Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau (also Modern Style) is an era of a particular style in art, architecture and design that developed at the end of the 19th century.


Its main characteristics are, flowing and curvilinear designs often incorporating floral inspired motifs in combination with symmetric elements. It developed as a creative style, contrary to the classic historic styles of former eras. Its name is French and means “New Art”. The German name “Jugendstil” (also used in many other countries) is named after the magazine “Jugend” (youth) which was founded in Munich in 1896.


Under the influence of German architects Art Nouveau became a formative architecture style in the Baltic region.



In Viinistu, northern coast.

Baltic States/region

The term Baltic States refers to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, situated in the north east of Europe. The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (Old German: Königsberg) in the north of former East Prussia also belongs to the Baltic region.


But several “regional disagreements” (see also the chapter Ruhnu) and Estonia’s obvious proximity to Finland show that the Baltic region is more a geographical than a spiritual unit.




Classicism is an era in arts that was at its highest in the period between the late 18th and the early 19th century. Its style refers to the classic antiquity (mainly Greek). Generally, classicism is characterized by its return to linear shapes. Simplicity intentionally replaced the excessive ornaments of the Renaissance.


Estonian National Anthem

The Estonian National Anthem has the same melody as the Finnish anthem. It was composed by Friedrich Pacius, who was of German origin. The lyrics were written by Johann Voldemar Jannsen, one of the leaders of the Estonian national movement of the late 19th century.


At the time of the Soviet occupation, it was strictly forbidden to sing the anthem. People who violated this rule could have been seriously punished or sentenced to long imprisonment.



Estonian Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of Estonia consists of three blue leopards (many people refer to them as lions) on a golden background. The three leopards were first used in 1219 as an element of the coat of arms of Tallinn. The official coat of arms of Estonia resembles those of Denmark and England.


The so called “three lions” officially became the national emblem of Estonia in 1925. However, it was prohibited in the Soviet Union for several decades. Usage of the Coat of Arms could have resulted in imprisonment and other harsh punishments.



Estonian Flag

The Estonian flag has its roots in the 19th century – the period of national awakening in Estonia. In 1881, in a small town of Otepää, the Estonian Students  Union adopted blue, black and white as the colours of their fraternity.  


Estonian flag
Estonian flag.

In 1920, the flag finally became the national flag of Estonia. In order to suppress the thoughts of independence symbolically, the flag was forbidden during the Soviet occupation.


Shortly before officially regaining independence, blue, black and white were re-declared as the colours of the Estonian national flag on August 7, 1990.


The interpretation of the colours:

Blue = the sky, loyalty to the national ideas

Black = homeland's soil, the hardships of the Estonian people

White = People with pure conscience, the prosperous future



The Great Northern War

The Great Northern War (1700-21) was an armed conflict with the aim of achieving domination in the Baltic region. Saxony, Russia and Denmark had formed a coalition to end Sweden’s power and influence in North Europe.


After first few successful battles against the coalition, the Swedish King Charles II lost the important Battle of Poltava (8 July 1709). In the years to come, the coalition gained more and more power.


By the Treaties of Stockholm (1719) and Nystad (10 September 1721) Sweden was obliged to give up parts of its territory. Estonia, Livonia, Ingria and Karelia became a part of the Russian territory.



Gulf of Finland

The Gulf of Finland is an arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between the coasts of Finland, Russia and Estonia. It is around 430 kilometers long and its width varies between 60 and 120 kilometers.


The most important cities around the gulf are Saint-Petersburg (Russia), Helsinki (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia). The Gulf of Finland usually freezes for two to six months in winter.



Gulf of Riga

The Gulf of Riga is a large bay in the Baltic Sea, that borders on the coast lines of Latvia and Estonia. Saaremaa (Ösel), the largest Estonian island, separates a large part of it from the rest of the Baltic Sea.


The most important cities in the gulf are Riga, the capital of Latvia, and Pärnu (Pernau), an Estonian seaside resort. The total area of the Gulf of Riga is about 16,000 square km. Its maximum depth is approx. 70 meters.



Hanseatic League

The term “Hanseatic League” describes a Late Medieval alliance of numerous trading guilds in Central and North East Europe. The League was founded in the 12th century in order to offer a collective representation of interests and protection from hostile assaults to German trade associations.


In the course of the German settlement in the east the main focus of the Hanseatic League shifted to the Baltic Sea area. The Hanseatic League prospered after 1370 (the victory over King Valdemar IV of Denmark) when all the important cities in the north of the line Cologne – Halle – Wrocław – Toruń – Dorpat (Tartu) were associated with the League.


The slow downfall of the Hanseatic League began at the end of the 15th century when England, the Netherlands and German sovereigns regained strength. The Hanseatic League dissolved in 1669, shortly after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).




Livonia is a historic area in the Baltic region, which first lay between the Baltic Sea, Lithuania and Lake Peipus. It was named after the Livonian people (“Liven”) who settled on the west coast of the Gulf of Finland.


After the end of the Livonian War (1558-1583), the territorial unity was resolved. Estonia became the Swedish and Courland (Kuramaa) the Polish territory so that Livonia was just a small piece of land in between.


The following centuries were influenced by Polish, Swedish and Russian rule. After the Second World War, it was divided in line with the language border into two parts which since then belong to Estonia and Latvia.



Livonian War (1558-1583)

In the Livonian War Russia, Poland-Lithuania, Denmark and Sweden fought for the economic and political domination in the Baltic region. Conflicts began on 22 January 1558 with the Russian occupation of parts of Estonia and Latvia – the area of the then Livonia.


The main cause of the conflict was the desire to gain free access to the Livonian coast which was very important for trading with the Western Europe.  For Russia, the war against Poland-Lithuania ended with the Treaty of Jam Zapolski and Tsar Ivan’s surrender of a large part of the claimed territory.


He could also not arrive at a favourable solution in the quarrel with the King of Sweden. The Livonian War finally ended with the Treaty of Plussa on 10 August 1583.



Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea (Mare Balticum, lat.) is an inland sea located in Northern Europe. It is about 1600 km long, an average of 193 km wide, the maximum depth amounts 459 m. Its volume is about 21,000 km³, the total length of coastline is about 8000 km.


The Baltic Sea is a result of the ending Ice Age (Pleistocene) approximately 12.000 years ago. Sea level rose and formed a narrow strait between North East Denmark and South West Sweden (Skagerrak/Kattegat). It is the only connection to the North Sea and thus to the Atlantic Ocean. The Baltic Sea is surrounded by: Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Denmark.



Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights (Latin: Ordo Teutonicus, German: Deutscher Orden or Deutscher Ritterorden) emanated in 1198 from a community of Hospitallers that had been established during the Third Crusade (1189-92). (See also the article about the Baltic Germans). Grand Masters (German: Hochmeister), elected for life, were leading this spiritual-military order.  When the Teutonic Knights had been appointed to subdue the pagan Baltic Prussians (Pruzzen) in 1225, they conquered large parts of Prussia, Livonia and Estonia.  In the 14th century the Teutonic Order had reached its greatest territorial extent.


The decline of the Knights began in 1410 when they were forced to surrender to Poland and Lithuania in the Battle of Grunwald (also known as the Battle of Tannenberg).In 1466, the defeated Order recognized the Polish crown's rights over western Prussia. In the 16th century the order lost Estonia, Livonia and Courland and in 1809 Napoleon I ordered the dissolution of the Order.



UNESCO World Heritage Site

At the moment there are more than 800 historical buildings and works of art worldwide which bear the title of World Heritage Site and are thus considered worthy of being protected by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). They are registered in the so called World Heritage List together with unique natural phenomena (World Natural Heritage).


The entry of the list guarantees financial and technical support for the restoration and preservation of the objects. The idea for the project emerged in 1972 when a convention for the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage was passed in Stockholm and came into effect in 1975.


The World Heritage Committee decides about the entry of new objects every year. The World Heritage List is published in the up-to-date version every other year. The UNESCO is based in Paris (France).



Via Baltica (European route E67)

The European route E67 is a highway which connects the most important capitals in North East Europe.


It is running from Prague (Czech Republic) via Warsaw (Poland), Kaunas (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia), and Tallinn (Estonia) to Helsinki (Finland) The final stretch between Tallinn and Helsinki is by ferry. Its total length is about 1,500 km.