Situation in Livonia by the autumn of 1560
03. September 1560
By the year 1560 the situation in Livonia was very tense. The troops of Ivan the Terrible had captured about half of Estonia, in August of just that year the Russians had defeated the order troops in Härgmäe battle and conquered Viljandi. Also, they started to besiege Paide.
Already earlier, in autumn 1559 Johann von Münchhausen, the bishop of Saare-Lääne and Kuramaa, had sold its possessions to Denmark and the brother of Frederik II, Duke Magnus, became the governor of these areas. Magnus arrived to Livonia in spring 1560 and started to expand his political impact very actively: he captured the order possessions having located in Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, purchased the position of Tallinn bishop and stated that also the last bishop of Tartu bequeathed his possessions to him.
Magnus had a serious conflict with the order and even the military battles broke out. At the same time the duke hoped to live in peace with the Russians and this was also believed by many Livonians according to the data of the chronicler Johann Renner who took their possessions to Läänemaa under the power of Magnus. But on 2 or 3 September the troops of the Russians also invaded to Läänemaa. The poorly secured city of Vana-Pärnu, also the surrounding manors of Läänemaa (Rääma and Sauga) were plundered.
According to the data of Renner women as well as children, Germans and peasants were killed, also major booty was obtained from there, as the majority of the property of the bona fide Livonians was just brought to Vana-Pärnu. The attempt was made from Uus-Pärnu to supersede the plunderers from Vana-Pärnu, but this attempt ended without success.
The troops of Ivan the Terrible reached also the north where they had burned all major manors and also most of the city of Haapsalu. Only Lihula had got away thanks to the numerous local peasants who assembled there. Renner also talks about that the local peasants in one county named Kõrve had killed 50 Russians and one peasant had even killed five.
Obviously, not all his notes of these rumours are completely true. Differently from the local peasants whom Renner seems to value relatively high, Duke Magnus behaved quite helplessly according to chronicler: the duke stayed at that time namely in Läänemaa in one wedding and learned about the plunders of the Russians only at the last moment, just able to escape to Saaremaa.
Many people attending the wedding had fallen into the hands of the Russians. One could guess that the fast and successful plunder of the Russians at the beginning of September considerably decreased the authority of local governors and especially Duke Magnus among the local people.
Moreover, the peasants having successfully defeated the attacks of the Russians could start to believe more in one's power. Therefore the idea to cope without the German landlords could start spreading more widely. The notices also occur that the peasants had been put up to their masters by the Russians. Renner mentions that Koonga manor had been burnt down already by the local peasants themselves.