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Honored for their contributions to our local community (l. to r.) Lia Grüner, Gunnar Ellam, Silvi and Mati Otsmaa, Saima Kint, Silver Stoltsen, and Ingrid Echter. Not pictured, Rutt and Armas Sootaru. Photo: M. Bartling


Estonians in the San Francisco Bay Area joined in the celebration of EV100 on Saturday, February 24, with an evening commemoration, dinner, and party billed as “EV by the Bay.” More than 200 Estonians and friends of Estonia of every generation gathered to celebrate this milestone together at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, California.


In only its second performance, the Bay Area’s new Estonian choir kicked off the evening with renditions of “Tuljak” and “Ta lendab mesipuu poole.” After the anthems were sung, Andrus Viirg of Enterprise Estonia Silicon Valley and Mai-Liis Bartling of the San Francisco Estonian Society welcomed attendees to an evening of celebration.


Ain Indermitte read to the crowd from the “Manifest kõigile Eestimaa rahvastele (Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia, or the Estonian Declaration of Independence),” which a hundred years earlier on February 24, 1918, was printed and distributed in Tallinn. This document gave voice to the will of the Estonian people for self-governance and self-determination, and it is an important declaration of the events we commemorate and celebrate this year.


Humorist Andy Valvur was master of ceremonies for the evening, who along with Estonia’s Honorary Consul for Silicon Valley and Northern California, Richard Horning, led the room in a toast to Estonia’s independence. Richard Horning presented a proclamation from San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell, declaring February 24 to be Estonian-American Friendship and Heritage Day in San Francisco. Attendees then heard from our distinguished featured speaker, Dr. Lauri Mälksoo, professor of international law at the University of Tartu and current fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. Dr. Mälksoo reflected on “100 aastat Eesti Vabariiki: mida see tähendab meile.” While in the Bay Area, Dr. Mälksoo recorded an episode of Rainer Sternfeld’s podcast “Globaalsed Eestlased” on the topic of nation-states, the internet age, and international law in the 21st century. This episode is now available online, in the Estonian language. Dr. Mälksoo will also be a keynote speaker at the conference of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies at Stanford University in June. 


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Dr. Lauri Mälksoo and Rainer Sternfeld. Photo: T. Viitas


Before the program ended, we took the opportunity of EV100 to reflect on our own Estonian community in the Bay Area, where Estonians are reported to have been present since the Gold Rush, and honored those who have contributed exceptionally to our community. We were proud to recognize the efforts of Rutt and Armas Sootaru, Lia Grüner and her late husband Peeter, Gunnar Ellam, Mati and Silvi Otsmaa, Saima Kint, Silver Stoltsen, and Ingrid Echter. At different times, all have been the driving forces behind organizations such as the San Francisco Estonian Society, the former San Francisco Estonian Lutheran Congregation, the children’s school, and the West Coast Estonian Days -- and in some cases, several of the above. They, along with many others, have helped continue a vibrant thread of Estonian life in the Bay Area. 


Then it was time to celebrate, and we enjoyed a buffet dinner of Estonian favorites, followed by a cake based on the winning recipe of the EV100 cake contest in Estonia, with farmer’s cheese and cloudberry jam. Guests had the chance to catch up with old friends, network, and enjoy each others’ company. 


“EV100 by the Bay” was cohosted by the San Francisco Estonian Society, Enterprise Estonia Silicon Valley, and Korp Vironia Lääneranniku Koondis. The evening was supported by the Estonian American National Council, and we thank them for their support. Additional thanks to 2 Towns Ciderhouse. 


The San Francisco Estonian Society plans to continue celebrating EV100 this year. Next on our calendar is an evening of theater and music on April 28, featuring a staging of the tragicomic play "Garderoobikaaslased," followed by a concert that celebrates EV100 from Toomas Lunge and Jaan Elgula of Justament, including music well known from the time of the Singing Revolution.


For more details, follow us on Facebook at Eesti by the Bay, or send an e-mail ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) to join our mailing list.


Linnea Bartling,

San Francisco Estonian Society


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