The Eesti Riiklik Nukuteater (Estonian State Puppet Theatre, later renamed Estonian State Puppet and Youth Theatre) was founded in 1952. The theatre building is located in the Old Town of Tallinn and has four halls: the Main Hall (620 seats), the Small Hall (200 seats), the Oval Hall (80 seats), and the Middle Hall (50 seats). Since 2007, the theatre has also been performing in Köismäe Tower, a unique venue located in the Tallinn city wall that dates back to the 14th century.
Since 2000, Meelis Pai has held the position of Managing Director of the theatre, with Vahur Keller as the Artistic Director since 2011. The theatre, which started traditionally with puppeteers hidden behind a screen, has rapidly developed into a venue that is open to various experiments. The repertoire consists of plays aimed mostly at children and families, combining puppetry and drama elements, masks, shadows, etc. The last half-decade has witnessed a growth in musical productions and various experimental projects. The theatre company has also set itself the goal of staging puppet performances for adults as well as youth.
The Estonian State Puppet and Youth Theatre has participated in many regional and international festivals and won various awards. Since 2007, the theatre has organized the Tallinn Treff Festival, an interdisciplinary festival of performing arts for puppetry and visual theatre professionals and students from all over the world.
In 2010, the Museum and the Centre for Puppet Arts was opened in the neighbouring building, uniting a puppet museum, puppetry research centre, puppet-making workshops, and the theatre. The Estonian office of UNIMA is also located in the building. Since 2011, the president of UNIMA Estonia is Vahur Keller.
In 2010, the organization combined all of its activities under the title NUKU (“puppet” in Estonian) in order to give a common name to the complex including the theatre, museum and puppetry research facilities.
In 2011, the Northern and Eastern European Centre for Puppet Arts was founded on the premises of NUKU.