Where different cultures meet
Põlva county is culturally very diverse. The current Põlva county has been a part of the former Võru, Tartu and Petseri counties and besides Estonian, people here also speak the Võru and Seto languages or dialects. Many of the traditions, rituals, crafts, skills and construction know-how come from the old Võromaa.
The heart of Põlva county is the birthplace of Estonian song festival tradition. The first time several Estonian choirs sang together happened in 1855 and then in 1857 in Intsikurmu, Põlva. The song festival and music tradition are carried on in the Uma Pido and Harmoonika fests.
The grand old man on Estonian national movement and folk culture, Jakob Hurt, was born and lived in Põlva county and the legacy of this man is still felt in local education. Friedebert Tuglas wrote about the trails of Väike Illimar (Little Illimar, a book of autobiographic reflections of the writer as a little boy) in Ahja.
The daily living of the eastern side of the county is affected by Lake Peipsi. Many Russian elements can be sensed in its folk tradition, which comes from the Votic and Russian people living on the coastal areas for centuries. This can be seen in both village architecture and on the vast onion fields. And the locals have various beliefs – lutherans, eastern orthodox and old believers.
Heading south from the areas around Peipsi, you will find a very special kind of people - the Seto. Due to the historic location of the Setomaa, the unique culture of the Setos has been influenced by both the east and the west. This is reflected in their language, customs, foods and even traditional clothing. The unique song of the Setos deserves special attention. Their leelo is in the UNESCO cultural heritage list.
When speaking of culture, sports cannot be left out either. A well-known sports journalist Paavo Kivine has said that sports has been a culture on its own ever since the first facilities built by the ancient Greece, expanding their cultural world, were the amphitheatre and stadium. In Põlva county orienteering, skiing and football are held in high regard. And most people have heard of the handball club Serviti.