History of Tartu    History of Estonia

A History of Tallinn, Estonia

Unlike other cities in Europe, there is little known about the early history of Tallinn. In the year 1154, the area was initially identified by a cartographer of Arab origin. However, it wasnít until 1219 that the first dependable account of the history of Tallinn was made. This account, known as The Chronicle of Latvian Henrik, described King Valdemar IIís landing of his fleet. Him and the Danes took over Tallinn and built a fortress which was located on Toompea Hill.

After their short term gain of power, the Order of the Brotherhood of the Swords was in charge of Tallinn from the year 1227 to 1238. The Brotherhood went on to invite merchants from Germany to the city. This led to the population of Tallinn remaining German for several centuries. Tallinn soon joined the Hanseatic League, a military and merchant alliance consisting of Northern European cities that were dominated by Germany.

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Tallinn, during medieval times, was a highly fortified city. The wall of the town was built during the 14th century and consisted of 66 defensive towers. An increase of construction in the town followed suit during the 15th century.

Tallinn felt the positive effects of its convenient position as a trade crossroads between Russia and Northern and Western Europe. After the Middle Ages, the residency fees of the town increased making it near impossible for native Estonians to acquire residency. The influence of the Germans continued to increase due to the Protestant Reformation that occurred during the 1500s.

In 1561, in order to avoid invasion by Russia, Tallinn agreed to surrender to the Swedes and remained under their rule for 150 years although the area was seiged by the Russians twice. During the 15th century, an epidemic destroyed large parts of the town with the Great Fire decimating even more of the city in 1684.

The Swedes gave ownership of Tallinn to Russia in the year 1710. However, the German rulers of the town continued to remain economically and culturally autonomous. Tallinn becomes increasingly industrialized throughout the 19th century and the cityís port was an important part of this growth.

In 1918, Tallinnís Independence Manifesto resulted in German occupation and almost immediate war with Russia. In 1920, a treaty was signed with Russia and Tallinn became the Estonian capital. However, after the onset of WWII, a Red Army coup caused Estonia to become a part of the USSR until Nazi Germany invaded in 1941.

Although it was bombed often by the Soviets, Tallinn retained the majority of its structure. After the Nazis retreated in 1944, the Soviets seized the town and remained there for 47 years until the Estonian Singing Revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union.

In the year 2004, the country of Estonia joined the European Union. Today, the city of Tallinn remains one of the biggest tourist hotspots in the country. The town is particularly known for its Old Town Days festival which is celebrated each year for four mid-summer days in order to celebrate the traditions of the town.


Copyright Roy Mason 2010