Estonia History

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History[edit | edit source]

In 1561 the Order of the Teutonic Knights was disbanded and Tallinn and the nobility of northern Estonia then submitted to the protection of the Swedish crown, and Poland gained ascendancy over southern Estonia, including Tartu. In 1680 Sweden introduced reforms in Estonia which improved the situation of the majority but embittered the nobility. In 1710 Peter the Great conquered Estonia and in 1721 it was formally annexed to Russia by the Treaty of Nystad. The Russian Tsar restored the former privileges of the nobility in Estonia.

Under Swedish rule a system for local church records was established. Consistory archives were created with ecclesiastical reforms introduced at the end of the 16th century. Disasters destroyed two-thirds of the Tallinn consistory archive in 1684 and the Saaremaa archive in 1710. Still, some parish registers dating back to the 17th century have been preserved.

The Estonian peasants were emancipated from serfdom in 1817. However, it was only as a result of agrarian reforms that began in 1849 and continued into the 1860s that a native Estonian property-owning class came into existence. An Estonian cultural revival was aided by the press and nationalist literature began to emerge at the end of the 19th century. Political movements demanding autonomy sprang up in Estonia after the Russian political turmoil of 1905. Russian rule ended with the Russian revolution of 1917 and Estonia proclaimed itself independent on February 24, 1918. Russia surrendered all claims to sovereignty by treaty on February 2, 1920. Subsequently, Estonia received international recognition and became a member of the League of Nations.

In June 1940 Soviet forces occupied Estonia and the other Baltic republics of Latvia and Lithuania. Rigged elections installed a government of Soviet-supported candidates. Estonia was occupied by German troops during World War II. As the Germans retreated from the country in late 1944, the Russian army returned. Over 60,000 Estonians fled to Sweden and Germany.

On 12 January 1949, the Soviet Council of Ministers issued a decree "on the expulsion and deportation" from Baltic states of "all kulaks and their families, the families of bandits and nationalists", and others. More than 10% of the adult Baltic population were deported or sent to Soviet labor camps.  In response to the continuing insurgency against Soviet rule, more than 20,000 Estonians were forcibly deported either to labor camps or to Siberia.  Almost all of the remaining rural households were collectivized.

After the Second World War, as part of the goal to more fully integrate Estonia into the Soviet Union, mass deportations were conducted in Estonia and the policy of encouraging Russian immigration to the country continued. The status of Estonia as a new nation was recognized by the Soviet Union in September and Estonia was accepted as a full member of the United Nations. Free elections were conducted in September 1992 to create a new legislative body.

Before restoration of independence, in 1989, the Singing Revolution, took place in a landmark demonstration of national renaissance and of aspiration towards greater independence, more than two million people formed a human chain stretching through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, called the Baltic Way. All three nations had similar experiences of military and political occupation and similar aspirations for regaining independence. The Estonian Sovereignty Declaration was issued on 16 November 1988.  A nationwide referendum on restoring national independence was held in Estonia on 3 March 1991. Estonia declared formal independence during the Soviet military coup attempt in Moscow, reconstituting the pre-1940 state. The first country to diplomatically recognize Estonia's reclaimed independence was Iceland on 22 August 1991. Soviet Union recognized the independence of Estonia on 6 September 1991.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1710 - The whole of Estonia was conquered by the Russian Empire
1941 - Soviet repressions culminated with mass deportation of around 11,000 people to Siberia
1944 - The Red Army reached the Estonian borders and tens of thousands of people, including most of the Estonian Swedes, fled westwards to avoid the new Soviet occupation
1991 - Estonia declared restoration of independence

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]