Wilde in Tartu
The first question most people ask when they see the phrase “Wilde in Tartu” is “how could it be?” Then when they hear more, they ask, “how could a statue of Oscar Wilde end up in a prominent location in the center of Tartu?” Well, hold on to your hat, it is quite a story. But we might start by setting the record straight, there is no record that Oscar Wilde ever came to Tartu. But as you will see, this rather misses the point.
While Oscar Wilde had no connection to Tartu while he lived, the name “Wilde” has a rather strong connection to the city now. This connection got started some years ago when an energetic Irish entrepreneur (and now owner of the Wilde Guest Apartments) had the idea of opening a pub called “The Wilde Irish Pub”. Why Wilde? It was a brilliant stroke. Estonians are justly proud of the Estonian writer, Eduard Wilde, who lived around the same time as Oscar Wilde. Using the name “Wilde” produced a wonderful play on words, making Estonians feel at home at the new gathering place while opening up an international and more specifically, Irish link. And of course, who would not want to go to a “wild” pub? For a number of reasons, naming included, the pub was a great hit. And the Wilde era in Tartu began.
People very quickly became used to the idea that Wilde and Tartu were connected. Interestingly enough, the nature of that connection also started to evolve. Wilde in Tartu was not just about having a pint. It was also about the good life here, especially about our hopes for the future. This led to talk about commissioning a work of art that gave concrete expression to the link between Oscar Wilde, Eduard Wilde and Tartu. The project gathered momentum and was realized with strong backing from the Tartu City Government and with contributions from many residents (both Estonians and foreigners living in Tartu). By the way, you can find a plaque on the wall in the entrance to the Wilde Locale with the names of the donors.
Many things have happened since then and there are many more stories to tell about Wilde in Tartu. But for now, we might note that the pub is still there (but now emphasizing the Eduard Wilde part of the two Wildes story), the statue is still there (and is one of the most photographed places in Tartu) and the Wilde Guest Apartments community is justly proud to celebrate the story.
More about the Two Wildes Statue
Just off the corner of Vallikravi and Ülikooli Streets intersect you will see a bronze statue of two figures chatting on a park bench. They are Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde. Just how did this come to be there? Here is a link to the story, offered by one of the persons who was involved in the effort to place the statue there.