Evelyn Sepp: Turkey is In!

World premiere of Arvo Pärt’s new work in Istanbul on Monday evening was uplifting. An audience of c. 1300 in Aya İrini (Hagia Eirene), the oldest Christian church in Istanbul, today a museum that serves as a concert hall. The concert is sold out. Unusual storm and driving rain behind the more than 1600 years old walls, warm humidity and a hall packed to the full. Unbelievably cheerful and energetic hero of the day Arvo Pärt himself and huge expectation. Naturally the people of Capital of Culture Istanbul 2010 and Tallinn 2011 are present, and also the representatives of political elite from here and there, and the Presidents of Estonia and Turkey. Speeches are held

Arvo Pärt receives the Lifetime Achievement Award of Istanbul International Music Festival personally from the President of Turkey, and all this in its awkwardness and translation is so moving. At the beginning of Pärt’s simple and meaningful acceptance speech, a lonely dove who cannot find a place for itself or its way out into the storm, strays under the high cupola of the church.

What a symbolism... And all this together creates a real mystery. Adam’s Lament in an ancient city of the world, in softly islamising Turkey has suddenly become the highlight of the programme of the Capital of Culture Istanbul 2010, and the reason or pretext for the largest cultural landing of Estonians to this country.

Pärt came, saw, conquered, and Turkey, especially the part of it that is not represented by the kebab kiosks culture, is suddenly unbelievably popular.

At least my heart is shouting with joy because I recall I have told so many unbelievers here in Estonia that you only had to be ready to accept it, and you could see this is what most of Turkey is like: elitist, deep, intellectual – that is, offering a lot culturally.

For a long time I have not shed so many tears of movement, although inwardly, than on that evening.

For me, this event has such a long background and so many layers, and let’s say it was not just another beautiful concert...

I know many people both here in Turkey and at home in Estonia who have worked for years in the name of this day, and it should also be said that the idea of Estonian Culture Days with its highlight does not originate from the offices in Tallinn, but right here in Istanbul. Behind it are the people from TELLFA, who are connected with Estonia through more than ten years of different cultural and educational projects and naturally many friends. After Istanbul had been nominated the Capital of Culture and Tallinn had also won its title, there was a really functioning organisational bridge to enable that idea to become reality. And stone by stone, day by day it did become reality...

I would like to thank all the people who were connected with this project. Vahur, Märt, Aivo, Sule, Mrs Alpaslan, ministers of culture and foreign affairs, Mikko and all people from the Capital of Culture, and also the political elite of Estonia both up at Toompea and downtown, who supported this “cultural landing”. And the creators who gave us the unforgettable experience that enchanted us.

On the one hand, it is one of the most important cultural events not only in Europe but maybe on a much wider scale, but certainly it is the best diplomatic soft power Estonia and also Turkey have gained from such cooperation over a long time. And let us admit it – Estonia and Turkey have never before had such relations as now, although we have had good relations ever since the diplomatic relations were established in 1924.

And now all we have to do is to use this jointly collected capital of relations wisely and carry the cooperation of the two states to the next level, and a possible step for that could be the opening of Tallinn-Istanbul direct air service the airlines have been planning for years...

As the chairperson of Estonia-Turkey Parliamentary Group of the Riigikogu, the Parliament of the Republic of Estonia, I am
sincerely happy about all that has been said above. It may be that no other parliamentary group or initiative has enjoyed such attention and political support of the people of Estonia.

Culture opens the doors and paves the way, and it has always been so if there are people who are able to appreciate it. Turkey is able and I hope Estonia will also in the future have the wisdom it has acquired up to now.

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