Saaremaa Muuseum. Kaheaastaraamat 2007–2008. Kuressaare, 2009, 343 pp.
The article sums up the preliminary results of a research project about prehistoric and early medieval maritime landscapes on Saaremaa, supervised by the author. The research project started in the second half of the 1990s, and several surface survey expeditions and archaeological excavations have been carried out in its framework by today. One of the most interesting site complexes has been Viltina on Saaremaa’s southern coast.
Different methods can be used to establish the location of prehistoric harbour sites. Historical maps are compared with the present day coastline, because the speed at which land rises from the sea on Saaremaa is ca 2.5–3 meters in a thousand years. Places that were suitable for harbours in prehistoric times are therefore situated on dry land today. To find those places it is possible to observe the distribution of prehistoric stone graves, considering that burial monuments on seashore often marked places that were used as harbours. Local tradition and place names can be of help as well. The final stage in the localisation of prehistoric harbour sites is surface survey by means of metal detector and phosphate mapping. Archaeological excavations were carried out at only a selected few sites.
The prehistoric harbour site at Viltina was found in 1999 and excavated in 2004–2006. An area of 330 sq m in six different ditches was opened for getting an overview of the earlier function and character of the site. The results showed that flimsy timber structures had been put up in an area opening on to a small bay of the Late Viking Age with a suitable landing and several graves were found between and close to them. Burials in the vicinity or right within prehistoric harbour sites were characteristic also for other sites of the same kind around the Baltic Sea. Besides, an area at Viltina had been cleaned from stones, and probably used as an open meeting place. Right next to this area, remains of two wooden jetties were found on the slope of the one-time sea. There had been a light fence around at least part of the complex. The site was dated mainly to the 11th and 12th centuries.
Finds from Viltina indicated that the place had not been used the year round but occasionally. The most likely interpretation is that Viltina was a prehistoric kärajad, meeting place, where people from the surrounding districts met a few times or perhaps once a year for negotiations, rituals, judging or other purposes.
Kalle Kesküla – Traces of Vikings in Saaremaa’s History
Vikingism first developed on the southeastern shores of the North Sea when West Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes) sailed to Great Britain and started to seize lands that Romans had not yet overrun. When the Romans retreated, they invaded present-day England where they intermingled with Britons and established seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The English language was born.
To Saaremaa Vikingism arrived via North Germanic tribes that had settled in Scandinavia. The social structure of the two areas was very similar. In Scandinavia the elite of the society consisted of army leaders (jarls) and on Saaremaa of elders. The attitude to women was dignified; slaves (träls) made up the lower class. The Vikings discussed their affairs at tings while in Estonia the popular meeting was known as the kärajad.
Ordinary people lived the same way on both the shores of the Baltic Sea. The general Germanic god of Thunder was Donar, and his Scandinavian colleague was Tor, while the people on Saaremaa worshipped Taara. Also the idea of hell (Hel, Estonian põrgu) and other mythological images were similar. Tor was the son of the main god, Odin, and Thursday was dedicated to him (Danish torsdag, English Thursday, German Donnerstag).
The Vikings’ five-day week was used also on Saaremaa. Today’s speech retains the word Wednesday (German Mittwoch, Russian sreda, Finnish keskiviikko, Icelandic midvikudagur, and Estonian kesknädal) and Friday as a free day (Danish Fredag, German Freitag, English Friday, Estonian reede). On Saaremaa, too, Thursday was celebrated by going to the sauna, to sacrificial stones, sacred groves, to a woman’s home to propose to her, or by marking family events and holding community parties.
The Germanic runic writing was developed at the beginning of the first millennium AD and was used in Scandinavia until the 12th century when Latin and its alphabet were adopted in connection with Christianisation. It was the first way of writing also on Saaremaa. Runic letters survive on old calendars and as farmyard marks, and they are also found in folk costume decorations (girdles, mittens). The calendar was cut into a stick or small tablets. The calendar, called sirvilauad, was used by Swedish settlers on the eastern shore of the Baltic and Estonians on the islands and the northeastern coast.
The last Vikings in the Baltic Sea area were the Kure and the Saare people. Nothing is known about the origin of the Kure language, and there is no closer information about their settlement area and trade practises. The Christian treatment of history does not associate the Varangians with coastal Swedes (the Swedes, it is told, were invited to Estonia by the Germans and with a very noble aim – to protect them from pirates). But the aspiration of the Vikings to settle new lands dates back to a much older period and it was of a totally different nature, due mainly to agrarian overpopulation. The coastal Swedes and the Kure people who were crowded out from their homeland in order that those who stayed could survive could have shared their fate.
The archbishopric of Hamburg–Bremen that was established in the original home of the Vikings in the 9th century comprised the whole of northern Europe. Already in the 1070s Adam, the archbishop of Bremen, could speak about traders sailing to Saaremaa and the riches of the local seamen.
The former Vikings baptised on the banks of the Elbe and the Weser launched a drive to the east (Drang nach Osten), establishing colonies in Lübeck and on Gotland in the 12th century. Bishop Gerold of Oldenburg on the Hunte, a tributary of the Weser, was ordained bishop of Lübeck in 1147.
Albert, a nephew of Hartwig, the archbishop of Bremen, subjugated the Livonians, Latgals and Sels at the beginning of the 13th century. The German emperor ordained him as the ruler of St Mary’s Land. The practise of the seizure of lands of the Viking period developed into a system of fiefs based on vassalage (oath of loyalty) to the bishop or the master of the Order.
The crusade against the Estonians bogged down on Saaremaa. The skill of present-day Saaremaa people’s forefathers’ of waging war, their diplomacy and Latin treaties testify to a higher level of development compared with other prehistoric Estonian counties. The people of Saaremaa kept their ships and weapons after the conquest as well as their own self-government and land ownership. The Viking mark continued in use as the medium of exchange.
Also the last Saaremaa bishop, Johann Münchhausen and his brother Christoph, who sold Saaremaa to the Danish Oldenburg monarchy in 1559 (a son of the Count of Oldenburg was elected to rule the Kalmar Union in 1448), sprang from the original home of the Vikings. According to an old Viking tradition the Münchhausens were paid by a load of silver. Duke Magnus, whose roots were in the original home of the Vikings, became the new ruler of Saaremaa.
Kaire Tooming – New Facts about the Building History of St James’ of Püha
St James’ of Püha is one of seven medieval churches preserved on Saaremaa. It was severely damaged in the Livonian War, when a Russian military unit put the church on fire in 1576. Because of the damages and thick layers of plaster applied through the centuries to cover them up the church has not met with any particular interest by architecture historians. It has been presumed that the building of the church at Püha started with the present choir put up at the end of the 13th century, followed by the nave during the later half of the 14th century. The tower has been dated to the beginning of the 16th century by one researcher and to the beginning of the 17th century by another. Using information revealed in the course of conservation work (started in 2007), the author of the article attempts to establish the timeline of the building of St James’ of Püha, focusing on the choir and the tower. Recent evidence acquired provides the ground for a new theory that links the builders of the choir with a group of travelling master masons of Bohemian origin who are known to have built the bishop’s castle in Kuressaare and the apse of St Martin’s of Valjala. Therefore the building of the choir of St James’ of Püha cannot be dated to earlier than the second part of the 14th century. The question of dating the tower has been solved by dendrochronology. Tests have shown that the timber used for building it was cut down around 1481–86.
Mauri Kiudsoo – Coin hoard from the Great Northern War period
from Kuke Village of Saaremaa
The hoard found from Kuke Village of the Kaarma Parish of Saaremaa in 2007 is the biggest hidden treasure of mainly Swedish coins found in Estonia until the present from the period of the Great Northern War. In addition to the 947 coins with the TPQ dating of 1708 also the metal vessel holding them arrived in the collection of the Saaremaa Museum. In addition to Swedish coins struck in the Stockholm Mint (914 pcs) and West-European thaler system coins (15 pcs) the Kuke hoard also includes small Danish (4 pcs) and local Livonian coins (14 pcs). At the time of hoarding the treasure of nearly 117 state thalers in value would have bought 58 well-fed pigs or 11 good horses. The reason why the treasure found from the lands of Jaani Farm remained in the ground could probably be linked with two different kinds of disasters that hit Saaremaa in 1710, with a Russian attack or the plague. The importance of the Kuke hoard today is mainly due to fact that thanks to its size and integrity it provides a good overview of the different kinds of coins that circulated in Saaremaa in those times and the ratio between them.
Toomas Mägi – Parson’s Work and Income in Saaremaa in the second half of the 18th century
The main requirements to the parson’s office were laid down in Chapter XIX of the Swedish ecclesiastic law. This article looks at the subject of the pastor’s official duties and his income mainly on the basis of church visitation minutes. The visitation committees laid the most importance on that the parsons should be guided in their work by the Holy Scripture, the Augsburg Confession and other symbolist books of the church, that they would be an example to the congregation both in their teachings and in life, would explain the truth of religion coherently and comprehensibly and in keeping with procedures laid down in ecclesiastic law.
Another problem of major importance was that parsons would be keep upgrading themselves and would prepare their sermons conscientiously. The parsons said that they continued to carefully study and based their sermons on exegetic rules. It appears that the parsons were influenced by the philosophy of Christian Wolff, a student of Leibnitz. In the sphere of dogmatics treatments of Siegmund Jakob Baumgarten, a theology professor from Halle, and Johann Friedrich Stapfer were mentioned. The main work of the latter, Grundlegung zur wahren Religion (The fundamentals of true religion), was regarded as the best treatment of Christian dogmatics in general. Ernst Schubert was an authority in ecclesiastical history. He and Baumgarten have been mentioned the most often by the parsons. In theology also the Halle Professor Johann Salomo Semler, regarded as the biggest representative of theologian enlightenment in the 18th century, should be mentioned. The only one to have added into his list of authorities such authors of the antiquity as Livy, Tacitus, Herodotos and Cicero, was the parson of Püha, P. H. Frey.
Services took place on all Sundays, prayer days, religious festivals and annual fairs. Preaching in the Holy Week has been added starting from answers of 1794. On these days services had to take place both for the Estonian and for the German congregations in the respective languages.
The actual situation was slightly different from what it appears from the visitation minutes. According to B. J. von Schoten, the parson of Kaarma, who kept a separate list of German congregation members’ attendance of church services in the public records book, services in German did not often take place at all and Germans attended services in Estonian. Frequently services in German were conducted with only one person attending. It is not quite clear why Germans preferred services in Estonian. At any rate Germans’ participation in Estonian-language services refers to the Germans’ rather good command of Estonian. Apparently members of the two communities got along better as members of the congregation than in secular life where the difference in status was more pronounced.
In addition to catechesis also home visits, sometimes called parson’s or local visitations, constituted an important section of the cure of souls. On the basis of the Swedish ecclesiastic law a home visit was to be one of the parson’s most important duties. The parson had to visit members of the congregation at their homes, catechize them, asking them questions about the catechism in order to make an opinion about the children’s studies at home, etc.
In the second half of the 18th century home visits on Saaremaa were carried out more or less in accordance with the same methods: going to visit a sick person the parson made inquiries from the neighbours about the person’s life, conciliated feuds between neighbours, asked whether the children’s relations with their parents were Christian and exhorted everyone to live in fear of God and in friendship. Visiting the sick person he asked about his life and health, and they then sang and prayed together, catechized adults, checked the children’s reading skills and their knowledge about the catechism.
The workload of a parish parson was no doubt quite high: religious services, ecclesiastic official ceremonies, home visits, and management of the parsonage, to name only the most important activities. Even ideally, no one was able to carry out what had been laid down by law and by instructions.
The parson’s main income was from the management of the parsonage (including payments in kind by peasants of the parsonage), the manors’ church fees and charges from ecclesiastic ceremonies. In case of the latter a new tendency can be observed in the period under review – payment in kind started to be admitted only in grain. In the last decades of the century payments were only made in money or grain, and no longer in stockings, farm animals etc. This was in full agreement with the general development of the economy. The prices of grain were very favourable to farmers all through the second half of the 18th century. After the grain export ban was abolished during the rule of Catherine II export of grain grew at a rapid pace.
Alur Reinans – Additions to Kuressaare’s Silversmiths and Their Work
The book published in 2005, “Estonian Silver Marks”, lists 33 goldsmiths who worked in Kuressaare before 1918. The list has to be complemented with three names from the 17th century. The reason is that the historian Vello Helk published a list of Kuressaare citizens from the 17th century already about twenty years ago but a couple of silversmiths mentioned in it have remained unmentioned in the relevant literature. They are Arend Bischoff (from 1627) and Werner Lohman (1627 and 1645). Jacob Fleischmann jun, who has been mentioned as a citizen of Kuressaare in 1675, could be added as a third name. The earlier lists include Jacob Fleischmann, who became an associate master (Mitmeister) in Kuressaare in 1654, and Johann (Friedrich) Fleischmann, who, according to Seuberlich, was born as son of Kuressaare citizen Jakob Fleischmann. He was mentioned as a citizen of several years’ standing in 1700 and died of the plague in 1710. The trade of Jacob Fleischmann jun has not been mentioned, but it is quite clear that we have to do with three generations of goldsmiths.
Surprisingly it has been possible to attribute some surviving works to Jacob Fleischmann – two pitchers with the stamp IFM, of which one was sold at an auction in London in 2007 and the other belongs to collections of the Estonian Art Museum. Until today there was firm information only about pitchers made in Tallinn and Narva from Estonia.
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In accordance with regulations a silver vessel had to carry both the maker’s and the city mark. (In Estonia this procedure was in effect until 1841.) Estonian silver items, however, only have the maker’s mark, often struck twice. But it is also possible to find items that only have the city mark and no maker’s mark. There are five such items known from Kuressaare from the beginning of the 19th century, probably made in one and a same workshop. Four of them carry a certain letter (D, E or H are represented) simultaneously with the city mark, which must apparently be interpreted as the year mark.
Kuressaare silversmiths used city marks of widely varying designs. The marks on the above five objects are identical or similar with Carl Ernst Kropp’s marks. Kropp became citizen of Kuressaare in 1775. We do not know how long he worked. He died in 1798 but may have stopped working as a goldsmith already in 1789 or 1794. The 1770-born Christian Georg Eylandt, who moved to Kuressaare in 1795 and became an associate master of Tallinn in Kuressaare in 1797, has also used a similar stamp. As a hypothesis it seems very likely that C. G. Eylandt took over Kropp’s workshop in about 1795 or 1797 and continued to use his tools, including city stamps.
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About 40 silver items made in Kuressaare are known at present. Nine of them are known from David Wilhelm Schnackenburg. He was born in 1802, studied under the Kuressaare goldsmith F. T. Lewis until 1838 and became an associate master of Tallinn in 1839. In the census of 1850 he is mentioned as a goldsmith aged 47. According to church records Schnackenburg died at the age of 68 in 1870.
It is interesting to note that all known items made by Schnakenburg carry the maker’s mark DS and the assay mark 13. Schnackenburg has not used the city mark although he should have done it according to regulations. Use of 13-lot silver was permitted in Estonia until 1841. Starting from 1842 the same regulations as in the rest of the tsarist empire entered into effect in Estonia. The silver used should have been of 84 zolotnik (corresponding to 14 lots), and if until that time goldsmith guilds and masters had taken responsibility for the metal used, then it was now necessary to have the item marked in a state assay office. Such an institution was opened in Tallinn in 1844 and in Riga apparently in 1843. As a result an item made in Kuressaare had to have a total five stamps: the maker’s mark, the silver mark 84, the assayer’s mark, and the mark of either the Tallinn or Riga assay office. At any rate there should be no silver assay marks 13, but the Russian 84 starting from 1842. Schnackenburg could have launched independent operation in 1838 at the earliest – consequently all the known nine items should date from the years 1838–41.
Schnackenburg apparently worked as a goldsmith for about twenty more years after 1842. Why haven’t any items stamped in 1842 or later been found? In fact, no items marked according to the regulations are known from Kuressaare from 1842 or later. The problem does not apply to Schnackenburg or Kuressaare alone, the same applies also to Haapsalu and Valga, and there are several makers also in other towns from whom there are items from before and none from after 1842. The question why remains without answer at present.
Bruno Pao – Bicentenary of the Vilsandi Lighthouse
The first active navigation aid, a 110-foot lighthouse, was erected on Vilsandi Island off the western coast of Saaremaa Island in 1809. The round tower of quarried limestone in the shape of a truncated cone has served as an aid for safer navigation for as many as 200 years now. It was put up in the period of transition from an open fire on the flat top of the tower to rotating lights in a closed lantern room amplified by means of concave mirrors. On a sparsely populated island that had been long used as several manors’ hayfield and a fishing base, the navigation aid maintained by the state promoted denser settlement and helped make the island better known.
To distinguish the Vilsandi Lighthouse from those of Ovīši on the coast of Courland and of Kõpu on Hiiumaa Island, the building of another lighthouse next to it was started in about 1824, with the double lighthouses on Cape Kolka as an example. The northern wooden lighthouse on Vilsandi Island gradually decayed and the building of a 30-meter stone tower began at the same place in 1841. But on 19 August 1842 the structure, almost completed, collapsed, burying under its rubble six workers who were found dead. Six people sustained grave and four light injuries. After that the idea of putting up another lighthouse was given up.
Keeping pace with the development of the lighting equipment the blinking lights of the Vilsandi Lighthouse were replaced three times during the second half of the 19th century and the load-bearing part of the tower was repaired. The lantern was raised to the height of 37 meters and the light could be seen to the distance of 18 nautical miles.
In 1906–40 Artur Toom (1884–1942) who took part in the establishment of the first bird sanctuary on Vaika Islands in the vicinity of the lighthouse in 1910, worked as supervisor of the Vilsandi Lighthouse. He became an outstanding nature protector, earning the nickname of Vilsandi Bird King. The meaning of the lighthouse of long history has been great for life and maritime culture on the island and has increased the local coast-dwellers’ interest in shipbuilding and navigation.
Eda Maripuu – Conversion to Orthodoxy and its Influence on Muhu Island
Like on Saaremaa, conversion into Orthodoxy took place also on Muhu Island in 1846–49, with the local Lutheran peasants converting into Orthodoxy on a massive scale. The movement was moderately supported by the central Russian authorities while the local officialdom who made part of the local German elite and the Lutheran church attempted to obstruct it by various means. The reasons for converting to Orthodoxy were the opportunity of achieving bigger independence from earlier oppressors and the hope that the czar’s faith would bring also certain economic benefits.
The Rinsi Orthodox congregation on Muhu was set up on 20 March 1847. In the years 1847–49 a total of 1,742 people accepted the new faith, a somewhat smaller percentage of Muhu’s population during the period than has been given for the island in literature published earlier. The second wave of conversion in the 1870s and the demand of the anointment of children born from mixed families led to the growth in the percentage of Orthodox believers, so that more than 80 percent of Muhu islanders were Orthodox believers before World War I. Contrary to mainland Estonia more women than men converted to Orthodoxy on Muhu Island.
Conversion into Orthodoxy in the mid-19th century influenced life on the island and its people in various ways. A rather dense school network was established on the island, and in addition to Orthodox schools there were also Lutheran village schools – three higher level parish schools; besides, a ministerial school of the next stage was opened on the island at the beginning of the 20th century.
On the basis of the Muhu example it is quite safe to assert that Orthodoxy was not just a tool of Russification. On the contrary, a local Orthodox subculture was established on Muhu Island, being different not only from that of the Russian mother church, but also from Saaremaa and Läänemaa traditions. Orthodoxy was certainly not an alien, but a fully “own” faith on Muhu Island. It had not been imposed by anyone there but was one of the first free choices the Estonian peasants had had after choosing their surnames. Indirectly conversion to Orthodoxy also brought economic gains and influenced both handicraft skills and education standards. Orthodox clergymen and their children acted in the name of the Estonians’ good, although they often had to suffer criticism from nationalists of Lutheran background. By the time that Orthodoxy became a tool of Russification, the local church had already established itself and as the pointer of Russification was directed against Lutherans Orthodox believers could improve life for the Estonians without much interference.
Several Estonian intellectuals and politicians, Nikolai Kann, Peeter Kann, Herman Aav and others, whose career was outstanding on the national Estonian scale, have risen of from Muhu Orthodox clergymen’s families. Herman Aav became the builder of the Finnish Orthodox Church after World War I and its restorer after World War II.
Olavi Pesti – German Secondary School in Kuressaare
Full secondary education in German could be acquired on Saaremaa since 1865 when the Kuressaare Boys’ Gymnasium (secondary school) was established. During the Russification period in 1892 the school was switched to tuition in Russian alone. In the period of German occupation from the end of 1917 until the autumn of 1918 Kuressaare had a boys’ school and a girls’ lycée where tuition was in German. A secondary school where tuition was in Estonian, the present Saaremaa Ühisgümnaasium, opened on 15 January 1919.
As the percentage of German-speaking residents in Kuressaare was one of the highest in the pre-war Republic of Estonia (11.9 per cent in 1992, 6.8 per cent in 1934), it was quite natural to establish a private secondary school in the town, as it happened in numerous other Estonian settlements. The sanction for the establishment of the school was issued on 4 January 1919 and work started there on 13 January with Eberhard Gundalin (1880–1974) as its first headmaster. During its 20 years of activity the school worked under nearly ten different names.
As in the autumn of 1928 the state took the six lowest forms into the public school network and thus under its own financing, the institution was formally divided into two, with the Kuressaare German Public Elementary School (Deutsche Grundschule zu Arensburg) complementing the gymnasium. In connection with the countrywide school reform the number of schools formally increased to three from 1934 with the Kuressaare German Private Secondary School (a private science school) since the school year 1937/38 working parallel with the Gymnasium and the Grundschule. But in substance it was always the same institution. In the autumn of 1920 a permanent location was found for the school in the former citizens’ club, Bürgermusse, at No 26 Pikk Street, which was gradually thoroughly refurbished and properly equipped.
The ethnic minorities’ cultural self-government act effected major changes in the management of German schools. All the German private and public schools were now brought under the administration of the German cultural self-government.
During twenty years nearly 70 teachers worked in the German Gymnasium and Grundschule, but usually there were about twelve teachers working at any one time. From 1923 until his death an outstanding public figure, Roderich Greinert (1896–1937), held the post of headmaster; later Gundalin again filled the post.
In the course of the twenty years about 400 children studied at the Kuressaare German school. Of the 323 pupils who reached the secondary school stage in the years 1919–38 101 students took their school-leaving exams there – 59 boys and 42 girls. The percentage of those who went on to university was remarkably high and every 14th school-leaver worked their way to the doctor’s degree (six of the seven in medicine).
The educational and cultural life of Saaremaa’s German-speaking community was very closely intertwined in the 1920s and 30s. Side by side with providing general education the German schoolhouse became one of the most important cultural and political centres of the local Baltic-German community, and was given the parallel name of German House. In the activity in and outside the school and in the ideology of the local Baltic-Germans in wider terms the personality and work of the outstanding German writer Walter Flex (1887–1917), who fell during World War I on Saaremaa, occupied a very important place. Unofficially the Gymnasium was often called after the writer and attempts were made to get official status to the name.
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Establishment of the Republic of Estonia radically changed the economic, political, spiritual and psychological situation of Baltic-Germans and other ethnic minorities who remained living there. This pertained to all residents of the young state of Estonia who had a different mother tongue but in Saaremaa there were certain particular features to this phenomenon. Their German, Baltic or Estonian identity was complemented by that of Saaremaa islanders and it is alive even today, 70 years later. Establishment of the German-medium school, its development and preservation was no doubt the main guarantee of the preservation and development of the Baltic-German subculture in the period after World War I in Saaremaa. The Gymnasium managed to satisfactorily perform also its main duty – providing a good education to children. For the small community its preservation as a full secondary school almost until the end of the 1930s was a heroic act accomplished thanks to the Island Germans’ (Inseldeutschtum) sufficient unity and material sacrifices brought in the name of education. The Kuressaare German secondary school has a remarkable place not only in the history of the local German community but also in the whole Saaremaa cultural history.
Appended to the article are lists of teachers, students and of the most outstanding alumni of the school.
Priit Kivi – Saaremaa metalworking and blacksmith’s shops in 1920–40
Very different metal products were made on Saaremaa in the first period of Estonia’s independence. Quite a large number of farms had small smithies where blacksmith’s work was done for the farm’s own use. This article gives an overview of Saaremaa’s metalworking companies, blacksmiths and other craftsmen based on their biographies and activity. The city of Kuressaare and five municipalities where metalworking was particularly widespread are under review.
It has not been possible to give an overview of all the Saaremaa men who engaged in metalworking, but the article speaks about many of those who registered their smithy or other type of company according to the regulations of the period and were involved in active sale of their products on a bigger or smaller scale and whose names can be found in archival records and the press of the period.
None of the metalworking companies were very large. Despite the size of the enterprises traditions were strong. Quite a few of the blacksmiths came from families where the owner’s father and grandfather, and often also his brother, had been engaged in metalworking. In many cases their sons continued their work.
The assortment of the metalworkers’ products was quite wide, but it was the Saaremaa scythe that served as a kind of benchmark. Scythes made on Saaremaa were sought both on the mainland and on the islands.
The most important metalworker’s shops in Kuressaare were the workshop of the Kuressaare Industrial School, the Mehaanik (Eduard Tambur and Aleksei Oll) and Meteor (Voldemar Seeberg) mechanical workshops, the scythe maker Eduard Sepp, the Suurpere and Paakspuu brothers and the ironworker Mihkel Taev. Of those working outside Kuressaare the Marienthal metalworking shop (Johannes Kingissepp), the scythe makers of Paiküla from the Kärla municipality (Willem and Jüri Niit, Mihkel Koppel, Juhan Tänak and Juhan Mölder), the brothers Mihkel and Eduard Ool from Kaarma-Suurevalla and Mihkel Kadarik from Leisi deserve to be specially mentioned. Among other workshops the firm Vaiko Keskkütted V. Kolk & Ko stood out for its focus on the building of state-of-the-art hot air furnaces and central heating systems based on the kitchen range.
The crucial year in the history of Estonia, 1940, had an effect also on the metalworking shops. Some of them were nationalised but the small size of many of the companies helped save from nationalisation. Despite that many entrepreneurs wound up their activity (or were forced to do so) in the second half of 1940 for various reasons. Like many other Estonian citizens also metalworkers were hit by what took place in the early 1940s in Estonia – some were repressed, some left the country to the West and some had to continue in totally different conditions.
Piret Hiie – History of the Saaremaa Maritime Sports Society until 1944
Before the Saaremaa Maritime Sports Society (Saaremaa Merispordi Selts) was established in 1926 there was only one yacht club operating in Kuressaare and it belonged to Germans – Arensburger Yacht-Club, which was set up in August 1891 and worked until 1940.
Arensburger Yacht-Club had also some Estonian members who owned yachts and were skilled sailers. The marina of the club was situated on the west bank of Tori Bay where a clubhouse was put up in 1909. Generally there were rather modest conditions for the practise of sailing as it was quite an expensive sport. The development of sailing on Saaremaa was also obstructed by the isolated island conditions and a remarkable distance from other centres. During World War I activity of the club died down, some of the yachts perished and the members dispersed.
After the war the Yacht-Club resumed its activity, but never achieved the pre-war level. The reason was not so much economic difficulties as deteriorating relations between the local Germans and Estonians. The German leadership no longer wanted to have Estonian sailors in the club board. Now that Estonians wielded power in the country, the Baltic Germans no longer felt as secure as they had been earlier and attempted to keep their positions wherever possible.
This tense situation led some Estonian sailors to the idea of establishing their own club, and so the sports club of the Kuressaare Estonian Society (KES) was founded on 2 March 1925. The main focus was on water sports, rowing and sailing. Mihkel Neps was elected chairman of the circle. Being a sport club of KES it met at the boat station rented from the city government. But practise of maritime sports in the framework of the KES sports club was not very rational and so the ground was created for the establishment of a new yacht club.
On 31 December 1926 the Saaremaa Maritime Sports Society (SMS) was founded on the initiative of Mihkel Neps, chairman of the county government. Officially it launched its activity in January 1927. The majority of the members were employees of state institutions and private companies, businessmen and farmers, industrialists, teachers, doctors, sea captains, etc.
Already in its first year of activity it was given land from the city government on Raiekivi Spit on the east shore of Tori Bay, directly opposite the German Yacht-Club, where a jetty and access roads were built. The most successful SMS vessels were Yel, Saga, Tormilind and Viking; with Oskar Väärt by far the best sailor.
In winter seasons SMS’s indoor activity focused away from the yacht club. Rooms were rented either in some private house or a hotel mainly for the purpose of social gatherings. Licensed refreshments rooms were opened in them, becoming an important source of income for the society.
On 3 August 1930 the two-storied SMS club house, partly built on concrete posts above the water, was festively opened. In 1933 practise of a new sport, ice-boating, began in an organised way. SMS’s relations with other yacht clubs were good. Members took part in regattas organised by other clubs. By the end of 1938 the society had as many as 143 members.
After the beginning of the Soviet occupation in 1940 reorganisation of the sports life began in the republic in accordance with principles established in the Soviet Union. But when the war broke out the reorganisations and all athletic activity came to a standstill. During the German occupation (1941–44) the yacht club of the Saaremaa Maritime Sports Society was once again permitted to pursue its activity but in narrower circumstances. When the Soviet occupation was reinstated in 1944, the activity of the Saaremaa Maritime Sports Society closed down for a longer period.
Klaus Ritter – Memories of Battles on Saaremaa and in Sõrve in August 1944
The author of the article, Klaus Ritter (born in 1918 in Kassel; 1951 – Dr. iur.; a long-time leading political analyst in the Federal Republic of Germany), brings fragments of his memories of battles on Saaremaa in 1944, in which he took part as commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 67th Infantry Regiment. According to the author it was his most intensive front-line soldier’s experience during the whole war. He excelled in different breakthrough and defensive battles on Saaremaa and was decorated on 28 October 1944 with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.
The memory fragments reflect his participation in battles on Muhu Island, near Levala and Saikla, in the area between Nasva and Salme and on Sõrve Peninsula, providing valuable situational information on the circumstances of retreat from Muhu, the Tehumardi night battle and of the repulsion of an attempted landing of Soviet forces at Kaugatuma. In closer detail he reflects the breakthrough of Soviet forces on 18 November 1944 upon which Klaus Ritter carried out a dramatic extrication back to his own men. He also speaks about the evacuation from Sõrve on the early morning of 24 November, when Klaus Ritter was reportedly one of the last German soldiers to embark on a ferry heading for Ventspils.
(This and the following memories have been translated from the collection: “Halten bis zum letz[t]en Mann. Der Kampf um Ösel. Erinnerungen an die Jahre 1941–1946” (Büsum, 2004), compiled and published by Interessengemeinschaft “Ösel 1941–1944” in Germany in cooperation with the Saaremaa Museum.
Hermann Ulrichs – Battles in Sõrve
Hermann Ulrichs (born 1917, lives in Kiel) took part in the battles fought for Saaremaa in 1944 since 4 October, when he was appointed commander of the 1st Battalion of the 67th Infantry Regiment. It was a battalion formed of what had remained of the former 9th Infantry Regiment.
In his memoirs Hermann Ulrichs describes a defence battle at the Pöide Church and parsonage on 5 October 1944; as a close witness he brings additional information about the circumstances of the Tehumardi night battle. Briefly, he also touches on the repulsion of an attempted landing of Soviet troops in the vicinity of Vintri Village on 12 October. The article contains several episodes of events that took place at different Sõrve defence lines until the author was wounded on 21 November in Torgu.