The Setukesen ( German also Setu or Seto; setukesisch setoq, Estonian setud ) are an ethnic minority in the border region between Russia and Estonia. They are considered by some scientists as a tribe of Estonians. From the Russians that they differ in their Finno- Ugric language, Setukesische ( seto kiil '). In contrast to the traditional Lutheran Estonians are the Setukesen mainly Orthodox faith. Today, there are estimated to have about 10,000 people who are committed to setukesischen ethnic group.

Settlement area

The Setukesen traditionally live in the historical region in southeastern Setumaa Estonia and northwestern Russia near Lake Peipus. Setumaa today comprises the counties Põlvamaa and Võrumaa in Estonia and the Pskov Oblast in Russia. The number of Setukesen is estimated in Estonia to about 10,000, of which 3,000 to 4,000 live in the southeastern Estonia. In the 2000 census, the Estonian ethnicity " Setukese " could not be specified. In the Russian census of 2002, only 197 people known to setukesischen nationality.

The people of the Setukesen historically lived in the Lake Peipsi and the rivers Piusa and Mädajõgi that formed the boundary between Livonia and Russia. The Piusa flows of several rapids interrupted by a meadow landscape to the Pihkvasee. In the Middle Ages proceeded important trade routes on land and water. Characteristic of the settlement area of ​​the Setukesen are sandy and low -yielding soils. Scenic influential are beside the numerous pine forests.

Larger farms with representative mansions as they were a major influence on the German Baltic history of Estonia and Livonia, come in Setumaa hardly ever. The land was mostly owned by the State or of the Monastery of Pechory ( German Petseri, Estonian Petseri ), which rented it at the local farmers and fishermen. Dominate in the peasant culture of Setukesen fortified, enclosed courtyards with the characteristic high wooden gates and clustered villages. They were formerly conceived as fixed systems against attacks. All the buildings are close together.

Center of the setukesischen communities were the Orthodox churches and the small village chapels ( tsässonad ). A tsässon is traditionally constructed of wood. Inside can be found next to the obligatory pictures of saints candles and flowers. On the roof of the house, a small cross is attached. Each chapel has its own guardian angel and Saints.


The Setukesen probably settled before 600 AD in what is now Setumaa. In ancient Russian chronicles the Setukesen be summarized under the term Chudes with other Finno-Ugric peoples of the region. From the early Middle Ages, Slavic tribes before urging more and more to the northeast. This led to a confusion with several ethnic groups and their imaginary worlds. The Finno- Ugric -speaking Estonians were converted from the 10th and 13th centuries to Christianity, as the Catholic Denmark and the German Order of exercising dominion over Livonia. In particular, the Catholic Diocese of Tartu with its center of Tartu put pressure on the Setukesen for a conversion to the Catholic faith.

The Setukesen who lived in the sphere of influence of Novgorod, initially remained pagans. Only in the 15th century, the Setukesen finally converted to the Orthodox faith. But they retained many pagan customs, so that the religious culture of Orthodoxy initially had only superficial. However, the contacts between Estonians and Setukesen also brought many influences of Catholicism into the setukesische culture.

The Setukesen describe themselves their situation in the border region of the two rival religious and political powers with the famous expression setukesischen Kato ilma veere pääl ( " On the border of two worlds "). From 862-1920, the majority of setukesischen settlement area belonged to the Russian Empire. On February 24, 1918 Estonia declared in the turmoil of the First World War and the Russian Revolution independent state of Russia. In the Treaty of Tartu ( Dorpat German ) Setumaa fell to Estonia. It was incorporated as a county Petserimaa in the new Estonian state association. However, the orthodox Lutheran Setumaa in Estonia was more of a cultural debris.

The first three decades of the 20th century can be called the golden age of setukesischen culture. Around 1905, the number of Setukesen probably reached its peak. In the Estonian census 1934, 15,000 people known for their setukesischen identity. Only in the 1930s exerted a Estnisierungspolitik the increasingly centralized and authoritarian developing Estonian state from growing pressure towards assimilation into the majority Estonian population.

1940 the Soviet Union occupied Estonia and led a fifty -year phase of repression, which affected all minorities in the Soviet Union. The setukesische culture subject from now on numerous restriction by the communist regime. Traditional silver jewelry in family property was expropriated. Setukesischer language instruction in schools was abolished. Setukesische farms were merged into collective farms and subjected to a planned economy. Quite a few were Setukesen during the Stalin era - deported to the Soviet interior - as well as a significant part of the Estonian population. 1944, the border between the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Russian SFSR of Moscow was redrawn. They average for the first time in the history Setumaas setukesische the settlement area. However, the Republic of boundary within the Soviet Union for the daily life of Setukesen hardly played a role.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the restoration of Estonian independence in August 1991, the Estonian-Russian border divides the traditional settlement area of ​​the Setukesen. It complicates the contacts between the Setukesen both sides of the border and access to cultural sites and cemeteries. The Republic of Estonia has recognized the demarcation of 1944 de facto. A corresponding border agreement with Russia has not yet ratified by the Russian parliament. After the accession of Estonia to the European Union, the border has become an EU and Schengen border.

Today, the cultural and political rights of Setukesen in the Republic of Estonia are fully guaranteed. The biggest challenge of setukesischen culture today are the increasing globalization and the rural exodus of the younger population, which depopulated the villages setukesischen more and more. A significant part of Setukesen lives today in the two largest Estonian cities of Tallinn and Tartu.


The Setukesen are like Estonians, Finns and Hungarians a finnougrischsprachiges people. The Setukesische belongs to the Baltic-Finnic language group. It is closely related to the (South ) Estonian, which it attributed some linguists throughout.

Estonians and Setukesesen understand each other linguistically more difficult. However, all Setukesen living in Estonia speak Estonian. In 26 Estonian schools Setukesisch or southern Estonia is taught today. However, the authorities and courts are monolingual Estonian or Russian monolingual Russian.


The Setukesen have preserved their own culture and identity today. The traditional setukesische art of singing, Leelo was included in the UNESCO list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2009. The songs passed down from generation to generation. Since 1977 there is a setukesisches Music Festival.

The setukesischen women wear especially on festive occasions such as weddings and religious festivals their colors pregnant costume. What is striking is the large silver jewelry, often in the form of coins and a tall, conical shaped breastplate ( suur SOLG ). This is worn only by married women. The jewels are inherited within the family from generation to generation. The total weight may be up to 6 kg. Also known are the hand work of the Setukesen with their traditional patterns that decorate the seams of woven belts, headscarves, scarves and traditional womens blouses ( hamõh ). Setukesische men wear the decorated with red ornaments shirts over trousers. Remarkable are the colorful and richly patterned socks.

One of the traditional village festivals ( kirmas or kirmask ) with its numerous dances and songs performances costume is worn. The village festivals usually coincide with religious festivals. In traditional setukesischen Dance ( Kargus ) men and women remain strictly separated. Traditional music instruments such as bayan and Garmon to play, sometimes the Kannel.

In Obinitsa dedicated a museum founded in 1998 the setukesischen culture. A branch opened in 1974, is located in Saatse. On the Russian side of the border there is a Seto Museum in Sigova (municipality Pankjewitza, Rajon Pskov ). It is a branch of the museum of the fortress izborsk.


Every three years, comes the Seto Congress together. It is composed of representatives of the setukesischen villages and organizations. The Seto Congress elects a 13-member Council of Elders has a rotating chairmanship, which officially represents the cultural, economic and political interests of Setukesen outward. The IX. Seto Congress was held in Värska in November 2008.

The four Estonian communities of Setumaa ( Mikitamäe, Värska, Meremäe and Misso ) are united in the Union of Municipalities of Setumaa (Estonian Setomaa Valdade Liit ). He publishes the newspaper Setomaa that appears partly in Estonian, partly in setukesischer language.

Since 1994, select the Setukesen on the kuningrii ( " UK " ), an annual feast day again in their spiritual "king" ( sootska ), which represents a symbolic cultural leader of the affairs of the community. This tradition was banned during the Soviet era and enjoys today as a festival of song and dance very popular, even among the visitors Setumaas.


Prior to the conversion to Christianity, which lasted from the 10th to the 13th century, were the Setukesen - like the other Finno- Ugric peoples - nations who supported a strong belief in nature. A great influence on the Christian penetration played founded in 1473 Russian Orthodox Monastery of Pechory.

The Setukesen are in contrast to the Evangelical Lutheran Estonian Orthodox faith. A quiet corner with Orthodox icons and sacred images ( pühasenulk ) characterize each setukesischen budget. The worship of ancestors is alive. Add to this the importance of cemeteries and ancient tombs. In traditional setukesischen imagination there is no sharp distinction between the real world and the supernatural. The ( folk) religion is an integral part of community life and the setukesischen culture.

One of the highest religious festivals of the Setukesen, Paasabar is three days annually celebrated in Obinitsa near the border with Russia. Setukesen from all over Estonia and Russia travel to do so. After an Orthodox church led a procession to the lake, is requested to the divine blessing. The following day, a memorial service will be held at the Woodland Cemetery of Obinitsa. There, eat the faithful over the graves of ancestors and leave food and drinks back.

Of special importance is the worship of pagan fertility and harvest deity Peko at the Setukesen. He is seen as a national symbol of Setukesen. After Peko also setukesische national epic is named. It was compiled by the folklorists Paulopriit Voolaine (1899-1985), of the legendary folk singer Anne setukesische Vabarna (1877-1964) was based. Vabarna had a repertoire of about 100,000 lines of verse, but could not write. A created by the Estonian sculptor Elmar Rebane monument to Vabarna stands today in the village Võpolsova (Town Värska ).