More detailed report: National Policy Report

National coordinator: Helle SOLNASK


Estonia had 26 475 monuments under state protection (2018). Of those 13 088 are immovable monuments, 13 393 movable monuments and 12 heritage protection areas. These include 6701 archaeological monuments (settlement sites, burial sites, offering stones, sacred groves, wrecked ships, etc.), 5275 built monuments (buildings, bridges, manor parks), 1269 historical monuments (places linked to significant people or historical events, War of Independence memorials, cemeteries, etc.), and a large number of artistic monuments – 13325 in total. 50 monuments are listed as industrial heritage, 12 as heritage protection areas and 4 are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Protection of cultural heritage is concentrated on single objects as well as whole areas – ensembles of houses, town quarters and settlements. To protect the environment the government has established 12 heritage conservation areas which include the historic town centres of Tallinn, Tartu, Narva, Kuressaare, Pärnu, Valga, Võru, Viljandi, Paide, Rakvere and Lihula. Rebala heritage conservation area is protected because of its valuable cultural and archaeological landscape. In 2018, Estonia actively participates in the European Year of Cultural Heritage.



Ministry of Culture

The overall responsibility for heritage lies with the Ministry of Culture. Monuments and sites of historical, architectural and archaeological value are protected by the Heritage Conservation Act (2011). The objective of the act is to ensure that monuments, sites and heritage conservation areas are preserved in their traditional environment. To preserve cultural heritage, monuments and conservation areas are promoted, protected, and governed by various legal acts. An independent Heritage Conservation Council is the statutory adviser to the Ministry of Culture on heritage conservation policies.

National Heritage Board

It is the state body charged with heritage legislation, protection and conservation activities. Its tasks include supervision, advice for the owners of monuments, support for renovation, and maintenance of the national cultural heritage registry. The National Heritage Board is represented in every 15counties. Major towns, such as Tallinn, Tartu, Narva, Viljandi have contracted heritage specialists to fulfil heritage conservation obligations in their territories.

Six Expert Councils provide advice to the National Heritage Board in the fields of archaeology, built heritage, landscape architecture, art monuments, historic natural sacred sites and musical instruments.

Information on monuments and protected sites is available on the National Registry of Cultural Monuments web registry or from local heritage specialists of NHB.

Other institutions

Various heritage NGOs are actively involved in preserving and maintaining cultural heritage in Estonia as for instance the Estonian Heritage Society which brings together several organizations like the Union of Estonian Archaeologists or the Society of Estonian Archivists.

Information Centres of Sustainable Renovation in Tallinn, Tartu and Paide as well as Centre of Rural Architecture that operates at the Estonian Open Air Museum offer consultations, training and practical workshops for owners of historical buildings. Private heritage organisations include also the Estonian Manor Association, whose members promote and introduce historic manor ensembles in Estonia; the Society of Schools in Manor Houses, Union of Estonian Restorers, Union of Estonian Conservators and a number of community societies.

Restoration of cultural monuments is financed by private owners, local governments and the state. The Ministry of Culture has financed the study and preservation (incl. maintenance) of rural architecture and landscapes, following the development plan “Rural architecture and landscapes”, and conducted the state programme of preserving sanctuaries and sacred natural sites (2014-2018).

A number of programmes have been launched to study and preserve underwater heritage:

  • Baltic History Beneath Surface: Underwater Heritage Trails In Situ and Online (BALTACAR),
  • Baltic Sea Region Integrated Maritime Cultural Heritage Management (BalticRIM),
  • Mapping, documenting and evaluating risks of environmentally dangerous wrecks.

Education to heritage specialists is provided at:

  • Estonian Art Academy, department of heritage and conservation. Estonian Art Academy conducts also refresher courses for specialists in heritage conservation and restoration.
  • University of Tartu, departments of archaeology and archival studies.
  • University of Tallinn, departments of history and archaeology



List of main national legislation:



Estonia has joined a number of international conventions, the principles of which form the foundation of heritage conservation work:

  • The Hague Convention on protection of cultural heritage in case of armed conflict, 1954. (ratified in 1995)
  • The UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of cultural Property, 1970. (ratified in 1995)
  • The Hague Convention on the protection of cultural heritage in case of armed conflict, second protocol, 1999 (Estonia ratified on 24.12.2004)
  • The Unesco Convention on the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972. ratified in 1995)
  • Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Archaeological Heritage, 1992. (ratified in 1996)
  • Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Architectural Heritage, 1985. (ratified in 1996).
  • II Protocol of the Hague Convention on Protection of cultural Heritage in case of Armed Conflict, 1999 (ratified in 2004)
  • UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Paris 2003. (approved in 2006)
  • UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Paris 2005. (approved in 2006).

Currently, preparations are ongoing to join the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, and Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro, 2005)

Estonia participates in the work of the following organizations and institutions:

  • Council of Europe
  • ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites)
  • ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property)
  • Europa Nostra – pan-European association of voluntary heritage conservation organisations. In addition to recognizing exemplary work in conservation, restoration, education and awareness raising, Estonia participates actively also in the Europa Nostra programme “7 Most Endangered”.
  • DOCOMOMO (Working Party for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) – an international network to record and protect 20th-century architecture.
  • EAC (Europae Archaeologiae Consilium) – an international organisation to unite the state institutions (authorities, inspectorates, agencies, and directorates) of European countries, which handle the protection of archaeological heritage.
  • EAA (European Archaeological Association)
  • ASCE (Association of Significant Cemeteries of Europe)
  • European Heritage Days
  • Association of Significanr Cemeteries in Europa (ASCE)
  • The Baltic Initiative and Network of Cold War Sites