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Tallinn, as a modern Northern European capital, is a destination in and of itself. However, the city’s status as 2011 European Capital of Culture grants Tallinn special significance in the international cultural context. This has undoubtedly changed the daily rhythms of the Estonian capital, making it a platform for new ideas and original creative projects for a whole year.

Now that the year is halfway through, it seems as if Tallinn has truly picked up speed, offering a wealth of routes for culture tourists. The KUMU Art Museum is offering two extensive exhibits simultaneously: Gateways: Art and Networked Culture (through September 25) and Russian Avant-Garde (through September 18). The first exhibit, on the fifth floor of the museum, extends out into the urban space thanks to electronic communications. This has provoked the public’s active participation. The second exhibit offers an excellent collection of twentieth-century Russian avant-garde art; the represented authors include such legendary classics as Pavel Filinov, Kasimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, and Isaak Brodsky.

Through October 1, Tallinn will also host the LIFT 11 Urban Installation Festival, where ten works of art arranged throughout the urban environment will each tell its own story about the city, revealing the Estonian capital from a completely different point of view. It’s possible that at times these stories might be harsh and not particularly flattering. Some of the artists’ work show the “wounds” in the urban environment, such as Timo Toots’s story about the Soodevahe communal garden neighborhood, which will be bulldozed in autumn. To its current residents, however, the neighborhood means much more than just patches of carrots and shacks for hoes and rakes. This small village, currently fated to be destroyed, has existed as a real city neighborhood, with its own infrastructure and local traditions.

“Stories of the Seashore,” which diversely reveals the essence of this coastal city, is the central motif of Tallinn’s year of culture. The city’s seashore comprises a thick chapter in the history of Tallinn, beginning in 1050, when foundations were laid for the first seaside fortress. Today, the city’s creative heart is the Põhja-Tallinn neighborhood and its center, Kalamaja.