Published July 23, 2019
Võro is a Baltic Finnic language (part of the broader Uralic language family) indigenous to Estonia; it is now traditionally spoken in its heartland of Võromaa, a region in southeastern Estonia. There are also a significant number of speakers in Tartu and Tallinn, Estonia’s two largest cities. Võro is often called the ‘Ugandi language’ because the language was spread over the territory of the independent county of Ugandi until the disestablishment of the county in 1224. Võro is a descendant of the old South Estonian language and is considered by many to be the oldest of the Baltic Finnic languages. This can be seen, for example, in its retention of vowel harmony from Proto-Finnic. Among today’s Baltic Finnic languages, the Võro language has a medium number of speakers: in 2011, the Estonian census reported 75,000 who either speak or understand the language. At the moment, Võro does not have any official status. The state supports the publication of the Võro-language newspaper, Uma Leht (‘Our own paper’), but the Võro community is currently pushing for more media support from the state, along with support of the use of Võro as a language of instruction in local schools. For a fun cultural fact, in 2004 Estonia’s contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest (“Tii” by Neiokõsõ) was actually a song performed in the Võro language.