Heritage conservation

In the Republic of Estonia, heritage conservation is organised by the Ministry of Culture, the National Heritage Board and rural municipality and city governments.

The National Heritage Board is a governmental authority that operates in the area of government of the Ministry of Culture. The objective of the National Heritage Board is to value cultural heritage and culturally valuable environments and ensure their preservation. For this purpose, the organisation is carrying out surveillance, counselling the owners of monuments, provides support for renovation, and maintains the national registry cultural monuments.

As at 2016, there are over 26,500 monuments in Estonia.

The monuments include more than 6,600 archaeological monuments (ancient settlements, burial grounds, places of worship, fields and iron melting sites, shipwrecks, etc.), over 5,260 architectural monuments (buildings, bridges, manor parks, etc.), around 1,270 historical monuments (locations connected to important people or historical events, memorials to the Estonian War of Independence, cemeteries, etc.). Artistic monuments are the greatest in number – there are more than 13,400 of these (the majority of these artistic monuments are church items, but they also include monuments, pieces of fine arts, etc.).

More information about the National Heritage Board is available on their webpage.

National registry of cultural monuments

The database of the national registry of cultural monuments contains free information on all monuments under state protection in Estonia (their condition, photos, descriptions, references to archival materials, etc.). Monuments can be searched for by monument type, name, registry number, address or cadastral units.

Coordination of projects

All works performed on monuments and in heritage conservation areas (except for repair works) must be coordinated with the National Heritage Board. When larger-scale works are performed (such as roof replacement, façade works, excavation works, etc.), the respective projects must be coordinated with the National Heritage Board. Only undertakings with the respective activity licence that are publicly listed in the national registry of cultural monuments may perform projects and works on monuments and in heritage conservation areas. The requirements for project documentation must be followed when drafting and submitting projects.

Applying for support from the state budget

Owners or possessors of monuments may electronically apply for support via the national registry of cultural monuments to maintain monuments, including to install a surveillance and alarm system, as well as to conserve or restore monuments or to create the optimum conditions for their preservation.

Issue of activity licences

The National Heritage Board issues activity licences that grant the right to draft conservation and restoration plans of monuments and structures located within heritage conservation areas as well as to compile special conditions for heritage conservation, perform studies and exercise heritage conservation supervision, and conserve and restore monuments. The National Heritage Board coordinates projects and issues licences that permit the holder to conserve and restore monuments, perform studies that alter monuments, search for things of cultural value with a search device, dive to underwater monuments as well as to export and take things of cultural value out of the country.

Heritage conservation in rural municipality or city governments

In the six largest cities, the city government performs duties of the state in heritage conservation on the basis of a contract under public law: in Tallinn (the Heritage Conservation Office of the City of Tallinn Urban Planning Department), Tartu (the Cultural Goods Service of the Tartu City Government), Haapsalu, Narva, Viljandi, and Pärnu. This means that the respective local government departments are the first to coordinate projects, issue approvals to commence works, and give advice about issues related to monuments. If need be, one may also address any questions directly to the National Heritage Board.

The Heritage Conservation Advisory Panel

The Heritage Conservation Advisory Panel operates under the Ministry of Culture as an advisory body. The Heritage Conservation Advisory Panel makes proposals and expresses opinions concerning all issues arising from the Heritage Conservation Act. The opinions of the Advisory Panel constitute the recommended basis for the National Heritage Board and local governments in the planning of heritage conservation work and the elaboration of heritage conservation principles.

Voluntary activities in heritage conservation

The Estonian Heritage Conservation Society (EHCS) operates as a public and non-profit association with no affiliations to any political parties. Its core tasks are to raise the profile of cultural heritage, the involvement of all people interested in heritage conservation, and to strengthen the attachment of the general public to their homeland and their awareness as citizens. The EHCS links more than 50 societies, clubs, or associations that are involved in voluntary studies and conservation of historical and cultural heritage all over the country. The society has around one thousand active members.

In addition, Sustainable Renovation Information Centres are operational in the larger cities. The centres provide professional information as well as materials and tools for repair and renovation of historical buildings in a dignified manner.

Last amended: 29-02-2016 00:00 | Compiled by: National Heritage Board; Ministry of Culture