Mulgi Kultuuri Instituut
Leerimaja, Kulla küla, Mulgi vald,
69509 Viljandi maakond
The Estonian regional identity is still based on parishes. Our whole older cultural layer (dialects, folklore, material culture, etc.) is divided by parishes.
Mulgimaa includes five parishes: Halliste, Helme, Karksi, Tarvastu and Paistu.
Ethnographically, a parish was a relatively hermetic ethnic unit, where thanks to independence and marriages inside the community old traditions, dialect, clothing, and other local cultural heritage was preserved. The people of the parish are characterized by close kinship relations, people usually found a partner inside the same parish, or from the neighbouring parish (Saaga).
All our folk songs and national costumes originate from different parishes. Even nowadays people are buried in parish cemeteries.
Marking historical cultural areas strengthens the regional identity of Estonians and thereby also contributes to conservation of indigenous settlements in different regions.
Today, the concept of parish has become a mere historical-cultural term. For example, the Estonian language dialects, folklore and folk costumes are divided by parishes, because many modern time parishes were formed in the historical areas of parishes.
Until the peasants were freed from serfdom at the beginning of 19th century, a parish as a joint church congregation was the basic territorial unit wherein peasants formed their community and communicated closely with each other.
Peasants (especially women) very rarely got a chance to go outside of the parish. Therefore, the parish as such had an essential role in the development of the internal structure of folk culture as well as local dialect. Parish is also used as a basic unit in the studies of Estonian folk culture and dialects. Parish is the main territorial unit in the studies of Estonian language, folklore and ethnography.
The area of parish courts, parish schools and in Southern Estonia also parish convents (as local governing offices) usually overlapped with the parish territory.