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

Tartu City Museum

The Tartu City Museum was established in 1955 for collecting, studying and displaying the objects connected with town history as well as other sources. The permanent exhibition “Dorpat. Yuryev. Tartu”, staged at the Tartu City Museum in 2001, is a museological interpretation of the history of Tartu. Also the exhibition of Tartu peace treaty of 1920 is updated to be a permanent. The museum building itself is a ...
Founded: 1790 | Location: Tartu, 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

Taali Manor

Taali manor derives its name (Staelenhof) from the family Staël von Holstein, who received the estate as a gift in the 17th century and who were the owners up until the Estonian land reform of 1919. The present-day limestone building, in neo-Renaissance style, was built in 1852 but heavily damaged during World War II. Today only about one third of the original building remains.
Founded: 1852 | Location: Taali, 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

Pärnu Kuursaal

Built in the 1880s, Kuursaal (Casino), a restaurant and musical salon, has always been an important centre of Pärnu's resort life. In summer evenings, most events have taken place outside, around the outdoor stage. The outdoor stage, designed by the city architect O. Siinmaa in 1936, was an elegant interpretation of Pärnu's "resort functionalism" in wood. As a result of the renovations carried out in 1980s, it ...
Founded: 1880's | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

Barclay de Tolly Mausoleum

The Barclay de Tolly Mausoleum commemorates one of the most famous Russian commanders who fought Napoleon in 1812 and 1813 and who culminated his triumph with a march through Paris in March 1814. His family was partially of Scottish extraction but from the 17th century had lived in what is now Latvia and Lithuania. Following the Russian conquest of Finland in 1809, he was the first governor-general there until 1812. J&ot ...
Founded: 1823 | Location: Helme, Estonia

Viljandi Museum

The museum of Viljandi exhibits the history of Viljandimaa from prehistoric times to Soviet era. The museum was established in 1878 and it is located to the oldest stone building in the city, built by J. J. Schoeler in 1780.
Founded: 1878 | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Vihula Manor

Vihula Manor complex is one of the largest and most and significant in Estonia. It belonged to von Schubert family between 1810-1919. Most of the over 20 buildings date back to the 19th century. The main building was constructed in 1892 to replace the earlier one destroyed by fire. Today Vihula Manor provides luxurious accommodation in historical manor buildings. There is also a spa, conference center and golf courses av ...
Founded: 1892 | Location: Vihula, Estonia

Ahja Manor

The manor of Ahja was first mentioned in 1553. The current two-storey, Baroque style main building was erected in 1749 by Guillemot de Villebois. Later, the manor belonged to the von Lipharts, von Löwis of Menars and von Brasches. In 1929-97, the building housed a local school. About a kilometre from the manor's centre is a chapel (with a beautiful Neo-Renaissance portal) and family graveyard of the von Brasche&# ...
Founded: 1749 | Location: Ahja, Estonia

Viimsi Manor

Viimsi Manor, which was established by St. Brigitta Nunnery of Pirita, was first mentioned in 1471 as Wiems. After the Great Northern War the manor had multiple owners, among those the Stenbock, Buxhoeveden, Maydell and Schottländer families. The one-storey stone-made house got its present shape after the fire of 1865. After the dispossession in 1919 the manor was gifted to the Commander-in-chief of the Estonian Arm ...
Founded: 1865 | Location: Viimsi, Estonia

Järvamaa Museum

Järvamaa Museum was found in 1905. The former veterinary clinic in Paide Lembitu park was adjusted for museum building in 1950s. The permanent exhibition about the county was opened in 1956. Nowadays museum still functions in the same building. You can visit Järvamaa museum in Paide from Tuesday till Saturday. Reference: Visit Estonia
Founded: 1905 | Location: Paide, Estonia

Kabala Manor

Kabala (Kabbal) became an independent manorial estate in 1638. It has belonged to several different Baltic German families. The present house was erected around 1770 when Hans Georg von Uexküll was the landowner, in a late baroque style. Later on, the estate belonged to the von Lipharts and von Vietinghoffs, with the latter established their burial site and Neo-Gothic funeral chapel (in ruins ...
Founded: ca. 1770 | Location: Kabala, Estonia

St. John's Church

The St. John’s (Jaani) church in Valga is one of the most beautiful churches in Estonia. The construction started in 1787, but it was not completed until 1816. The church represents Baroque and Classicism styles. It was built according to the design of architect Christoph Haberland and it is the only church in Estonia with an oval ground plan. The unique organ has been preserved in its original shape and it is the o ...
Founded: 1787-1816 | Location: Valga, Estonia

Pärnu Museum

Pärnu Museum exhibits the 11,000 years of Pärnu City and County history from the mid-Stone Age through the present. There's also a recreated Soviet-furnished room to remind of the more recent past.
Founded: 1895 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

Ammende Villa

Villa Ammende is one of the best examples of early art nouveau style in Estonia. The grand villa with a large garden was built in 1905 and belonged to the Ammende merchant family. The façades and interiors of the house were abundant, rich in detail and diverse, but also very stylish. The family went bankrupt after the First World War and the villa was sold to Pärnu City. The house has been used as a summer cas ...
Founded: 1905 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

Kirna Manor

The Kirna estate was given as a gift to the von Fersen family in 1614 and remained in the ownership for over a hundred years. After 1787, it belonged to various Baltic German and Russian families from the nobility. After 1919 it was used as a school up until World War II. During the Soviet occupation of Estonia, the manor housed the offices of a collective farm. Today it stands in private ownership and is used for it's en ...
Founded: ca. 1820 | Location: Kirna, Estonia

Saku Manor

The Manor of Saku village was originally founded in the Middle Ages, first record date back to the year 1513. The manor house itself was constructed in 1820 and it is among the best examples of classicistic architecture in Estonia. It is believed that the building was designed by Carlo Rossi - one of the most famous architects of the period. The renewed Saku Manor was opened in 2002 as a recreational and conference centr ...
Founded: 1820 | Location: Saku, Estonia

Rapla Church

The Lutheran church of Mary Magdalene was built in 1899-1901. The huge two-tower church is one of the biggest in Estonia. The limestone building can accommodate 3,000 people. It tThe New Roman style building was designed by Baltic German architect Rudolf von Engelhardt. The altar wall (1737) is moved from the previous church. The altarpiece is painted by C. Walter in 1862.
Founded: 1899-1901 | Location: Rapla, Estonia

Räpina Church

The present church of Räpinä is probably the third, earlier have been destroyed in wars. The current late Baroque style church was built in 1785. Interior values of the church include an altar painting by Carl Antropoff, painted in 1871 and consisting of two parts: The Entombment of Jesus and Jesus reveals himself to Mary Magdalene.
Founded: 1785 | Location: Räpina, 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

Sagadi Manor

Sagadi Manor had owned by the von Fock family from the year 1687 to 1922. The current main main building was completed in 1753 and enlarged in 1793. It is one of the rare Rococo-style buildings in Estonia. The manor house, annexes and the surrounding park have been restored. Today Sagadi hosts a manor museum (the interior has been also carefully restored and refurnished), forestry museum, park and hotel.
Founded: 1753 | Location: Vihula, 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

Saue Manor

The beautiful Saue Manor complex is one of the best examples of Estonian early classicistic architecture. The first known owner of Saue Manor was Remmert von Scharenberg from Westfaal, who received right of investiture from queen Margaret of Denmark. Before moving to Saue the would-be manor owner was the bailiff of Narva in 1528 - 1532, and hold a position in Tallinn commandery in the years 1534 - 1549. Apart from his pro ...
Founded: 1792 | Location: Saue, Estonia

Räpina Manor

The Räpina (a.k.a Sillapää) manor, established in 1582, has belonged to the Oxenstjerns, the von Wrangells, the von Löwenwoldes, the von Richters and the von Sivers. The Classicist main building, established in the 1830s, is still there but has been rebuilt a little bit in the 20th century. Today, the museum is located on the manor grounds. The mill, established in the first half or in the middle of th ...
Founded: 1836-1847 | Location: Räpina, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.