Võru smoke sauna habits get UNESCO credit

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As applied by Estonia, Võrumaa chimneyless «smoke sauna» traditions have been entered into UNESCO intangible heritage list. Such saunas along with the indigenous Võru life and culture are vital for the community and worthy to be passed on to future generation, says culture ministry. 

«For us the Võru folks smoke sauna is a place where both body and soul get clean. The heating of it, the ‘whipping’, the health benefits of it, is part and parcel of how the village life is lived. Also related to the sauna is the knowhow of how to build one, the making of the wood, the smoking of meat,» said Eda Veeroja, housewife at Mooska farmstead in Haanjamaa.

For the locals, being in UNESCO list means a lot. According to Võru Institute head Rainer Kuuba, the locals are a rarity in the world as to the language and cultural heritage.  

«The UNESCO recognition helps keep the unique smoke sauna tradition alive,» said Mr Kuuba. The initiative by Võro people to get the smoke sauna «listed» dates back to 2009.

UNESCO intangible heritage list is aimed at introducing knowledge, skills, traditions and customs passed from generation to generation, still deemed important today by communities and kept alive with perseverance. Up to now, Estonia was represented by Kihnu cultural space, the «leelo» singing among Setos, and the song and dance celebration tradition as shared with Latvia and Lithuania.

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