It is the region on the Baltic that extended up to Lake Peipus and included the Livonia Governorate. The inhabitants, since ancient times, were never united with each other, but lived separated in many small units. And this allowed neighboring countries to invade it with relative ease.
The first to arrive were the Germans towards the end of the XII century and then the Teutonic religious order of the “Porta Spada”, which had imposed the task of Christianizing all the Balkan populations. See Countryaah for population and country facts about Estonia.
In 1998 the population consisted of 65.2% Estonians, 28.1% Russians, 2.5% Ukrainians, 1.5% Belarusians, 0.9% Finns and 1.8% members of other nationalities. Citizens are only those Estonians who were Estonian citizens before June 16, 1940 (the occupation of Estonia by Soviet troops), and their descendants. Others must apply for Estonian citizenship, then stay in the country for at least two years and take a language test. After 1990, the roughly 500,000 Russians who remained in the country saw each otherincreasingly exposed to reprisals. Ethnic tensions particularly arose in the northeastern parts of the country around the cities of Kohtla-Järve and Narva, which are mainly inhabited by Russians, and in the capital Tallinn. In recent years, the Estonian government has tried to relax relations with the Russian ethnic group.
Since 1990 there has been a negative population development, which is due to both the emigration of Russian population groups and falling birth rates. Estonia is the least densely populated Baltic state. Due to the rural exodus that has been going on for years, it has a high degree of urbanization with 74% urban population. The south and west of the country, especially the islands, are sparsely populated. Smaller charming towns can be found along the Baltic Sea coast.
The largest cities are – after Tallinn – Tartu (German: Dorpat), Narva, Kohtla-Järve and Pärnu (Pernau). The school system is traditionally well developed. There is a nine-year compulsory education. In addition to the Estonian Academy of Sciences, there is a university (founded in 1632) in Tartu and eight other universities.
The taking over of Livonia by the Germans occurred immediately at the beginning of the thirteenth century. In 1201 they founded the city of Riga.
For twenty years the Estonians fought to free themselves from this dominion, but the Germans sprang up because they could also count on the help of the Danes who in 1219 landed in the northern part of Estonia founding the city of Reval. In 1224 the country’s submission was completed and in 1227 the island of Osel was also conquered. In addition to losing their independence, Estonians were also forced to embrace the Christian religion. The living conditions imposed were very harsh; the people had to pay heavy tributes to the conquerors until, especially in the north, they rebelled against the invaders but then suffered great repressions, in particular from the cruel Danes. These then sold all their local properties to the Germans who, thus, became the absolute masters of the country, complete with Livonia and Estonia.
German rule ended in 1558 when they were defeated in the Livonian wars by Tsar Ivan IV. Three years later another occupation suffered Estonia by Sweden which also joined Livonia, already in possession of Poland.
Swedish rule also continued in the 17th century with a well-defined agenda. It was necessary to take care of the interests of rural populations and to diminish the privileges of nobles, especially those of Germany. The farmers were able to enjoy some facilities such as that of being able to apply to the state courts for any eventuality. At the same time the government took over the landed property of the nobility.
In 1710 the Russian conquest began and in 1721 Sweden was forced to abandon the country with the Treaty of Nystadt. The eighteenth century came with an ever increasing influence in the country of the German barons. The living conditions of the people became truly poor.
From 1816 to 1819, during the reign of Alexander I, serfdom was abolished and the farmers of Estonia and Livonia were at least free. But they certainly did not improve their economic conditions since the fruit of their work always remained, for the most part, to the nobility. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that peasants were able to get hold of the land and therefore freely dispose of it. Equally tough was the struggle to acquire education. First the Germans had no interest that the people could enjoy it and then the Russians did not allow it to be applied as one of their main purposes was to Russify the whole country. Fortunately there were some scholars who took it upon themselves to collect all the poems, poems, legends and so on, so that the small and large works of Estonian writers could be passed on to future generations. The first national newspaper was also called, which was called “Perno Postimees”.
In 1858, the first revolt of Estonian peasants against the Russians occurred near Tallin. Of course it was suffocated and others that followed. But the Estonians were never tamed, even if they had to endure all the miseries imposed on them by the reactionary government of Alexander III.
The Estonian people, all united in the struggle for freedom, began to obtain the first successes with the conquest of the municipal administrations in the most important centers, such as Tallin.
This was facilitated by the fact that in that period, it was 1905, Russia was engaged in the war against Japan and the German-Baltic nobles, predicting a future fall of the Tsarist regime, sided with Estonia.
When Russia entered the war against Germany in 1914, the nobles all sided with the Russian side. On July 14, 1917, when the National Council of Estonia was able to effectively take over the administration of the country, the first step towards independence was certainly taken.
Meanwhile, in Russia the Bolsheviks assumed power and in this they had been helped by thousands of Estonian communists who demanded, immediately, to immediately reduce the activity of the National Council and asked for the extension of the Soviet dictatorship also to their country.