2016 / People / Culture

Transfiguration Day - A day in Setuuma

  • Photographer
    daniela silvestri
  • Agency / Studio
    Wsp photography

In the far south-east of Estonia there is the politically unrecognized area of Setumaa, that crosses the border with Russia. Its native people, the Setu. Setu are of Finno-Ugric origin and has an Estonian-Russian joint culture. In Estonia the Setu are approximately 4000 (3000 others are in Russia). They were never completely assimiliated to Russian culture, and over the centuries have preserved their language and their traditions. Now their culture is undergoing a slow and sad process of extinction. The center of Setu culture is the small village of Obinitsa, where many activities are carried out to try to pass on language and traditions even to the younger generation. One of the most important is the Transfiguration day which is celebrated every 19 August. Hundreds of Setu flock from neighboring countries and participate in the procession from the church to the graveyard and ends with a collective picnic and the deposition of the food on the graves of the dead. The day after the religious festival follows a small party in one of the villages that is to gather together in front of a campfire and sing songs typical of the region. In this region the Orthodox tradition has fostered a strong sense of community and sharing, although the Setu villages architecturally present the structure of small fortresses, with houses facing one another, often surrounded by fences.