EARLY HISTORY

Ancestors of present day Estonians speaking Finno-Ugric language were living in this land already three thousands years before Christ. Therefore, Estonians could be considered as one of the oldest stationary peoples in Europe.

EARLY HISTORY

GERMAN & DANISH PERIOD

Estonia’s strategic position between the Western Europe and Russia was appealing to the wealthy German merchants and the fact that by the end of the 12th century Estonia was one of the few European countries that was still pagan, the Danish and German crusaders had a good excuse for conquering the country by bringing Christianity to Estonia.

The German nobility created an upper class and brought their knowledge and connections to Estonia. In the 14th century, several Estonian cities become members of the prominent medieval Hanseatic League that unified wealthy trading cities and merchant guilds in the Northern Europe and contributed to the fast development of the country.

The prosperity was ended by Livonian war that broke out in the middle of the 16th century when Estonia became a battlefield between Russia, Poland, Sweden and Denmark and ended with the victory of Sweden, Denmark and Poland, who divided the country between them.

SWEDISH & RUSSIAN PERIOD

For the next centuries, Estonia was under Swedish rule that ended in 1710 when Estonia was conquered by the Russians during the Great Northern War and becomes part of the Russian empire for 200 years. 

The Russian tsars, who had tented for centuries to gain access to the Baltic Sea, finally achieved their target. They also wished to give Russia a more European face and took this Baltic province as an example to other parts of the empire. The Baltic-German nobility who was still the ruling class in Estonia, gained great influence in St Petersburg, the new Russian capital that was built very close to Estonia, just 150 km from Estonian border.  

Around 1816 when the serfdom was abolished, Estonians began to see themselves as one nation and the Estonian national intelligentsia was gradually formed and started to protest against the suppression of the local people. Russian tsarist government responded to this national self-awareness with policies of russification. However, the seed had already been planted and the Estonians were not ready to give up their dream of finally becoming a free nation.

INDEPENDENCE & SOVIET OCCUPATION

Grazie alla situazione politica della Prima Guerra Mondiale e alla rivoluzione russa del 1905, l’Estonia ebbe finalmente l’occasione per dichiararsi indipendente. Il Comitato di Salvezza Estone, preseduto da Konstantin Päts , che in seguito sarebbe diventato presidente dal Paese, promulgò il manifesto dell’Indipendenza il 24 febbraio del 1918.

Questo primo periodo di indipendenza sfortunatamente durò soltanto vent’anni, perché la Seconda Guerra Mondiale sconvolse l’Europa. Un protocollo segreto firmato dalla Germania e dall’Unione Sovietica, noto come patto Molotov-Ribbentrop, consegnò l’Estonia e gli altri Stati Baltici alla sfera d’influenza sovietica. Nel 1939, vi venne costruita la prima base militare: dal 1940 l’Estonia venne occupata e, contro il volere della popolazione, annesso all’Unione Sovietica.

I successivi 50 anni furono difficili per gli estoni, a causa della intensa politica di russificazione, delle deportazioni di massa, della distruzione del patrimonio nazionale estone e della repressione di ogni tipo di libertà di espressione culturale. L’intelligence estone, che era riuscita a scappare prima dell’occupazione, continuava a tenere vivo lo spirito nazionale dall’estero, sperando in giorni migliori, mentre coloro che restavano venivano perseguitati brutalmente e anche giustiziati, con l’accusa di mancata lealtà all’impero sovietico.

INDEPENDENCE & SOVIET OCCUPATION

RESTAURATION OF INDEPENDENCE

At the end of 80s, the Baltic States made a precedent to peaceful rebellion against the Soviet Union. One of the most important phenomenon took place in 1989 when all the three Baltic States formed a human chain, called the Baltic Chain. About 2 million people stood hand in hand along the distance of over 600 kilometres, forming this human chain from Tallinn via Riga (Latvia) to Vilnius (Lithuania), desperately aiming to gain the attention of the western world and expressing their will to step out of the Soviet Union.

In the 1988, about 300.000 Estonians gathered on the traditional Tallinn Song Festival Grounds to sing national songs. The Song Festival tradition started already in the 19th century, but under the Soviet occupation it was forbidden to sing nationalistic songs. When choirs started to sing one of the most emotive national songs “Land of my fathers, land that I love”, the Soviet officials tried to clamp it down by putting on march music from the loudspeakers.

However, the “melting era” had already started and the Soviet Union was falling apart. On August 20, 1991, Estonia declared its independence.

Despite the foreign occupation and the brutal ideology, Estonians have always managed to keep their national awareness and conviction for independence. This has been to the viability of Estonian language and culture.

Estonia’s democratic development and functioning market economy has lead the country to become the member of NATO in 2003 and European Union in 2004.