- Urve Lippus
- and Ingrid Rüütel
Country in Europe. The area south of the Finnish Gulf has been inhabited by the Estonians since about 3000 bce. Like other Baltic states, Estonia has spent most of its history ruled by neighbouring countries, except for a short period of independence between 1918 and 1940, and since 1991.
There is evidence from about the turn of the millennium of the influence of Christianity, both Eastern and Western, in the culture of peoples living in Estonia, but it was the crusade of the Teutonic Order in the 13th century that brought present-day Estonia into the north German cultural area. Churches, monasteries, and later towns became centres of art music. Though Denmark conquered considerable parts of the country in the 13th century, and later also Swedes, Poles and Russians ruled, the language and culture of the upper classes was German until the end of the 19th century. The Estonian-speaking population mostly was peasantry, but formed also the lowest stratum of townspeople. Those who gained some education and social advancement, merged with the German-speaking community without essentially altering the ethnic opposition between upper and lower classes that remained an important feature of local cultural history up to the 1930s. By the end of the 19th century the Estonian national revival had led to the rise of an Estonian-speaking middle class, and the competition between the two communities was reflected in musical and theatrical life. The Baltic-German population was deported to Germany after the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty of ...