Estonia timeline

  • Third Millenium BC: Finno-Ugric peoples, ancestors of the Estonians, settle on present territory of Estonia.
  • First-Second centuries AD: Tacitus and other Roman writers describe ‘Aesti’ as living on Baltic, trading in amber, etc.
  • 12th-13th centuries: German and Scandinavian crusaders invade Baltic region.
  • 1202-37: ‘Brothers of the Militia of Christ’ (Knights of the Sword) charged with conquering and converting the Balts. Their place then taken by the Teutonic Knights.
  • 1217: Estonians crushed at battle of Fellin (Viljandi).
  • 1219: Danes invade Northern Estonia and found Tallin (Reval).
  • 1343: ‘St. George’s Day Rebellion’ in Estonia against German and Danish rule, finally crushed only in 1345. Thus, Danish King sells Reval (Tallin) and surrounding area to Teutonic Knights in 1346.
  • 14th century: First Jews settle in area of present Baltic States.
  • 1410: Crushing defeat of the Teutonic Knights by Lithuanians and Poles at Tannenberg (Zalgiris, Gruenwald).
  • 1525: First book in Estonian language.
  • 1558: Armies of Ivan IV (The Terrible) invade and devastate Baltic provinces. Continual war with Russia.
  • 1561: Sweden takes Estland (northern part of present-day Estonia) and Poland takes Livonia (southern part of Estonia and northern part of Latvia).
  • 1583: Russians defeated finally by the Swedes.
  • 1632: Dorpat (Tartu) University founded in Estonia by the Swedes.
  • 1710: Peter the Great conquers the Baltic provinces from the Swedes.
  • 1721: Treaty of Nystad formalizes the conquest. Russian Monarchy guarantees the privileges and local authority of the Baltic German nobility. They become the backbone of the Russian civil service.
  • 1739: Publication of first Estonian Bible.
  • 1816-19: Baltic German nobility in most of present-day Estonia and latvia abolish serfdom, but do not grant land to the peasants.
  • 1856: New reforms in Estonian provinces distribute land to the peasantry, making renting and buying easier.
  • 1861: Publication of the Kalevipoeg, the Estonian national epic, by Friedrich Kreuzwald.
  • 1869: First Estonian national song festival makes a major step in ‘national awakening.’
  • 1870: First railway in the Baltic provinces.
  • 1884: Estonian Students’ Society consecrates blue-black-white tricolour, later Estonian national flag.
  • 1885: Beginning of intense Russification under Tsar Alexander III.
  • 1905: Revolution, accompanying that in Russia. In the Baltic, it was aimed mainly at German landowners and Russian police, hundreds of whom were killed. Thousands of Balts perished in the repression which followed.
  • 1917: First and Second Russian Revolutions in February and October. Baltic national assemblies demand first autonomy, then independence from Russia. After October Revolution, Bolsheviks take over power in several areas of the Baltic.
  • 24 February 1918: Estonian independence proclaimed.
  • 1918-20: Formation of the Estonian State.
  • January-March 1919:Estonians under General Johannes Laidoner counter-attack, drive Bolsheviks out of Estonia.
  • June-July 1919: Estonian and Latvian forces defeat German forces at the Battle of Wenden (Cesis). They launch offensives against the Bolsheviks and penetrate Russian territory.
  • 1920-21: Baltic States sign peace treaties with Soviet Russia, in which Moscow recognizes their independence.
  • 1920: Major land reforms in Estonia strip Baltic German nobles of their land, distribute it to peasants.
  • 1920-34: Democratic Politics in Estonia.
  • 1922: Introduction of democratic constitutions in all three Baltic States.
  • 1922: Baltic States admitted to League of Nations.
  • 1 December, 1924: Attempted Communist coup in Tallinn is put down by Estonian army.
  • 1928: Estonia introduces a stable national currency, the Kroon.
  • 1929: Beginning of world economic depression.
  • 1932-34: The Constitutional Crisis.
  • 1934-40: Authoritarian Estonia.
  • 1934: Konstantin Päts in Estonia dissolves parliament and political parties and imposes quasi-authoritarian regimes.
  • 1934: Co-operation Treaty between the three Baltic States.
  • 23 August 1939: Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact provides for Soviet domination of Latvia and Estonia. Lithuania added to Soviet sphere in a later agreement.
  • 28 September-10 October 1939: The USSR forces the Baltic States to sign defence co-operation agreements under which Soviet troops are stationed on their soil.
  • 1939-40: Hitler orders evacuation of Baltic German community from Baltic States.
  • 17 June 1940: Soviet Annexation: USSR invades Baltic States, forces governments to resign, holds rigged ‘elections.’
  • 3-6 August 1940: Baltic States annexed to Soviet Union. repression begins immediately. Major confiscation of property.
  • 14 June 1941: Tens of thousands of Balts arrested and deported to Siberia.
  • 22 June 1941: German army attacks Soviet Union. Many Baltic prisoners who cannot be evacuated are executed by the NKVD. Estonia revolts against the Soviet Army.
  • 1941-44: The Nazi Occupation.
  • 28 August 1941: Germans capture Tallin. Complete withdrawal of Soviet forces from Baltic States. Germans recruit local auxiliary police and SS units, which play leading part in Holocaust of the Jews. Jewish population herded into ghettoes or massacred.
  • 1944: With Soviet Army once again threatening Baltic States, tens of thousands of Balts join German forces to defend their homes.
  • 1944-53: The Soviet Reconquest.
  • August 1944-May 1945: Soviet army reconquers Baltic States, destroys attempt to refound national governments. Hundreds of thousands of Balts flee with Germans or across Baltic to Sweden. Replaced by Russian-speaking immigrants and demobilised military personnel. General rise in Russian-speaking element in population, until by late 1980s it stands at 38% in Estonia.
  • 1947: Collectivization of agriculture begins. Traditional baltic rural society crippled.
  • March 1949: Biggest wave of deportations. More than 100,000 Balts sent to Siberia and Central Asia.
  • 1953: Death of Stalin.
  • 1956-57: Beginning of Khrushchev’s ‘Thaw.’ Revival of Baltic culture and literature.
  • 1965: Brezhnev ends limited economic autonomy for the republics, reimposes strict centralism.
  • 1968: Invasion of Czechoslovakia leads to increased repression in Baltic and increased dissident activity.
  • 1970s: Era of ‘stagnation.’ Livings standards level off and then start to decline. Steep decline of belief in Communism, even in the Communist Party.
  • 1982: Death of Brezhnev; successor Andropov attempts reform from above.
  • 1985: Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the CPSU. Glasnost and perestroika follow.
  • April 1986: Chernobyl disaster gives massive impetus to ecological protest in the Baltic States.
  • 1987-March 1990: The ‘New National Awakening.’
  • 23 August 1987: On anniversary of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, dissidents hold meetings in Tallinn and Vilnius. Beginning of the period of ‘calendar demonstrations.’
  • 26 September 1987: ‘Four-Man’ proposal for Estonian economic autonomy. Gives rise to the pioneering ‘IME’ plan. ‘Self-Managing Estonia’ (Isemajandav Eesti or IME, the acronym means ‘miracle’ in Estonian) aspired to remake Estonia ito a ‘Soviet Hong Kong’ with its own budget and tax system; local control over resources; self-financing enterprises and market-determined prices.
  • April 1988: Foundation of the Estonian Popular Front, the first in the USSR.
  • June 1988: Estonian First Secretary Karl Vaino replaced with the more liberal Vaino Valjas.
  • 23 August 1988: Hundreds of thousands attend rallies to denounce the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
  • 16 November 1988: Estonian Supreme Council passes declaration of sovereignty.
  • 18 January 1989: Estonian Supreme Council passes law making Estonian state language, requiring its knowledge by the holders of various categories of job. Local Russians claim discrimination.
  • 14 March 1989: Foundation of the Soviet loyalist movement ‘Interfront’ in Estonia.
  • 27 July 1989: Supreme Soviet in Moscow accepts Baltic economic self-management, as proposed by Estonia.
  • August 1989: Soviet loyalists carry out general strike in Estonia against independence movements and discriminiation against local Russians.
  • 23 August 1989: ‘Baltic Way. Some two million people form human chain from Vilnius to Tallinn to call for independence.
  • August 1989: Supreme Soviet in Moscow accepts existence of secret protocol of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, providing for Soviet domination of the Baltic States.
  • 12 November 1989: Estonian Supreme Council declares Soviet annexation illegal.
  • 2 February 1990: Assembly of Estonian national and local deputies declares Estonian legal independence unbroken by Soviet occupation.
  • 18 March 1990: Estonian Supreme Council elections lead to two-thirds majority for independence. When Estonian Supreme Council meets in April, Edgar Savisaar, former deputy head of the State Planning Commission, elected Prime Minister.
  • 12 May 1990: Three Baltic Leaders renew Baltic Co-Operation Treaty of 1934, establish Baltic Council, apply for membership of CSCE.
  • 15 May 1990: Soviet loyalists stage violent demonstrations outside the Estonian parliaments.
  • 26 May 1990: Soviet loyalists attempt to set up an ‘Interregional Council,’ a form of alternative government, in Estonia. When this fails for lack of support, they create the ‘Integral Commission,’ based on the Moscow-run, Russian-staffed factories.
  • 13 June 1990: Estonian Supreme Council passes law providing for full return of rights to private property.
  • December 1990: Announcement in the three republics of the formation of ‘National Salvation Committees’ to restore Soviet rule. Their membership is kept secret, but they are assumed to include the local hardline Communist and military leadership.
  • 12 January 1991: Estonia and Russia sign treaty recognizing each others’ sovereignty and guaranteeing free choice of citizenship.
  • 3 March 1991: Referendum in Estonia produces large majority for independence, including many local Russians.
  • 18 March 1991: Soviet referendum on continuing the Union is boycotted by most of the Baltic populations.
  • 20 August 1991: Estonian Supreme Council declares full independence. In following weeks, all three Baltic States receive international diplomatic recognition, are admitted to the UN and the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). OMON is withdrawn from the Baltic. Statues of Lenin all over the Baltic are dismantled.
  • Fall 1991: Estonia applied to Council of Europe (CE) for membership and began negotiations with Eropean Union (EU) on a trade and cooperation agreeement.
  • 6 September 1991: Soviet State Council recognizes Baltic independence.
  • 20 October 1991: Local elections in NE Estonia lead to return of Soviet loyalist majorites in two out of three towns.
  • 6 November 1991: Estonian Supreme Council renews 1938 citizenship law, thereby stripping citizenship from immigrants who arrived under Soviet rule.
  • 23 November 1991: Swedish Foreign Aid Minister denounces Estonia over the holding of a meeting of Estonian war veterans, including those from the SS.
  • 28 November 1991: Russian Supreme Soviet adopts law granting automatic Russian citizenship to anyone living outside Russia’s borders who applies for it.
  • 13 January 1992: Prime Minister Savisaar demands right to declare economic state of emergency in Estonia following sharp reduction in fuel supplies and major power and food cuts. On 23 January, following blocking of this by parliament, Savisaar resigns. He is replaced by Tiit Vähi.
  • 20 June 1992: Introduction of the Estonian Kroon, first independent convertible currency in the former Soviet Union. IMF memorandum signed and an Estonian Privatization Enterprise was set up.
  • 28 June 1992: Estonians in referendum pass by huge majority the proposed parliamentary constitution. A second proposal to slightly extend the franchise to non-citizens is defeated.
  • 15-17 July 1992: Russian Supreme Soviet orders Russian government to prepare sanctions against Estonia for violating the Estonian-Russian Treaty of 12 January 1991.
  • 1992: Constitution sets up freely elected legislature (Riigikogu), an executive branch with defined and legally limited powers, nd an independent judiciary.
  • 20 September 1992: Estonian parliamentary election results in small majority for a Center-Right coaliton made up of rthe National Independence Party, Fatherland, and Moderate alliances. Arnold Rüütel gets largest number of popular votes in first round of Presidential elections. When parliament meets in October, Dr Mart Laar of Fatherland (Isamaa) becomes coalition Prime Minister and Dr Lennart Meri is elected President by the deputies.
  • 1992-95: The Isamaa Government.
  • 1992-94: Two-year shock therapy (‘Just Do It’) introduced.
  • 31 August 1994: Last Russian troops leave Estonia.
  • February 1995: Elections held.
  • 1995-99: Coalition Party in Power.
[compiled by Frederick Corney; source: Anatol Lieven, The Baltic Revolution. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 421-431; David J. Smith, Artis Pabriks, Aldis Purs and Thomas Lane, The Baltic States. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (London: Routledge, 2002); Wikipedia]

 

 

 

 

 

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