Siege on Tartu

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15. August 1224

Vjachko, previously a prince of Koknese, had been sent from Novgorod to Tartu with 200 men, to stand as a governor of Ugaunia.

Ugaunians understood, what Novgorod was after, but found taking the step necessary in their fight against the Germans. Locals agreed to pay tribute, areas in Vaiga, Saccalia, Wironia and Järvamaa that had refused, had to suffer under Vjachko's attacks.

Estonians had gathered in Tartu, arriving from all over Estonia, thus there may gave been more than 1000 men in the fort. It had been strengthened and well supplied.

Germans, of course, did not like Vjachko's actions, and the first try to take Tartu was made already in April, 1224. This failed, therefore only the surrounding area was pillaged. In summer, bishop Albert personally started to lead the campaign, he called for the Brotherhood, vassals of the bishop, merchants, people of Riga, Livonians and Latgalians to participate, and thus gathered a great army.

This force came to Tartu and on August 15, 1224, and the siege began. A great belfry was built in 8 days, fort was bombarded with paterells, throwing stones and pots filled with melt iron. Men, covered with movable sheds, dug at the walls. As the siege elongated, it was decided to directly assault the fort. After fierce fighting, this succeeded. A bloodshed begun, not even women and children were spared. Vjachko's group was crushed.

The fall of Tartu marked the point where crusaders held all of mainland Estonia, Saaremaa was the only county still standing free.

Image: Friedrich Ludwig von Maydell graving "The siege and assault of Tartu" (1842) in the art collection of the Library of the University of Tartu.

Source: Sulev Vahtre. Muinasaja loojang Eestis: vabadusvõitlus 1208-1227. Tallinn: Olion. 1990
Eesti ajaloo atlas. Tallinn: Avita, 2006.                                                                                                   

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