Beginning of the Russian era in Estonia

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It is possible, that the Great Northern War devastated Estonia more than any other war in history. It is estimated, that the population was around 120,000-140,000 people after the end of the war, that is less than in the beginning of the XIII century. Even more than the war, the plague ravaged the population.

The Baltic Landestaat. Russia could not take the ownership of conquered lands for granted, as the defeat of the Swedes had not been that great, and the latter still strove to rule the areas around the Baltic Sea. In such situation, Russia needed the support of local Baltic-German elite. Under the Russian rule, the Baltic nobility and the towns could keep their relatively large autonomy, already existing laws and tax system remained in place. Until the reforms of Catherine II, the Baltic-Germans remained to be in charge of the local governments inside the provinces. Also, after her rearrangements, the elite kept most of the privileges, until the second half of the XIX century. The Baltic Landestaat was abolished in 1917.

Estonian peasantry hoped to gain some sort of help from Russia. In reality, during the Russian era, the peasantry lost all the advantages they had gained at the end of the Swedish era, and slumped to the state of unprivileged serf. Also, they could not find any support from the legislation, especially after the Rosen declaration in 1739, which declared that all peasants are absolute property of the landlords. Still, the life of peasantry was not fully without hope - literacy level stayed high, in 1739 first Estonian Bible was printed, and the Herrnhut movement became ever increasingly popular among the peasantry. Aside the religious activeness, the Herrnhut movement promoted educational and individual activeness.

In summer of 1762, Catherine II came to power; during her rule, both Russia and the Baltic States underwent major changes.

Source: A.Mäesalu, T. Lukas, M. Laur, T. Tannberg "Eesti ajalugu I" 1997 "Avita"


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