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Estonians referred to themselves as maarahvas ("country folk") and to a Baltic German as a saks (short for "German").The first term showed a connection to a place, while saks was used to refer to anyone with high status.Other local cultures with different dialects include the mulgid (in southern Viljandimaa), the vorukad (from Voru), and the setud (from Setumaa, currently divided by the border between Estonia and Russia).Despite local attachments, people feel that they share a common culture. Estonians account for 65 percent of the population, Russians 28 percent, and Ukrainians 2 percent.Scholarly interest grew with the founding of the Estonian Alexander School and the Estonian Writer's Society, both headed by Jakob Hurt. Inspired by the Finnish Kalevala , Friedrich Robert Faehlmann outlined and Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald completed the Estonian epic Kalevipoeg , which was published from 1857 to 1861.Other aspects of culture were adapted from earlier usages and made "more Estonian" as older traditions such as the wearing of folk clothing and singing in the traditional style declined.The middle of the nineteenth century marked the beginning of the national awakening.A small group of intellectuals played a vital role in giving the traditional culture a national meaning.
In addition to the peasant tradition of teaching children to read at home, an elementary education system was organized in the 1680s.
The most important political symbols are the horizontally striped blue, black, and white flag, symbolizing sky, earth, and virtue and hope, and the coat of arms featuring three lions.
The flag represents the nation, and its presence atop the Tall Hermann tower in Tallinn, the capital, represents national and cultural independence. Estonia was ruled by Poles, Danes, Germans, Swedes, and Russians after the thirteenth century.
The metaphor of the family is common, with a sense of belonging reinforced by a shared understanding of history and roots in rural, peasant values. The cornflower and the barn swallow are common national symbols, and stone and wood have an organic meaning for peasants struggling against nature.
The national struggle against foreign occupation is an extension of this historical fight for survival.
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Speakers of the language probably arrived in the region between 20 Until the nineteenth century, Estonian was spoken by the peasantry, and thus it is central to the national identity.