Valts Ernštreits, Head of the University of Latvia Livonian Institute, has received the Ilmapuu (World Tree) Award from the Kindred Peoples’ Programme of the Ministry of Education and Research of the Republic of Estonia. The award was established in 2010 and is granted annually to one representative of Finno-Ugric indigenous peoples for active citizenship. Ernštreits’ activity is closely linked to the identity of folk culture and its conservation efforts; without his active work and inspiring role it would not be possible to speak of the living Finno-Ugric folk culture and its elite expressions in art and science.
This year’s award is particularly important, as a total of 26 nominees were named, including Mari, Komi, Mordovian, Khanty, Udmurt, Karelian, Izhorian, Veps and Livonian cultural and social figures. Candidates included many deserving linguists, comprising researchers, schoolteachers, museum employees, journalists and also Finno-Ugric activists.
The long-term social actions of the Livonian linguist and cultural worker Valts Ernštreits (Livonian: Valt Ernštreit) in promoting the Livonian language and culture has been diverse and extremely successful. For decades he has researched and developed the Livonian written language, studied Livonian language and its connection with Latvian, the more recent Livonian history, literature, place names, created modern electronic resources for the preservation and development of the language and culture, as well as organized the acquisition of the Livonian language and culture. He has involved colleagues from Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain and other countries in the research of the Livonian language, history and culture and its popularization, as a result of which knowledge about Livonians, their language and history has spread far beyond the European borders.
In 1994, with the initiative from V. Ernštreits, the organisation Līvõ Kultūr sidām (Livonian Cultural Centre) was established, which is one of the main institutions that has been engaged in the study of Livonian heritage and the development of modern Livonian culture since its foundation. In 2018, with Ernštreits’ active participation, the University of Latvia Livonian Institute was established, which is the first scientific institution whose focus is on the research of Livonians and their heritage.
V. Ernštreits has expressed his personal connection with the Livonian language, culture and people in his poetry (written in Livonian), including the collection “Trillium / Trilium” (Triliums; 2018), which received the Annual Latvian Literature Award in 2019, and the collection (published in Great Britain) “People like us / Seļļizt nemē mēg” (Tādi kā mēs; 2019).