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Foto: Toomas Huik, 1994

Travelling exhibition ‘Ready! 1991! Go!’ in Kuressaare

The joint exhibition of eight Estonian museums ‘Ready! 1991! Go!’ will focus on the 30th anniversary of the restoration of independence of the Republic of Estonia. We reminisce about the turbulent 90s, find out what issues have been topical over the three decades, and find out whether Estonians’ dreams of that time came true

On 20 August 2021, the Republic of Estonia will have been independent once again for 30 years. Never before has our country had its independence for such a long consecutive period. At the time, no one knew whether the skilful use of the opportunity to restore Estonia’s national independence that had arrived was something irreversible or simply a moment. Estonia’s regaining of independence and the process of building its own state cannot be defined by a single date and a single event; instead, it is the result of consistent policy and action guided by the civil society that emerged.

How did people in different parts of Estonia perceive the changes? New political and economic circumstances required adaptation. In many areas, the Union-wide companies that had provided jobs closed down, while border zones also disappeared and closed towns were opened. At that time, people’s hopes, dreams, but also fears were connected with the great unknown – the Republic of Estonia, which had restored its independence. It was not yet known what, if any, difficulties had to be overcome in order to cope with the new and changing society. On the other hand, it was also a time of high hopes. After all, everyone had their own dream Republic of Estonia, or in other words, everyone expected independence to give birth to their ideal state.

The exhibition ‘Ready! 1991! Go!’ seeks to bring to the audience the expectations and hopes of different places in Estonia, and to answer the question of how much of what was hoped for in 1991 has come true 30 years later. At the travelling exhibition, we focus on the perspective of the individual and of the local community. We examine the local conditions and mood of the time, using the examples of people in Kuressaare, Rakvere, Valga, Narva, Tartu and Tallinn. We find out if people’s satisfaction with life has changed over the years and how do they currently look back on the circumstance of the time.
A history lab analysing all these topics will be housed in a 12-metre sea container, providing an opportunity to exhibit video footage of conversations with local people and offer an engaging visitor experience. The lab will analyse the events that local communities considered the most important during the years of the restoration of statehood and examine how they related to official policies. Through the stories of people from different backgrounds, it gives an insight into the expectations of communities of the time and whether they were fulfilled.

On its way, the travelling exhibition will pass through Tallinn, Rakvere, Jõhvi, Narva, Tartu, Valga and Kuressaare. The accompanying educational activities appreciate the location and are essential for current communities to make sense of the history of the site. Each site hosts a one-day history festival. The history lab will also help generations who were not directly involved in the events to understand the story of rebirth of the Republic of Estonia and its future development.

The project involves: Estonian History Museum, Saaremaa Museum, Virumaa Museums, Tartu City Museum, Valga Museum, Narva Museum, Pärnu Museum and Jõhvi Museum.

Kuressaare main square