In December 2005 Raivo Palmaru the cultural minister of Estonia confirmed the 4 year governmental programme of Setu culture with a total budget of about 1.4 million euros. Collecting and preserving oral cultural heritage and fostering cultural studies are the key points in this programme. Also learning Setu language and cultural history in schools, publishing books, study-books etc in Setu language is supported. Introducing Setu identity outside of Setumaa and developing a positive image of Setumaa through the media is considered crucial. Through this programme the contemporary Setu culture (literature, theatre, art, film etc) is supported as well. Adult education will play a big role in strengthening the Setu community as a whole.
A regional development programme has also been launched which gives a total of 1 million euros over three years for attracting new investments into the region to enliven the economy, realize innovative ideas, developing collaboration over the borders with Russia and Latvia etc.
The largest sums have been granted for road management. From 2006 – 2009 about 7.5 million euros will be invested into a new road network.
The state also pays a compensation to Setu families that decide to move from Russia to the Estonian side.
Developing the Setu Community
The surest way to preserve a cultural heritage is definitely an active Setu community. The most remarkable initiative in this area is the Setu Congress which meets every three years and has a permanent board of directors. The union of municipalities has a also played a big role. Unfortunately the work of other citizen associations is weaker. The NGO sustainability index of the US International Fellow agency (USAID) for Setumaa is only 2.8 out of possible 5. The Estonian average is not much higher – 3.1. Although in the past three years the Setu citizen associations’ level of activity has increased 0.5 points against the 0.3 of Estonian average. In 2003 the popularity of citizen associations in Setumaa was 1.8 but in 2005 already 3.1. The infrastructure of the associations has a rather high level – 3.3 (Estonian average 3.2)
Nevertheless many problems remain to be solved. Adult educators in this region say that it is difficult to better one’s life quality through learning. The key sentence of adult education is “Don’t give the hungry a fish but a fishing-rod”. By fishing-rod they mean a profession. But in Setumaa several practical questions are asked regarding this statement: can I get to the lake with this rod? Are there fishing-places available at the lake? Is there fish in the lake? Namely in South-East Estonia distances are long between places and people lack means of transport which may mean that after learning a new profession they may not be able to reach the new work-place. Or one may even make it to the work-place but it is already occupied by the more active workers. And sometimes one gets a job but the wages are so low that it does not pay to go to work. Etc.
Hopefully with the help of governmental culture, regional and road-building programs and the growing citizen awareness of the Setu people these problems will soon be resolved.