Russian Rule
World War I

Estonia under Russian rule, 1880-1914

In 1881 Tsar Alexander II. was crowned, and with him began a new phase in Livonian history, as RUSSIFICATION, under the slogan one Tsar, one faith, one language, one law, was implemented step by step. The German RITTERSCHAFT did their utmost to fight it, and then there was the Estonian community, the vast majority of the population. The administration in St. Petersburg, which hitherto had regarded the German Ritterschaft as partners in the administration of the country, now came to regard them as obstacles to be removed. The Russian administration took over elementary education, which now was held in Russian (with the result that school attendance figures considerably declined and over 100 schools were closed); the judicial system was reformed, Russian introduced as the language of jurisdiction and Russian law implemented, most of the judges appointed being Russians. Imter- confessional marriages were outlawed by the (orthodox) Holy Synod in 1885, unless the children would be raised in orthodox faith.
The result was emigration of Germans into the Reich, rising numbers of ethnic Russian residents of Livonia, the opening of career opportunities for ethnic Estonians and a growing Russian Orthodox community. However, the Germans continued to have a strong influence on the country's economy, owned most of the farmland and dominated the better jobs in administration, education and economy.
Estonians looked rather sceptical at the policy od Russification and observed the events in Finland (the Finnish and Estonian language are closely related), which had successfully defended it's limited autonomy within the Russian Empire, with great interest.
Rapidly developing Estonian nationalism causes concern on the side of the Russian administration, which from c. 1890 to supporting the German minority again.
The early 20th century saw the establishment of modern political organizations. The Estonian PROGRESSIVE PEOPLE'S PARTY was founded in 1905. During the Russian Revolution of 1905 a number of German feudal estates went up in flames, though less then in Courland and southern Livonia. Negotiations and plans for an opening of the Baltic Provinces' diets for representation of all groups of society did not lead to a result. State control was reestablished, and the Ritterschaft remained unreformed.

Estonian History, 1850-1939, from Estonica
Courland, Livonia and Estonia. Confidential Handbooks No.57, 1919, from the British Foreign Office, posted on the Web by
Estonian Timeline, by Tapani Hietaniemi
History of Tallinn (Reval), by infomaterjalid
DOCUMENTS Henry Lansdell, Baltic Russia, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine July 1890 pp.295-309, from Cornell Digital Library Collection
REFERENCE David G. Kirby, The Baltic World 1772-1993, London : Longman 1995

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 11th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz