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The Society of Estonian Literati is a literary and cultural society which was founded in Viljandi and operated in Tartu in 1872–1893. The idea to create the society came up at a schoolmasters’ conference in Viljandi in June 1868. Carl Robert Jakobson, who believed that Estonia needed a literary undertaking, may be considered to be the driving force pushing for the foundation of the society. Thus, the organisation was tasked with raising the cultural level of the people of Estonia through Estonian-language literature since the very beginning. Furthermore, the purposes of the society are specified in section 2 of the statutes as follows: publishing books, handing out awards, organising research trips, communicating with other similar societies, and establishing a library and a museum.
The first meeting of the Society of Estonian Literati took places in the hall of the Shwalbe Guest House in Viljandi on 25 February 1872. The meeting was attended by those members who had signed the statutes. Jakob Hurt, the author of the document which was presented at the meeting, became the first president of the society.