youngest age group of 15-24, the most popular ways of consuming culture were visiting the cinemas (86.5%), libraries (67.6%), and concerts (59.2%). The overall preferences have remained the same compared to the data of 2015. There is a visible trend of cinemas getting more popular amongst young people (in 2015, the percentage of consumption was 82.8%). Within the age group of 25-44, the most popular cultural activities were visiting the cinemas (73.8%), concerts (58.3%), and cultural heritage (46.8). Similar to the youngest age group, the overall preferences have remained the same, and visiting the cinemas is getting more popular. Within the age group of 45-64, the most popular cultural activities were visiting the concerts (49.9%), theatres (44.0%), and cinemas (39.8%). Compared to the data of 2015, visiting cultural heritage was more popular in 2015 (58.8%), than in 2017 (38.4%). Amongst the oldest age group (65+), the most popular ways of consuming culture were visiting the concerts (32.1%), theatres (26.2%), and libraries (24.7%). Visiting cultural heritage was also more popular in 2015 (30.9%) like with the previous age group than it was in 2017 (21.1%).
The most popular ways of cultural consumption are visiting the cinemas and concerts (excluding the 65+ age group). Visiting the theatres is more popular starting from age 45. Libraries are popular amongst the age groups of 15-24 and 65+, and cultural heritage amongst age group 25-44. Also, there is a tendency that the younger the person is the more they participate in cultural activities. Compared to the data of 2015, the tendency remains the same. Within the age group of 15-24, the cultural consumption was 95.9% in 2015 and 94.5% in 2017. Within the age group of 25-44, the cultural consumption was 94.4% in 2015 and 90.9% in 2017. Within the age group of 45-64, the cultural consumption was 87.5% in 2015 and 78.5% in 2017. Within the age group of 65+, the cultural consumption was 58.6% in 2015 and 53.7% in 2017. The same tendency is brought out in the next paragraph and figures.
While the oldest age group (60+) had the largest percentage of people who had attended events in only one cultural area (14%), the youngest age group (15-19) only included 4% of people who had attended events in only one cultural area. The share of the most active persons was greatest in the youngest age group (2%) and smallest in the oldest age group (0.1%). Consequently, when younger people consume culture, they are likely to attend events in many cultural areas (see Figure 1) or more than in other age groups.
Lukas argues that the great impact of age can be explained by the Estonian context. As great social changes (such as restoration of Estonia’s independence) shake existing social values and the level of cultural consumption is linked with different values, Estonian older and younger generations have different cultural consumption habits. The younger age groups often partake in a wider scope of culture, because they tend to participate in popular culture in addition to classical high culture genres. Figure 1 provides a broad division between the generation of the period after the restoration of independence (20–29-year-olds), the generation immediately preceding it (30–49-year-olds) and the generation following it (15–19-year-olds) as well as those who have lived at least half of their lives in the closed society of the Soviet Union (at least 50-year-olds).
According to the analysis of young people time usage and cultural consumption by Kutt Kommel of Statistics Estonia (called "Noore inimese päev") in 2017, the most actively used cultural institution used by young people (15-24) is the cinema (83% of young people visit at least once a year), 72% visit libraries, 64% concerts, and 62% visited cultural heritage site. Approximately half of the young people visit the museum and theatre at least once a year. 10-14 years old spend on average 4 minutes per day on entertainment and culture, which increases to 13 minutes per day in the age group 15-24 years old. 20 minutes per day is spent on reading by younger youth (10-14) and 11 minutes by those aged 15-24. Time spent on reading has decreased compared to the year 2000, especially in the older group (decreased by 18 minutes).
Challenges to young people's cultural consumption
Based on the data of Statistics Estonia from 2013 (no newer data available), according to those young people (15-24) who have not visited a cultural institution, the most significant reason is the lack of free time. Lack of interest in both the type of offer also plays a role, especially concerning the area of museums, art exhibitions, or cultural heritage sites (See Table 1).
Table 1. The obstacles to participating in culture, 2013. Data by Statistics Estonia, compiled by the author.
(% of 15-24 years old persons, who have not visited cultural institutions by reason and type of cultural event*)
Theatre, opera, ballet or dance event
Museum, art exhibition or cultural heritage site
Other cultural events
No free time
Culture events are not interesting
No cultural institutions nearby
The offer is not interesting
Need to take care of family
Tickets are too expensive
No or bad transportation opportunities
No company to go with
There is too little information about the cultural events
*multiple reasons possible per respondent.
Young people, especially at a younger age, are dependent on their parents. The parent-related impact factors of cultural consumption among 5–14-year-old children have been analyzed by Triinu Lukas of the Statistics Estonia in 2016 (7. Sotsiaaltrendid. Social Trends). The analysis revealed that, even though children are more active participants in culture compared to adults (probably owing to school), in current Estonian society, the parents’ social background has a significant impact on the cultural consumption activity of their children. Thus, the children of parents with more cultural capital have a greater potential to attain a good life through a high level of cultural consumption activity. The strongest impact factors for children’s cultural consumption include the cultural activity of the parents, the number of children in the parent’s household, the age of the parent, and the parents' employment status. The settlement type had no impact on the level of children’s cultural consumption, which means that there is no evidence that children living in a city or a town are more active participants in culture than children living in a small town or a village. See Table 2, which summarises the results of the regression analysis of children’s cultural consumption and the respective impact factors, showing the relative significance of different characteristics of the parents’ socioeconomic background.
a Regression coefficients are significant at the 0.005 level, except in the case of the tertiary education level of a parent (p = .014), the income of household member (p =.016), and parent’s settlement type (p =.248).
Table 2 shows that the most significant is the impact of the parent's cultural activity, next is the number of children in the family, and age of the parent. In conclusion, it shows that children are much impacted by their parents' cultural behavior and if parents are active and young, there is a higher likelihood that the children also participate in culture.
The analysis shows that children’s cultural consumption was also influenced by the parent’s ethnic origin (see Figure 2). Like in the case of adults, Estonian children were more likely to be active participants in culture compared to the children of parents who identified themselves as Russians, partially because Estonians are often financially in a better position (Statistics Estonia, poverty data, 2018). As household income divided by the number of household members, or monthly income per household member, only had a limited impact on cultural consumption in children – the impact was much weaker than in the analysis concerning parents – Lukas (7. Sotsiaaltrendid. Social Trends) concludes that culture is more available to children than to their parents and the financially inferior position of Russians should not play such a great role. In addition, children have a considerably higher level of participation in culture, irrespective of ethnic origin, and there is greater equality between the observed ethnic groups in children compared to their parents.
Culture plays a huge role in Estonia's life. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, the state of Estonia shall “guarantee the preservation of the Estonian people, language, and culture through the ages”. The viability of the Estonian cultural space is the first goal set in the Sustainable Estonia 21 strategy, which guides all policy areas until the year 2030. As the main task of this strategy is to show what should be done to ensure the successful functioning of the Estonian society in the long term, it is clear that culture has a major role in the whole society, and the sustainability of the Estonian nation and culture is defined as the cornerstone of sustainable development of the state.
The cultural policy in Estonia is set in the document "The General Principles of the Cultural Policy up to 2020" (Kultuuripoliitika põhialused aastani 2020). The aim of cultural policy is to develop a society that values creativity, preserving and promoting the national identity, studying, preserving, and carrying forward the cultural memory and creating favorable conditions for developing a viable, open, and diverse cultural space and participating in culture. According to the fundamentals document of cultural policy, all residents of Estonia must be ensured with the possibility to create the culture and participate in it, regardless of their religious, social, cultural, ethnic, age, sex, or other individual special features and needs. Each cultural field (architecture, audiovisual area, digital cultural heritage, design, performance arts, literature, arts, creative industries, music, heritage protection, museums, libraries, folk culture, cultural diversity, sports) has its own legislation and concepts.
The term "digital cultural heritage" is being used in Estonia. The state administrates over 900 million culturally important heritage objects and only 1/10 is digitalized. Digitalization is seen as one of the best and in some cases the only way to ensure that the legacy is preserved in the most suitable way and made available for as many people as possible. The action plan for digitalizing cultural heritage (Kultuuripärandi digiteerimise tegevuskava) is created by the Ministry of Culture and by the year 2023, they intend to digitalize 30% of the heritage. In 2020, the project includes heritage from the Estonian National Museum, National Archives of Estonia, and Estonian Literary Museum.
- Conceptualization - understanding, what is going on in the digital culture and creating a report on that, several activities connected to events or writing articles.
- Development - creating programs, digital residency, future libraries, virtual contests, and festivals, etc.
- Implementation - digitalization of the cultural heritage, including digitalization of books into audio versions, TV shows and movies into a free online platform, online radios, etc.
- Communication - calendar for digital culture events, other means of communication of the theme year.