Swedish rule in Estonia

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1629

In 1629, with the Truce of Altmark, Sweden took over South-Estonia and North-Latvia, that is, the Livonian province, which had so far been under the Polish rule. In 1645, as a result of the Treaty of Brömsebro, Saaremaa that had belonged to Denmark was also merged with Sweden; in 1660, Ruhnu Island that belonged to Poland, was also merged with the Treaty of Oliva.

Thus, the entire territory of Estonia was under the Swedish rule.
During the Swedish rule, the Lutheran religion was conclusively reinforced: superintendents (basically bishops) were inducted and the Catholic customs of peasants were attempted to be uprooted at any price. To better spread Lutheranism and strengthen state authority, the level of education of clergymen and officials had to be improved.

This is why the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf and his teacher Johan Skytte decided to establish the University of Tartu, which was made to happen in 1632. At first, the university was active in Tartu, later, for a while in Tallinn and Pärnu as well. On the photo: Gustav II Adolf
In addition to the attempts at improving the education level of the higher society, the provision of general reading skills to peasants was also in the agenda, so that they could read the Bible on their own. Bengt Gottfried Forselius was an active leader in educating people, establishing seminars for training teachers for peasant schools in 1680. Several students from his seminars were employed in parish schools or as parish clerks for decades.

During the Swedish rule, preparations were also made for translating the Bible into Estonian, but the Great Northern War that intervened interrupted the issue thereof. The situation of peasants during the Swedish rule was fickle. In the second half of the 17th century, there was peace, but due to the weakness of royal power in Sweden, aristocrats acquired various privileges and achieved the approval of serfdom by the state authority in 1681. Later, however, when during the absolutist Swedish royal power, manors were started to be reduced (nationalised), state authorities attempted to improve the status of peasants. The end of the Swedish rule was difficult for Estonia as in 1695, the Great Famine broke out, lasting for two years. Approximately 70,000 people might have died of it, most of them peasants. People had not even recovered from this disaster when a new one hit the country: the Great Northern War.


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