Seto Kingdom Day

The Seto Kingdom Day, which takes place in the first of week August of every year marks one the significant events for the Seto community in Estonia. Setos are a Finno-ugric community situated on the southern eastern borders of Estonia and Russia, a region south of lake Peipsi .

For the former Chief Herald of the Seto Community Rein Järvelill, the Seto Kingdom Day brings the community together and builds their self-confidence. During the Kingdom Day members of the Seto community from Estonia and Russia (who live in the Pechory district) come together to elect – ülembsootska – the chief herald who represents the Seto folklore legend Peko. Since 1994, the Seto community has been organizing the event based on a similar event organized by Forest Finns Republic in Norway.

During the Seto Kingdom day, an idea of borders is established. For the visitors and those who don’t have Seto traditional costume are charged a fee for the “visas on arrival”. This event of choosing the representative of Peko, brings the Seto community from either sides of the border together. The contenders, first announce their platform and at least one leelo choir has to support them. While the contenders stand on a stump, a long rope is draw out for each of them. The supporters then hold the rope that belongs to their respective choice of contenders. The one who garners the most support is announced as the next representative of Peko. The newly elected ülembsootska is greeted by a ceremonial parade of various Seto representative units – cultural diplomats, folk dance groups, and a military unit among others. During the event the culture and traditions are kept alive through the traditional signing, local food and their home made spirit ‘handsa’. To an outside visitor it gives a glimpse into their cultural practices. As Rein Järvelill explained, for the Setos the “first point is making identity stronger and give people self confidence is the my aim of this festival. Fake arms and fake kingdoms, and fake money and fake kings are main reason. Of course we’re happy people outside of the community taking this all like to just big fun and big festival, let them take this way. But for our community in the first place this is to unite us” .