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 Previous historical period: Part of the Swedish Empire (1561-1721) | Next historical period: The Independent Republic (1919-1940)

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Trencín Castle

Trenčín Castle is relatively large renovated castle, towering on a steep limestone cliff directly above the city of Trenčín. It is a dominant feature not only of Trenčín, but also of the entire Považie region. The castle is a national monument.

History of the castle cliff dates back to the Roman Empire, what is proved by the inscription on the castle cliff proclaiming the victory of Roman legion against Germans in the year 179.

Today’s castle was probably built on the hill-fort. The first proven building on the hill was the Great Moravian rotunda from the 9th century and later there was a stone residential tower, which served to protect the Kingdom of Hungary and the western border. In the late 13th century the castle became a property of Palatine Matúš Csák, who became Mr. of Váh and Tatras.

Matúš Csák of Trenčín built a tower, still known as Matthew’s, which is a dominant determinant of the whole building.