New administrative situation

to map

1629

The area held by Sweden at the end of the Livonian War became the Governorate of Estonia. It consisted of counties of Harjumaa, Järvmaa and Virumaa. The Governorate of Livonia was formed of the territories taken from Poland, consisting of counties of Pärnu, Tartu, Riga and Võnnu. Saaremaa, belonging to Sweden since 1645 was part of the Livonian province, but maintained a special state compared to the rest: it had its Noble Corporation, church government and tax system.
The counties were governed by a governor general, who answered directly to the king and lived in the county centres in Tallinn and Riga. The governor generals were in charge of the military, the government officials, the budget and were responsible for the postal service, infrastructure and public order.
The nobility, and local town government had some power of their own. Swedish Estonia and Latvia had three Noble Corporations: Estonian, Livonian and Latvian Noble Corporation, whose members were the noble estate owners. The Noble Corporations gathered at the Diet, where they would try to defend the rights of the nobles from the rule of the king, and deliberate over issues that were not directly in the area of interest of the governor generals. Diets were held roughly every three years. In the mean while, the land councillors were in office, who were appointed for life. In addition, the head of the Noble Corporation (the land marshal of Livonia) was elected, to resolve day to day issues.
The rights of the Estonian nobility and the town of Tallinn were preserved, because they had voluntarily surrendered to Swedish power. Livonia, however, was considered a conquered land and was supposed to be nationalizes as soon as possible by the appointed governor general, Johan Skytte. With the death of king Gustav II Adolf in 1632, Axel Oxenstierna became the regent of the still adolescent queen Christina, and with him the Swedish high aristocracy came to power. They were as much interested in preserving the privileges of the Baltic nobility, as the local nobles were. Taking that into account, they procured numerous assets and holdings in Livonia. By the middle of the XVII century, the towns and nobles of Livonia had the same rights as their counterparts in Estonia, and the noble self-governance in the Swedish Baltic provinces became known as Landesstaat - The land-state. This system lasted until king Karl XI came to power in 1672. The local courts were composed of three tiers. General law and order was maintained by judges ("adrakohtunik" in Estonia, "sillakohtunik" in Livonia), chosen from amongst the local estate owners; they also presided over petty crimes of the peasantry. There were feudal courts in counties in Estonia and Saaremaa, and county courts in Livonia. These discussed the greater issues of the peasants and non-nobles. The most grievous of charges and all processes concerning the nobility were settled at a county-level in the Estonian Supreme Land Court, or in the Noble Court of Livonia, that for a long time resided in Tartu. In addition to these courts, there was always the option to appeal to the king of Sweden, who held the final word.
This three tiered system with a final chance of appeal remained in effect until the end of the XIX century. The administrative division of Estonia and Northern Latvia into two counties remained unchanged until 1917.

Image: coat of arms of the Governorate of Estonia

Source: Ain Mäesalu, Tõnis Lukas, Mati Laur, Tõnu Tannberg. Eesti ajalugu I. Avita, Tallinn 1995
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Coat_of_Arms_of_Estland_gubernia_(Russian_empire).png


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