Tallinn – Chronological history of the city

Tallinn was founded in the 10th century as a merchants’ settlement called Lindanise. But only at the beginning of the 13th century the Danes established Reval (which was Tallinn’s name till 1918) as a fortified city. The current name Tallinn was most probably derived from the old Estonian name Taani linn (Danish town).


Danes conquer Estonia
The Danes conquer Estonia (Portrait, 1809).

In 1285, Reval joined the Hanseatic League and became a junction for organized trade on the Baltic Sea. In 1346, the city and the neighbouring areas were transferred to the Teutonic Order. From now on Reval stayed under the foreign rule for centuries.


But it was the local peasants, who lived outside the city walls and were not allowed to influence the economic and political developments, who kept the Estonian culture and language alive.


The Old Town of Tallinn.

After the collapse of the Teutonic Order, Reval fell under the Swedish rule in 1561. This year marks also the beginning of a changing development for the city. Despite enormous social and cultural progress the wars with Russia (1570/71 and 1577) were hard to bear. The plague (1602/03) and a great fire (1684) did further damage to the city.


During the Great Northern War the Russians invaded Reval in 1710. The port was rebuilt and the population started to grow rapidly. It was at that time that Tsar Peter I restored the ancestral privileges of the old, established German community.


Although Reval had hardly been affected by the troubles of the First World War, the year 1918 was an important turning point in its history. The Baltic seaport that was so full of history was now officially named Tallinn and became the capital of the independent Estonia. But as history would prove later, it happened some decades too early.


Even Estonia was part of the Soviet utopia.

In 1940 Russia occupied Estonia. Later, Nazi Germany (1941) seized power in Tallinn and the rest of the country. After the Second World War, the small Baltic state was annexed by the huge Soviet empire.


For more than five decades Estonia was ruled politically and economically by the Kremlin. Although Estonia belonged to the more privileged of the Soviet republics, it was still hard for the country.


On the 20th of August 1991, Estonia finally regained independence. The Soviet empire collapsed and a new life began for the Baltic country. Today, the capital of Estonian proudly presents itself as a growing economic and important tourist centre with a steadily growing number of visitors.



   - Next topic: The Old Town of Tallinn