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A brief history

Ca 600 AD On the east side of Toome Hill (Toomemägi) the Estonians erected a fortress - Tarbatu. It was located in approximately the same area where the Astronomical Observatory now stands.

1030 The Kievan prince, Jaroslav the Wise, raids Tarbatu and builds his own fort in this place, which went by the name of Jurjev. The description of these events in an Ancient Russian chronicle is the first mention of Tartu in written sources.

1061 Estonians retook the castle.

1224 The German Brethren of the Sword captured Tartu. Tartu became a bishopric.

1234 The first stone fortress was started on Toomemägi (Toome Hill)

1262 he army of Prince Dmitri of Novgorod (the son of the famous Alexander Nevski) launches an assault on Tartu, capturing and destroying it. However the Russians do not manage to capture the Bishop’s Fortress on Toome Hill.After the destruction a stone wall is built around the lower- town of Tartu, stretching for a total of about two kilometers. The destruction wrought by the Russians is recorded in Russian and German chronicles, which also provide us with the first word that alongside the Bishop’s Fortress, a settlement of German merchants and artisans had arisen.

1280’s Tartu joined the Hanseatic League. In medieval times Tartu was an important merchant town.

1525 The German Lutheran reformation reaches Tartu accompanied by surprisingly violent stripping of the churches (the furnishings of the Diocesan Cathedral on Toome Hill are also destroyed). Crowds even make preparations to attack the bishop’s residence.

Before the Livonian War (1558-1583) the population of Tartu was about 6000.

1558 the armies of Tsar Ivan the Terrible attack at the start of the Livonian War. The town and bishop’s palace surrender without resistance to the Russians. The Bishop of Tartu is taken to Moscow and imprisoned there. It is the end of the Bishopric of Tartu and others medieval Livonian minor states. In the course of the next few years Poland, Sweden and Denmark enter the conflict for the access to the Old Livonia.

1582 The Jam Zapolski Peace Treaty. Tartu became part of the Polish-Lithuanian area.

1583 A Jesuit residence was established in Tartu. The Polish king Stefan Bathory gave Tartu its red and white flag.

1600-1629 The Swedish - Polish war for Livonia

1600-1603 Tartu was in the hands of the Swedish king.

1603-1625 Tartu fell to the Poles.

1625 Tartu changed hands again and became a Swedish possession.

1631 The first Printing House was founded in Tartu.

1632 King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden founded the University - Academia Gustaviana.

1656-1661 The Swedish-Russian war. The Russians held Tartu in these years.

1684-1688 Near to Tartu the first teachers’ training college in Estonia is established, the so-called ‘Forselius Seminary’.

1704 Tsar Peter the Great personally leads the Russian forces in their conquest of Tartu during the Northern War.

1721 The population of Tartu was as low as 21!

1708, 1763, 1775 Great fires in Tartu. The medieval architecture is comprehensively destroyed, after which Tartu is rebuilt in a late-baroque and classical style.

1789 The population of Tartu was 3421.

1802 The University of Tartu was again opened by permission of the Russian Tsar Aleksander I. The population was about 3500.

1854 The population of Tartu was about 13 000.

The second part of the 19th century. Tartu became the centre of Estonian cultural and national life durning the national awakening of the Estonian people.

1869 The first song Festival was held in Tartu.

1870 The first Estonian national theatre, the ‘Vanemuine’, is established in Tartu. The first original Estonian comedy is performed - Lydia Koidula’s "Saaremaa Cousin".

1872 Founding of the Society of Estonian Writers.

1900 The population of Tartu was more than 40 000.


Tartu, the turn of the century

1905-1907 Political and social unrest lead to a revolution which was brutally repressed.

1917 In the late autumn Russian-minded Bolsheviks come to power in Estonia.

1918, On Feb. 24 Estonian Declaration of Independence.

February 1918 - November 1918 The territory of Estonia is occupied by the First World War German forces. The Germans leave soon after a revolt and the peace agreement with the Entente powers.

End of November 1918 The forces of Soviet Russia enter Estonia. The new Estonian Republic organizes resistance to the invasion. The Estonian War of Independence begins.

December 1918 - January 1919 Soviet Russian forces hold on to occupied Tartu at the height of the War of Independence. Estonian soldiers arriving in an armoured train take the town in a fierce battle on January 14th 1919.

1919, On Dec. 1, University of Tartu reopened with tuition in the Estonian language.

1920, On Feb. 2, Estonian and Soviet Russia signed the Peace Treaty in Tartu. Russian renounced territorial claims to Estonia "for all time".

1920, On Oct. 14, Finland and Soviet Russia signed in Tartu a peace treaty.

1932 An Estonian-Russian treaty of non-aggression was signed.


Tartu in 1938

1939, On Aug. 23, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact which contains secret protocols giving the Baltic States to Soviet Russia.

1940, in June, the Red Army occupied Estonia. Estonia, with the help of quislings was annexed to the Soviet Union.

1941, On June 14th, almost 10 000 Estonians were deported to Siberia. 70 % of these were women, children and the elderly.

At the end of July Tartu was invaded by the Nazi Germany Wehrmacht.

1944 The Soviet Union occupied Estonia.

1949 The population of Tartu was about 57 000.

1949, On March 25-26., tens of thousands of Estonians were deported to Siberia.

1950 The population of Tartu was about 55 500.

1977 The population of Tartu reached 100 000.

1986/87 The second awakening of the Estonian people began, centred in Tartu.

1987, in September. "Edasi" (the Tartu newspaper nowadays known as "Postimees") published a four-man proposal to turn Soviet Estonian into a self-financing area.

1988, On Nov. 16, the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR passed the declaration of sovereignty.

1989, On Aug. 23, the 50th Anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the peoples of the three Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania - united hands in the "Baltic Chain". The chain of people stretched from Tallinn to Vilnius and symbolized the common wish for freedom.

1990, On March 30, the Estonian Supreme Soviet declared null and void all Soviet laws in Estonian and set in motion the process of restoration of the Republic of Estonia.

1990, On May 8, the Supreme Soviet of Estonia restored the republic’s name, state symbols and blue, black and white flag.

1991, On Aug 20, The Supreme Soviet of the Estonia Republic declared the Independence of Estonia.

1991, On Sept. 17, Estonia became of full member of the United Nations.

1992, On June 20, The new Estonian currency - the kroon - was put into circulation.

1992, On Sept. 20, after an interval of fifty years, the citizens of Estonia voted in parliamentary and presidential elections.

1993, autumn. The Estonian Supreme Court was reestablished in Tartu.