University of Tartu award for contribution to Estonian national identity given to Arvo Valton
On 1 December at the ceremony of the 96th anniversary of the national university, the University of Tartu award for contribution to Estonian national identity was presented to writer and poet, screenwriter and playwright, translator and publisher, inspired nationalist and keeper of the tribal peoples Arvo Valton.
Arvo Valton is an exceptionally prolific and unique author whose works include nearly 70 original books and numerous translations. He has been a key figure in renewing Estonian prose since the 1960s and 70s. He has been considered the leading short story master in Estonian literature, but his novels and miniatures are equally noteworthy.
Arvo Valton’s writings have been uncompromisingly Estonian- minded, which earned him the reputation of a literary dissident during the Soviet era. His works have been translated into more than 40 languages. In 2014, his collected works were published in 24 volumes.
“As a cultural figure, Arvo Valton is among heroes. He deserves the symbolic capital of the national identity in more ways than one, but understandably first and foremost as the creator of national culture,” said member of the committee of the award for contribution to Estonian national identity, UT Professor of Estonian Literature Arne Merilai.
His contribution to Estonian film art is also significant. Merilai gives an example: “What other piece has influenced the common awareness of today’s Estonians more than the best Estonian film of all times, “The Last Relic” (“Viimne reliikvia”) for which he wrote the screenplay.”
The committee gave special credit for Arvo Valton’s work for the tribal peoples: translating and introducing the literature of Finno-Ugric peoples, enlivening the literary life of Finno-Ugric peoples, encouraging Finno-Ugric literary peoples to value, develop and maintain their written national language. “Valton has become the heart of the tribal movement of Finno Ugric peoples. He edits bilingual series, which introduce the poetry and prose of Finno-Ugric peoples, the attempts at epics as well as modern day thoughts. This preserves the spirit of small peoples and reinvigorates their endangered self-awareness,” said Merilai.
Rector of the University of Tartu Professor Volli Kalm recognised Arvo Valton’s responsible and patriotic activity in maintaining and developing Estonian culture, Estonian national culture, in teaching students and protecting the cultures of tribal peoples. “It is an outstanding expression of national identity which we wish to recognise with the award for contribution to Estonian national identity,” added Kalm.
Arvo Valton has been acknowledged for his literary and Finno-Ugric work with the French Order of Arts and Letters, the title Honoured Arts Worker of the Udmurt Republic and the badge of honour of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug. In 2014, Valton was awarded the prize of the Estonian National Culture Foundation.