Part of the Russian Empire

History of Estonia between 1722 - 1918

Sweden's defeat by Russia in the Great Northern War resulted in the Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia in 1710, confirmed by the Treaty of Nystad in 1721, and Russian rule was then imposed on what later became modern Estonia. Nonetheless, the legal system, Lutheran church, local and town governments, and education remained mostly German until the late 19th century and partially until 1918.

By 1819, the Baltic provinces were the first in the Russian empire in which serfdom was abolished, the largely autonomous nobility allowing the peasants to own their own land or move to the cities. These moves created the economic foundation for the coming to life of the local national identity and culture as Estonia was caught in a current of national awakening that began sweeping through Europe in the mid-19th century.

The Estophile enlightenment period (1750–1840)

Educated German immigrants and local Baltic Germans in Estonia, educated at German universities, introduced Enlightenment ideas of rational thinking, ideas that propagated freedom of thinking and brotherhood and equality. The French Revolution provided a powerful motive for the enlightened local upper class to create literature for the peasantry. The freeing of the peasantry from serfdom on the nobles' estates in 1816 in Southern Estonia: Governorate of Livonia and 1819 in Northern Estonia: Governorate of Estonia by Alexander I of Russia gave rise to a debate as to the future fate of the former enslaved peoples. Although Baltic Germans by and large regarded the future of the Estonians as being a fusion with the Baltic Germans, the Estophile educated class admired the ancient culture of the Estonians and their era of freedom before the conquests by Danes and Germans in the 13th century. The Estophile Enlightenment Period formed the transition from religious Estonian literature to newspapers written in Estonian for the mass public.

National awakening

A cultural movement sprang forth to adopt the use of Estonian as the language of instruction in schools, all-Estonian song festivals were held regularly after 1869, and a national literature in Estonian developed. "Kalevipoeg", Estonia's national epic, was published in 1861 in both Estonian and German.

1889 marked the beginning of the central government-sponsored policy of Russification. The impact of this was that many of the Baltic German legal institutions were either abolished or had to do their work in Russian – a good example of this is the University of Tartu.

As the Russian Revolution of 1905 swept through Estonia, the Estonians called for freedom of the press and assembly, for universal franchise, and for national autonomy. Estonian gains were minimal, but the tense stability that prevailed between 1905 and 1917 allowed Estonians to advance the aspiration of national statehood.

Reference: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1722 and 1918 in Estonia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in Tallinn. It is built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Tallinn's largest and grandest orthodox cupola cathedral. It is dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevsky who in 1242 won the Battle of the Ice on Lake Pe ...
Founded: 1894-1900 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Swedish St. Michael's Church

This small church on Rüütli street has been the spiritual home for generations of Estonian Swedes, an ethnic group that's been present in Tallinn since the Middle Ages. The location had originally been an almshouse for the city's poor, but in 1733 the tsarist government gave it to the Swedish congregation, which been left without its own church since the Great Northern War. During Soviet times the bui ...
Founded: 1733 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

The church, with its twin bell towers and copper dome, was designed by St. Petersburg court architect Luigi Rusca and built in 1820-27. The main iconostasis is from the 19th century and the older ones in aisles from the turn of 17th and 18th centuries. Today the church is used by the Russian Orthodox Parish of Tallinn.
Founded: 1820-1827 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Freedom Square

The Freedom Square ("Vabaduse väljak") is the main square of Tallinn and also the site of the War of Independence Victory Column. The square has had several names during history. The five-meter monument to Peter the Great was erected there by the Russian empire in 1910 and the square was named after him. After the Estonian independence in 1922 the statue was melted and recycled and the square named as the Freedom S ...
Founded: 1910 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Patarei Prison

In 1828 Nicholas I of Russia mandated the building of the sea fortress of Patarei. Completed in 1840, it is located on area of 4 hectares (10 acres). Over the years it has had different functions. Since 1867 Patarei functioned as barracks and in 1920 it was moved as a prison. It housed inmates until 2004, and has been left virtually untouched since. Visitors can explore the hallways to see cells, work areas, exercise yard ...
Founded: 1828-1840 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Uspensky Orthodox Church

Uspensky Church, which forms a uniform complex with a long priest house on the northern side, was built in 1783 and belongs to the early classical period. Uspensky Church is located in the same place as the St. Mary- Magdalena's Church of a Dominican monastery founded before 1300. The details of the building are typical of Russian early classicism. The interior of the church is relatively modest in terms of architect ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Kaarli Church

The Kaarli Church (or Charles XI’s Church) was built between 1862-1882 to replace the original Kaarli Church, itself founded in 1670 on the order of Sweden's King Charles XI. Like many wooden structures located outside the city wall, the first Kaarli Church burned down during the Great Northern War in the early 1700s. Architect Otto Pius Hippius from St. Petersburg built the present limestone church using a spe ...
Founded: 1862-1882 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Püssirohukelder

In 1763 Russian Empress Catherine II ordered to fortify Tartu again. It was decided to build a gunpowder magazine (Püssirohukelder) in the former city moat. The responsibility of the building was assigned to Field-Marshal General de Villebois. His engineers started to build magazine in 1768. The bricks are brought from the old Mary Church (about where the University Main Building is now) and the ruins of the bishop s ...
Founded: 1768-1778 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Angel's Bridge

The Angel’s Bridge, located on Toome hill, was built in the 19th century and spans Lossi Street. The writing on the bridge, “otium reficit vires“ (rest restores strength), invites one to use Toome hill as a place of rejuvenation. The bridge, designed by J.W. Krause, was built in 1814-1816 and replaced an earlier temporary bridge. The bridge was thoroughly renovated in 1913, at which time a bust-portrait ...
Founded: 1814-1816 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

St. Elizabeth's Lutheran Church

The Lutheran church named after Empress Elizabethis one of the most significant Baroque-style churches in Estonia. It was built betweenn 1744-1747 under the guidance of J. H. Güterbock from Riga. The neo-gothic pulpit and altar were made in 1850; the altarpiece (“Resurrection”) dating from 1854 was completed in Van der Kann’s workshop in Rotterdam. In 1893, the wooden building of the oldest theatre of the town (K ...
Founded: 1744-1747 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

Pärnu Town Hall

The Town Hall is actually a whole quarter. Its oldest building, the merchant's house, was built in 1797. In 1806 it served as an accommodation for the Russian Czar Alexander I during his visit to Pärnu. Legend has, that in 1819, on the command of the Czar, the merchant's house was turned into the house of the commandant of the town. Since 1839, the building was used as Town Hall. In 1911 it acquired an Art N ...
Founded: 1797 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

Russalka Memorial

The Russalka Memorial is a bronze monument sculpted by Amandus Adamson, erected on 7 September 1902 in Kadriorg, Tallinn, to mark the ninth anniversary of the sinking of the Russian warship Rusalka, or Mermaid, which sank en route to Finland in 1893. The monument depicts an angel holding an Orthodox cross towards the assumed direction of the shipwreck. The model for the angel was the sculptor's housekeeper Juliana Rootsi, ...
Founded: 1902 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Church Of The Congregation Of Maria Magdalena

The Orthodox Maria Magdalena Church was built in 1847-1852 by the unknown architect. Russian Tsar Alexander II attended the opening of the church in 1852. The church was restored to its present state only a few years ago. The church is open on Sundays from 9 am to noon.
Founded: 1852 | Location: Haapsalu, Estonia

St. Catherine's Church

St. Catherine’s Church was built for the Pärnu garrison in 1768 to replace the wooden church erected in 1752. It was named after Empress Catherine II, who travelled through Pärnu in 1764. As designed by architect P. Jegorov, St. Catherine’s Church is the one of the richest and most stylish examples of a baroque style in Estonia.
Founded: 1768 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

St. Simeon's and St. Anne's Church

The wooden Orthodox church was built in 1752-1755 on the initiative of Russian sailors. St. Simeon's is the second Orthodox church to have sprung up as part of the suburban building boom that followed the Great Northern War. The building was seriously damaged during the Soviet period, when it was turned into a sports hall. During this time it also lost its bell tower and onion dome. Fortunately the church was restore ...
Founded: 1752-1755 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

The Knighthood Building

The Knighthood Building was built by von Dellingshausen at the end of the 18th Century and today, it accommodates the County Government of Saaremaa. At the beginning of the 19th Century, the house belonged to the Nobility of Saaremaa, then in 1912, to the Noblemen's club. The County Government of Saaremaa bought the house in 1920. The foundation of the building is symmetrical, with a high socle floor. The façade is propo ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Kuressaare, Estonia

Keila-Joa Manor

There has been a manor house on the site of Keila-Joa manor (Schloss Fall) since the 17th century. The present manor house was built in 1831-1833 and designed by St. Petersburg architect Andrei Stackenschneider. The manor represents one of the earliest examples of neo-Gothic architecture in Estonia. It was built for the family of count Alexander von Benckendorff (whose graves can be found in the p ...
Founded: 1831-1833 | Location: Keila-Joa, Estonia

Maarjamäe Palace

Maarjamäe or Orlov’s Palace was commissioned by Count Anatoli Orlov-Davydov from St. Petersburg. The historicist limestone summer residence on the seashore was designed by architect Robert Gödicke. In the 1930s the building housed a magnificent restaurant – the Riviera Palace. In 1937 the Estonian Air force Flying School obtained the building, the Soviet Army took over in 1940. The restored palace op ...
Founded: 1874 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

The Church of St. Nicholas with its two cupolas represents the late Classicism building style. It was completed in 1790 to replace the earlier wooden church. Interior is very bare with iconostasis made in 1700-1800s.
Founded: 1790 | Location: Kuressaare, Estonia

The Church of Virgin Mary

A beautifully proportioned neo-Historical red- brick Roman Catholic church (architect Wilhelm Scilling) was completed in 1899 and consecrated as Sinless Virgin Mary's Secret of Faith Church. The main altar was placed in the church 1904. Altar painting "Virgin Mary with Jesus" was painted by Ernst Friedrich von Liphardt. In 1934, a new modern organ was installed. In 1935, a large crucifix carved of linden was placed a ...
Founded: 1899 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Heimtali Manor

The Heimtali manor was established in the 16th century, but was rebuilt in a more impressive style during the time it belonged to Peter Reinhold von Sivers in the 1850s. The historic main building is now used as a school. The turreted cheese dairy (sometimes incorrectly thought to be a vodka distillery) was completed in 1858 and reminds one of a medieval stronghold. It was restored in the 1980s for holding different event ...
Founded: 1855 | Location: Pärsti, Estonia

Palmse Manor

Palmse is probably the most grandiose and well-known manor in Estonia. It was originally established by the Cistercian convent of Tallinn, but owned by von der Pahlen family over two centuries, from 1676 to 1922. The mansion is one of the few Swedish main houses and its building was started under the design stewardship of Jakob Stael von Holstein in 1679. The present form of the building stems from rebuilding in 1782 to ...
Founded: 1782-1785 | Location: Vihula, Estonia

Roosna-Alliku Manor

The Roosna-Alliku Manor was donated to von Rosen family in 1620 by Christina, Queen of Sweden. The coat of arms of family features a white rose, which has become the symbol of the manor. In 1721 it was acquired by von Stackelbergs. The present main building is one of the most impressive examples of early classical manor architecture in Estonia, completed by Otto Friedrich von Stackelberg in 1786. Worthiest of attention in ...
Founded: 1786 | Location: Roosna-Alliku, Estonia

Oru Palace Ruins

Oru Palace was a palace or castle in the northeastern part of Toila. The castle was originally the holiday home of a Russian merchant, Grigory Jelisejev, and later the summer residence of the Estonian head of state. It was built in the Italian renaissance style by Gavril Baranovski, with park designer Georg Kuphaldt. The 57-room three-story building was completed in 1899. The castle descends towards th ...
Founded: 1899 | Location: Toila, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.