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Deliberation of protection of cultural heritage as a matter of significant national importance was held in the Riigikogu. Member of the Cultural Affairs Committee Lauri Vahtre, Chairman of the Riigikogu National Heritage Association Trivimi Velliste and Member of Academy Mart Kalm made reports.
 
Vahtre gave a thorough overview of the development of heritage conservation in Estonia through the ages. In the conclusion of his report, he summarised the protection of cultural heritage as follows: “Every effort must be made to ensure that culture lives and reproduces itself and integrates within itself also the culture of other nations represented in Estonia, like the fantastic, beautiful Russian villages on the coast of Lake Peipus or like the Old Town of Tallinn which used to be a foreign, German town but which now is part of our culture.”
 
Velliste explained that the question of the protection of cultural heritage or, more narrowly, heritage conservation, had arisen from the initiative of the Riigikogu National Heritage Association to amend the Constitution of Estonia by adding a laconic provision which would emphasise that everybody – the state, local governments as well individual citizens – is obliged to protect cultural heritage. The fact that the initiative to amend the Constitution was supported with 67 signatures is a clear indication that cultural heritage is important for us. Today’s deliberation should confirm that cultural heritage is in dare need of much greater public attention as well as clearer and more specific political and legal interpretation.
 
Velliste noted that natural environment and artificial environment are closely intertwined nowadays and there is no clear line between them. Sacred groves, cemeteries and manor parks can be under heritage conservation and under nature conservation at the same time. “Moreover, it extends even further: we are increasingly speaking about areas of cultural and environmental value, that is, communities where we are protecting not so much a single “exhibit” in the city or village landscape as indeed integral spiritual environment which is to a greater or lesser extent a human creation but which is in any case important from the standpoint of human welfare,” underlined Velliste.
 
Kalm discussed topical issues relating to the protection of cultural heritage and analysed the current situation. In Kalm’s words, heritage conservation tends to be seen as an interest of a small group and it is forgotten that it is a national interest. By designating an object as a monument, the state has declared that it is valuable and has assumed an obligation to take care of it and to help preserve it. Unfortunately, an opposite tendency is often seen in practice. We have a considerable number of monuments which are under protection. At the same time, he does not share the position that the number of monuments which are under protection should be smaller. “I think that nothing will happen if we change the attitude that if we cannot protect all monuments that are under protection and some of them are destroyed, then it is not a catastrophe,” noted Kalm.
 
In his words, fundamental research in heritage conservation needs to be increased significantly so that it would provide a basis for preparing more competent and reliable special conditions on a case by case basis. Kalm is not sure whether it is correct to do it within the framework of heritage conservation which is a supervisory body instituted by the state or whether, for example, a separate, additional foundation capital of heritage conservation should be established at the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. However, money for fundamental research must be found in the near future, said Kalm.
 
Aivar Riisalu, Paul-Eerik Rummo, Mark Soosaar, Liisa-Ly Pakosta, Maret Merisaar, Igor Gräzin and Urmas Reinsalu took the floor during the debate.
 
The Riigikogu passed with 83 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Appointment of Ivo Pilving to Office of Justice of Supreme Court” (899 OE), submitted by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, by which Ivo Pilving is appointed a justice of the Supreme Court as of 1 February 2011 instead of Julia Laffranque who has been appointed a judge of the European Court of Human Rights.
 
The sitting ended at 1.32 p.m.
 
The Riigikogu Press Service
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