The Swedes in Estonia

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The Swedes mostly settled down on the earlier unsettled islands and coastal areas in Estonia from the middle of XIII century. Most of the Swedes probably arrived here upon the invitation of the bishop of Saare-Lääne and other Estonian landlords who hoped for the help against the coast robbers who operated actively on the uninhabited and thinly populated coastal areas.

Thus many purely Swedish settlement areas were created on the Estonian coastal areas. Swedish was spoken on the islands of Ruhnu, Vormsi, Osmussaar, Naissaar, Pakri, most of Hiiumaa, Noarootsi and more coastal areas in Läänemaa and Harjumaa. In some areas the Estonian place names even did not exist next to the Swedish ones.
The Estonian Swedes created the archaic dialect language and original folk culture.

The Swedes also lived in Haapsalu, especially during the Middle Ages, but also later in Tallinn. The urban Swedes did not mostly belong to the higher class of the society. The coastal Swedes dealt mainly with fishing and seal hunting, but also cultivated land, especially the ones living on the mainland.

The living conditions of the Swedish peasants were similar to the ones of the Estonian peasants, but their legal status was better than of the Estonians especially in the first centuries: they were personally free and were not attached to the land.

On the photo: Vormsi church

Jüri Viikberg. Eesti rahvaste raamat. Eesti entsüklopeediakirjastus: Tallinn 1999;
Ilmar Talve. Eesti kultuurilugu. Keskaja algusest Eesti iseseisvuseni. Ilmamaa: Tartu 2004

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