Throughout the centuries, Danes, Germans,
Swedes and Russians have changed as rulers in Estonia.
In 1918, the country succeeded in becoming independent,
but freedom was short-lived. In 1940, the country was
occupied by the Soviet Union, 1941 by Germany and 1944
again by the Soviet Union. Subsequently, Estonia was
incorporated as a sub-republic of the Soviet Union with
severe political repression.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Estonia, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The area's first inhabitants were semi-nomads, who
lived by hunting and fishing. At the time of the birth
of Christ, the land was cultivated. Thereafter, metal
and ceramic crafts were developed and during the Viking
era the trade flourished. Estonian Vikings are said to
have destroyed Sigtuna in Sweden in 1187.
From the end of the 1100s, Estonia's political
history was dominated by foreign powers' struggle for
control of trade and trade routes in the Northern
Baltic. At the beginning of the 13th century, the
Estonian country was divided between Danes in the north
and German crusaders and sword knights in the south.
Just over a century later, after a major Estonian
uprising, the Danes sold their land holdings to the
German words. The Germans became sole lords over Livland,
a state formation that encompassed all of present-day
Estonia and northern Latvia.
Tallinn grew up around a Danish-built castle on
Toompea (Domberget). The Germans named the city Reval
and joined it with the Hanseatic League. Reval was
dominated during the Middle Ages by German and
Scandinavian traders and craftsmen, while the Estonian
rural population became viable peasants under German
Swedish influence is followed by Russian
Livland had received its first Christian bishop in
1186. The Reformation reached Estonian territory in the
early 1520s and the Estonians were converted to Lutheran
doctrine. The German regime weakened and ceased after
the Russian tsar Ivan IV's attack in 1558. Then followed
the Swedish power holdings. During decades of wars
between Russians, Swedes, Poles and Danes, the
population declined sharply.
Sweden underwent ever greater parts of the country
and in 1645 also the island of Saaremaa (Ösel). However,
communities with Swedish-speaking populations had
existed in the coastal regions of northwestern Estonia
since the 13th century. Sweden took advantage of the
area for importing food, but the conditions of livestock
farmers improved towards the end of the Swedish era. The
judiciary was reformed, and village schools, colleges
and printing houses were set up. In 1632, King Gustav II
Adolf founded the University of Tartu (Dorpat).
The great Nordic war at the beginning of the 18th
century, with Sweden's defeat to Russia at Poltava, led
to Swedish power being pushed away from the Baltic. The
Estonians came under Russian supremacy at the peace in
Nystad in 1721, but the Baltic German nobility continued
to rule locally. The conditions of the commonwealth
deteriorated and total life traits were introduced.
During the latter part of the 19th century, a
national consciousness emerged among the Estonians,
aimed at both the nobility and the Russian regime. The
national movement had its center in Tartu, where the
first singer's party was held in 1869. At the end of the
century, a regular refreshment of administration,
schooling and church was carried out.
Estonia becomes independent
When the tsarism fell in 1917, Estonia set itself
free from Russia. Reval became Tallinn and Dorpat became
Tartu. The Declaration of Independence on February 24,
1918 was followed by the German occupation, which,
however, ended with the German collapse of the First
World War in November of that year.
After a successful war of freedom against Bolshevik
Russia and a German release, Estonia was able to make
peace in Tartu in 1920, where Russia recognized
Estonia's independence and renounced all claims on
Estonian territory for "eternal time". Estonia gained a
democratic constitution, carried out radical land reform
and raised the level of education.
In the first elections Parliament was given a clear
left-wing stamp, but the political center of gravity was
later shifted to the right. The Communist Party, with
the support of the Soviet Union, made a failed coup
attempt in Tallinn in 1924. The party was banned but
participated in later elections under different names.
At the end of the 1920s, the crisis in the world
economy, the exposed state of Estonia near the Soviet
Union and the recurring government crises of a fascist
colored movement, emboldened the Freedom Wars (Vapsid).
These propelled an authoritatively embattled
constitution in 1933. With the pretext of wanting to
protect democracy, the acting president, "the Reverend
Elder" Constantine Päts, decided to dissolve parliament,
quell the opposition and introduce press censorship.
Päts himself ended the dictatorship by paving the way
for a new democratic constitution that came into force
Under Soviet - and Nazi - oppression
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939,
Estonia declared itself neutral, but by then Germany and
the Soviet Union had just signed a non-assault treaty,
the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In a secret supplementary
protocol, Eastern Europe had been divided into a German
and a Soviet sphere of interest, whereby Estonia ended
up in the Soviet. In the autumn of 1939, Estonia was
forced to enter into a defense agreement with the Soviet
Union and to provide areas for Soviet military bases.
In June 1940, the Moscow regime accused Estonia of
preparing, together with Latvia and Lithuania, a
military attack on the Soviet Union. Moscow demanded
that the government of Tallinn be replaced by a
Soviet-friendly ministry, which also happened. The
Soviet military marched in, a railroad election was held
in July and Estonia formally joined the Soviet Union in
Thus, a long-standing political repression began.
Esther was deported to Siberia, among others. In June
1941, more than 10,000 people were arrested and removed.
One week after the deportations, Hitler invaded the
Baltic. The Soviet army was driven to the east and
Estonia ended up under Nazi occupation. This meant that
the Jews of the country were exterminated. In 1944,
Estonia was taken back by the Soviet Union.