The area of southern Estonia known as Mulgimaa has its own unique mix of different languages, dialects, cultural traditions, folk customs, dress, and cuisine. Visitors can discover a rich cultural life, an exciting history, stunning scenery, and the strong identity of the Mulks. Additionally, Mulgimaa has been named the Finno-Ugric Capital of Culture of 2021 giving travellers some great reason to visit.
Mulgimaa is a cultural and historical region, rather than a specific parish or county of Estonia. Geographically, it includes Viljandi County and the northwest part of Valga County. The core of historic Mulgimaa and the area where the Mulgi dialect is spoken consists of the parishes of Halliste, Paistu, Karksi, Helme, and Tarvastu. In addition to a unique culture, in Mulgimaa you can hear the distinct dialect used there. So even if you do speak a bit of Estonian, the further south you go the more difficult it is to make out the local language.
Without any county or parish boundaries, how do you when you've arrived in Mulgimaa? Just take a look around. As soon as you start noticing the wooden sculptures with traditional clothing of a black caftan with a red border, you'll know you're in Mulgimaa.
A Bit of Mulgimaa History
The Mulks (called mulgid in Estonia) have a history in the region going back centuries. In fact, the people have been there so long that no one is certain where the name mulk/mulgi comes from, although linguists' theories including tracing the origin to Latvian and even Arabic.
Located in the south of Estonia, the Mulgimaa region has some of the most fertile land in the country. As a result, farmers in the region have been well-off for a while. This also led to an economic boom during the US Civil War when exported linens became rare and the Mulks could fill in the gap. Due to this huge rise in trade, people from Mulgimaa were often able to provide their children with a better education. With higher education, the Mulks were often included in the nation's intellectual class that actively took part in shaping Estonian culture.