Read about the city
The Estonian capital of Tallinn is a unique city in Europe with its preserved medieval center, where you will feel a century-old atmosphere among the many buildings built in not least the 1400s-1500s, where trade brought great wealth to the city.
The district behind Tallinn's high medieval walls is a magnificent jumble of streets, alleys, passages and squares, where the distances are small and the experiences great. It is this part of Tallinn that most tourists come to see, but the areas around the medieval city also have a lot to offer with architecture from the recent centuries.
Tallinn's old town hall, St. Olav's Church, once the tallest building in the world, and the long city walls, fortunately preserved from a bygone era, are some of the many highlights. The Russian Alexander Nevsky Church and the castle area are also must sees in the city.
Modern Tallinn with its parks, pedestrian streets and shopping malls is right next door to the old city center, and the short distances can feel like traveling in time. Modern architecture is spreading in former industrial districts, and grand Soviet urban planning is also clearly present.
Many different cultures have ruled Tallinn and the surrounding area through time, and there is much to see from the various eras. Danish buildings, castles of the German Order and Russian splendor buildings in Baroque are examples of the city and the coastal areas towards the Gulf of Finland.
- Toompea Castle/Toompea Loss: Tallinn Castle and Castle is located on a 50 meter/165 foot high hill named Toompea. According to legend, it was built stone by stone by the mythological Linda. The result has become a very elegant castle, regardless of the construction method.
- City Hall Square/Raekoja Plats: Raekoja Plats is Tallinn's town hall square and the center of the lower Old Town. Ever since the first town hall buildings from the 13th and 14th centuries, there has been a square on the site. Today is very atmospheric here.
- St Catherine's Passage/Katariina Käik: The cozy medieval St Catherine's Passage runs through a craft and residential area with houses from the 15th century to the 17th century.
- Church of the Holy Spirit/Püha Vaimu Kirik: This church is Tallinn's only preserved original medieval church. It was built as early as the 14th century and was completed in the 1360s; only the spire is not from this time. You can e.g. see Berndt Notke's altar from 1483 in the church.
- Estonian History Museum/Eesti Ajaloomuuseum: After the town hall, the Great Guild was the largest secular building in Tallinn's medieval city. The house was built in the years 1407-1417 as a meeting room for the influential merchant's guild, Suurgildi hoone.
- Kiek in de Kök: Kiek in de Kök was in the 16th century the strongest cannon tower in Northern Europe. The 38 meter/124 foot tower was built in the 15th century with a diameter of 17 meters/55 feet and with 4 meter/13 foot thick walls.
- Freedom Square/Vabaduse Väljak: The Freedom Square in Tallinn is one of the city's largest and most central squares. It is named after the Estonian freedom struggle in the years 1918-1920, which led to the first Estonian independence.
- Bronze Soldier/Pronkssõdur: The Bronze Soldier is a 2 meter/6 foot tall statue in front of a stone wall and it is a Soviet memorial from 1947. The monument was erected in memory of the Soviet liberation of Tallinn during World War II.
- Viru Hotel & KGB Museum: Hotel Viru was Tallinn's first skyscraper. It was built in 1969-1972 as the city's leading hotel, not least to attract Finnish tourists to Tallinn. It was also the headquarters of the KGB in Estonia, and there is a museum for it on the floor of the KGB.
- The City's Hall/Linnahall: When Moscow and the Soviet Union were to host the 1980 Olympics, Tallinn was chosen as the home of the sailing competitions. The City's Hall was a large-scale building in connection with the games.
- Open Air Museum/Vabaõhumuuseum: This is the Estonian Open-Air Museum, which was established in 1964. It is located on an area of about 80 hectares/197 acres. Since its establishment, a number of old buildings from all over Estonia have been brought here.
- KUMU, Estonian Museum of Art/KUMU, Eesti Kunstimuuseum: This is Estonia's national art museum with fine local art from the 18th century to the present day. The museum building was inaugurated in 2006.
[expand title="Read about city history" id="historie2" swaptitle="Hide content"]
Through the results of archaeological excavations, it is estimated that human activity in the Tallinn area began about 5,000 years ago. This is due to finds of different types of pottery dating back to the time around the year 3000 BC
Battle of Lyndanisse
It is believed that a castle was built in the area of present-day Tallinn Toompea about 1050. It provided a breeding ground for further activity and was thus the beginning of the future Estonian capital.
With the 13th century, interest in the area increased from both Danish and German. The Christian German Order conducted northern crusades during this time, and Danish King Valdemar II also sought expansion and sailed with a fleet against the province of Revalia in the early summer of 1219.
The Danish cross army consisted of the king and, among others, Bishop Anders Sunesen of Lund, Bishop Theoderik of Estonia and leaders of vassal states such as Rügen. After their departure, they established camp and fort Castrum Danorum at Lyndanisse. The Esters called the site the Danes' Borg / Taani linen, which later became Tallinn.
The Estonians negotiated with the Danes while gathering an army of attack striking from five different directions on June 15, 1219. The Danish army had to flee and Bishop Theoderik was killed, which the Estonians believed had killed King Valdemar II.
The Danish army was pressured by the attackers, but led by Vitslav I of Rügen, a swift counter-attack was carried out, giving the king's cross army the necessary time to regroup.
Now it was the Danes who attacked, and according to legend, Bishop Anders Sunesen knelt in prayer on a hilltop. When he stretched his arms toward the sky, the Danes moved forward, and with fatigue he had to lower his arms and thereby stop the advance.
Helpers came and they held the bishop's arms. Underneath the crucial and most intense signs came another sign. God sent a red flag with a white cross down from the sky, and it gave renewed hope, fighting spirit and victory over the Esters, and the king decided that the fan should be the flag of the Danes, which it has been ever since; with the name Dannebrog.
The Danes then built a castle on Toompea, and Bishop Andreas Sunesen became the first Danish regent in Tallinn. The king gave permission for the city to use the royal coat of arms, thereby also carrying today's city arms the three blue lions on a golden background.
Commercial rights and commercial city
In 1248, King Erik IV Plovpenning granted Tallinn commercial city rights with Lübeck as an example. It linked the city commercially to the German Baltic Sea cities, and the growing trade also led Tallinn to become a member of the German-dominated Hanseatic League in 1285.
The marketplace rights also meant the establishment of a city government in the small town that was strategically good for trade between the German Hanseatic cities and Russia, where the dominant city in the area was nearby Novgorod. Tallinn was thus a growing city, and it was also in a strategically good place.
Tallinn was, despite Danish rule, a German-dominated city, where mainly German was spoken, which was also the official language. Estonian culture thrived, but it was in the areas outside Tallinn.
The German era
In 1346, the Danish king sold Tallinn and northern Estonia to the German Order, whose governor moved into the Toompea hill as a representative of the livelihood portion of the order. However, the city government continued its work, the members here being elected among the most affluent, often merchants.
Tallinn's commercial and urban development was from this time German influenced over several centuries. The city was booming and had quickly gained department store rights making it a transit point and. It brought new growth and more jobs; partly because of the merchants' obligation to offer goods in either Tallinn, Riga or Pärnu in order to trade with Russia.
One of Tallinn's competitors in the area was Visby on Gotland. When it was destroyed by the Danes in 1361, it meant a further dominant position for the city on the Estonian north coast.
Population was increasing. It grew from around 1,000 in the year 1300 to 6,000-7,000 later in the Middle Ages, and the new citizens came mainly from the rural population who moved to the city due to the good job opportunities of merchants and workshops.
The old 13th-century town had walls that only went around a small area at the town hall, growing. With a new city wall and many institutional buildings such as the town hall and low-rise buildings, the area of the city was greatly increased, which was in line with the economic and population development.
After a major fire in 1433, another major expansion started. The 15th century was also the highlight of Tallinn as a Hanseatic city, where, among other things, the 159-meter high spire at St. Olav's Church was erected. After this the town gradually lost its importance; just as the power of the Hanseatic League was steadily diminishing.
In the 1520s, the thoughts of the Reformation came to Tallinn and Estonia, which were still under the rule of the German Order. The order was Catholic and it was not sustainable with a Catholic rule in a Protestant country.
With the Livelian War in the years 1558-1583, the Baltic Sea powers fought to and fro in the Estonian territory. German Gotthard von Kettler asked both Gustav Vasa and the subsequent King Erik XIV for help, but his demands were too high. However, Erik XIV promised Tallinn protection against the fact that the city would become Swedish after the war.
Von Kettler had established a Polish garrison on the castle of Reval, which Tallinn was called at this time. The Swedes forced the Poles to capitulate, and in 1561 Tallinn became Swedish; a status that lasted for more than 150 years.
Swedish Estonia was ratified by the Peace of Stettin in 1570; a peace where Denmark returned to Estonia with the areas Wiek and Ösel.
In the beginning, battles continued over the area; For example, Tallinn and the Swedes had to defend themselves against sieges from the Russian side in 1570-1571 and again in 1577.
During the period, the Swedes established Estonia in the country Sweden as a new administrative unit with Tallinn as the capital. Thus, there was marked self-government, and trade rights continued as in the German era. One difference, of course, was the formal rule in which the Swedish Governor-General as King's representative was the supreme authority.
Tallinn's Old Town had been well preserved through the Livelian War, but the plague epidemic in 1602-1603 and the great fire in 1684 at Toompea put the city's development back on track. The 16th century, however, also offered such positive things; for example, a high school was established and books were printed in Estonian.
Great Nordic War and Russian Estonia
The Swedish kings were successful in reforms in Sweden. An example was the abolition of the life trait, which was also tried in Swedish Estonia. Here, however, the nobility was strong and opposed the will of reform.
The Great Nordic War of 1700-1721 hit Tallinn hard with famine and disease epidemics. In 1708-1710 the population decreased from 10,000 to 2,000.
In 1710, the city was taken by Russia with Peter I at the head. The Russian army won the fighting, and with the end of the war on Nysted, Tallinn was formally made a Russian possession as part of the three Swedish-Baltic provinces of Svenska Estonia, Svenska Livland and Svenska Ingermanland. The present Estonia was later formed by Svenska Estonia and the northern part of Svenska Livland.
Russia's takeover of Tallinn led to new investments; for example, Peter let the Great Tallinn harbor expand in the years 1714-1722, and a shipyard was quickly established. In addition, the city government and city rights were once again upheld. This lasted until the 19th century, when greater integration into the Russian Empire began. Tallinn's magistrate was deposed in 1889.
In the 19th century, factories were built in the city, and in 1870 the Baltic Railway was built; it connected Tallinn with the empire of St. Petersburg. The economy and culture flourished. Among other things, several theaters were erected, and towards the end of the century the population increased from 44,000 to 160,000 in 1881-1917.
The Estonian local government movement began in earnest with the election of the first Estonian mayor of Tallinn in 1906. In early 1918, when the Russian revolution had also shaken political structures in Tallinn, Estonia proclaimed its independence on February 24 and subsequently became invaded by Germany. After the end of World War I, the war instead became a war for Estonian independence from the Soviet Union, and with the Tartu peace treaty on February 2, 1920, the independent republic of Estonia was proclaimed with Tallinn as its capital.
The lack of access to the Russian market had negative consequences for the economy. Only in the late 1930s did growth return, and a few years later World War II broke out. In 1940, the Soviet Union annexed the young republic, thus becoming the Estonian Soviet Republic. When the war spread to the Soviet Union in 1941, the country was occupied by Germany in the years 1941-1944. During the bombing, many buildings were lost; however, there was only relatively minor destruction in the Old Town.
When the Germans were retiring in 1944, the Soviet Union annexed again Estonia, which the following decades integrated into the great union. Once again, it was Tallinn as the capital.
Throughout the Soviet era, the Baltic countries were relatively prosperous, as were Estonia and Tallinn. For example, there was an industrial boom in the city during this period, which led to a sharp increase in the population to about 500,000.
Culturally, Tallinn became part of the world event that the 1980 Olympic Games were. The games were held in Moscow while the Olympic sailing competitions took place on the water from the Pirita area of Tallinn. Large facilities and buildings were completed for the apartment.
In August 1991, an independent Estonia was once again proclaimed, making Tallinn once again the capital of its own country. That status provided new opportunities, and over the past decades large amounts of money have again been invested in the development of the city, which has acquired countless modern glass and steel buildings.
Large areas have been developed with new business centers, shops, hotels and other buildings, which provide a sharp and exciting contrast to the old town, which stands as it has almost done since the Middle Ages.
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