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Walking Tour Methodology

Walking Tour Methodology

Thanks to the research work and theoretical contribution of Juri Lotman and various researchers associated with the Tartu-Moscow School and the Department of Semiotics of the University of Tartu, Tartu has a strong connection with semiotics. Lotman (1922-1993) was one of the co-founders of the Tartu-Moscow school in the 60s, and his research paved the way for text modeling theories and the study of its impact on the cultural system, which culminated in the theoretical concept of the semiosphere.


A semiotic walk in Tartu is a unique learning experience, because different branches of semiotics have emerged from the University of Tartu over the past century.


By using the concept of text in a semiotic sense, it opens up more methodological possibilities for the guide to involve the participants. In Lotman's concept, the text is a network of meaningful relationships and a dialogue both within the text, between the text and the reader (receiver), and between the text and culture more broadly.

Perceiving the urban landscape as a text activates the messages and codes stored and preserved in the cultural memory and allows the participant/interpreter to use their imaginations to create their own concept of the city of the future - for example by reflecting and imagining what would help us individually and collectively to a better future, a sustainable future of Tartu.

In a broader view, this journey through the city involves learning to perceive the city as textual, which teaches to discover meanings and connections in dialogue with the cultural environment. Imagination is also a very important feature, which allows the interpreter (participant) to reflect on Tartu's past experiences, while also constructing a meaning for Tartu's future.

The semiotic approach expands the traditional roles of the guide and the listener, the cultural objects in the first place in the interpretations are not from the material side, but diverse cultural connections in certain places in historical Tartu (see the description of the stops on the tour).

Walking tour location in Tartu, Estonia. Monument for Juri Lotman.

Tour starting point (next to university library)

The methodology of the tour intertwines the branches of semiotics (e.g. cultural and spatial semiotics) educational knowledge that helps bring out different meanings and modeling systems, using various Tartu monuments, places, buildings as examples and interpreting them as a semiotic text.

Veski tanäv in Tartu, Estonia

Tour Locations


Monument to Juri Lotman, Wilhelm Struve Tänav

This stop of the tour includes the following objects: Monument of Juri Lotman at the university library, mural of "The Emperor's New Clothes" on Struve Street, and the home of Jakob von Uexküll, the founder of biosemiotics.



The second location is at Kassitoome on the slope overlooking the Cathedral and tennis courts. Here we will discuss the ecosemiotics, nature, and components related to nature-based design.


Tartu Rivik Church

The third stop is at the Cathedral ruins and the park section of Toome Hill on the north side of the church. At this location we will talk about the monuments of: Kristian Jaak Peterson, Willem Reiman, Karl Ernst von Baer, Area Morgenstierana, Lohukivi and Musumägi.

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Let's go for a walk through "the city of good thoughts"!

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