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Dorpat / Tartu

The city of Tartu (German Dorpat) is now Estonia's southern capital and second largest city. It is first mentioned in a Kievan chronicle in 1030, which is the first mention of Tartu in written sources, where it describes the native Ungenois being defeated by the prince of Kiev. Over the course of its history, it was conquered by Kiev, the Livonian Knights, Poland, Sweden, and the Russian empire, but from 1918 it formed part of a united Estonian nation.

c.600

The Finnic-speaking tribes of the Baltic coast are beginning to change. They have recently begun to enjoy a period of relative wealth and prosperity earned through strong trading contacts with the heart of Europe, notably with the court of the Ostrogothic king of Italy, Theodoric the Great. This extends equally to their neighbours, the tribes of the Balts (such as Lats and Lithuanians). Around this time, the Ungenois people of southern Estonia erect a fortress by the name of Tarbatu on the east side of the Dome Hill (Toomemägi - approximately where the Astronomical Observatory now stands). Presumably this is in response to an external threat, probably to their newly-acquired wealth.

1030 - 1061?

The Estonian parish of Tartu is occupied for a short time after it is conquered by Prince Yaroslav I the Wise of Kiev. Tarbatu is replaced by a new Kievan fortress built in its place, which is named Yuryev or Jurjev. The Kievan rulers then collect tribute from the surrounding ancient Estonian county of Ugaunia. This possibly continues until 1061, when a Kievan chronicle notes that Yuryev is burned down by another tribe of Ugaunians (Chudes in the Slavic language).

1133 - 1176/77

FeatureKiev again conquers Tartu and builds it up to become the largest Russian settlement in Ungenois territory. In the second half of this century, possibly after the departure of the Kievans, a wooden church is built in Tartu and is dedicated to St John the Baptist.

1211

The bishop of Riga establishes an Estonian diocese with a seat at Leal (modern Lihula) in western Estonia. When Bishop Hermann gains the position he selects Dorpat (modern Tartu) as his capital after taking possession of swathes of south-eastern Estonia.

Lihula Castle
Lihula Castle was the first seat of the bishop in Estonia

Prince-Bishops of Dorpat
AD 1211 - 1558

In 1211, during the initial stages of the Northern Crusade, the bishopric of Leal (or Lihula) was established by the bishop of Riga. The intent was that it would serve all of Estonia, but the conquest of northern Estonia by the Danes prevented the military arm of the bishop of Riga from completing their conquest, although bishoprics were already being established in Courland and Ösel Wiek.

In 1224 the Estonian bishop took temporal authority over southern Estonia as a sovereign prince-bishop of the Holy Roman empire (formally confirmed on 6 November 1225). The bishop gave part of his possessions as a fief to the Livonian Knights, and ceded the western part of the Estonian mainland (including Leal) to the bishop of Riga on 24 July 1224. Then he selected Dorpat (Tartu) as his new capital, although the first bishop of Dorpat continued to style himself bishop of Leal until 8 January 1235.

Records regarding the bishops can sometimes be a little sparse, but in Dorpat they governed the Ungenois Estonians in the south-east, along with what are now the counties of Jõgeva, Põlva, Tartu, and Võru.

1211 - 1219

Theodoric / Dietrich I

Bishop of Leal. Died 1219?

1219 - 1245

Hermann I of Buxhoeveden

First bishop of Dorpat. Brother of Albert of the Livonian Knights.

1224 - 1225

The Livonian Knights capture Tartu in 1224, and the following year Hermann is confirmed in his position by the Holy Roman Emperor.

1234

Construction is begun of the first stone fortress on Toomemägi.

1242

Bishop Hermann and his Ungenois forces are defeated along with the Teutonic Knights on 5 April by the prince of Novgorod, Alexander Yaroslavitz Nevsky, during the Battle of the Ice on Lake Peipsi. This halts the eastwards advance of the German crusaders and fixes Dorpat's border along Peipsi, where it remains to this day (with later Soviet era modifications).

Tartu is captured and destroyed by the victorious Novgorod army but they fail to capture the Bishop's Fortress on the Dome Hill. Following the army's withdrawal a defensive wall is built around Tartu's lower town, stretching for a total of about two kilometres. The destruction wrought by the Novgorod forces is recorded in Russian and German chronicles, which provide the first written evidence that alongside the Bishop's Fortress, a settlement of German merchants and artisans had sprung up.

1245 - 1250?

Bernhard I

1250? - 1268

Alexander

1260

The Livonian Knights, along with the Teutonic Knights, are abandoned by their Estonian and Couronian vassals and defeated again, this time severely, at the Battle of Durbe in Livonia by the Samogitians. As a result, numerous rebellions break out against the Teutonic Knights all across the Baltics, including military expeditions by the Lithuanians, and it takes around thirty years before complete control is regained.

1268 - 1285

Friedrich von Haseldorf

Also claimed the title 'Bishop of Karelia' for reasons unknown.

1282

The towns of Riga, Cesis, Limba˛i, Koknese (mentioned briefly in 1205 in connection with Livonia), and Valmiera in Livonia, and Tartu/Dorpat, are included in the Hanseatic League of trading towns in Northern Europe.

1285 - 1302

Bernhard II

1302 - 1313

Dietrich II Vyshusen

1313 - 1323

Nikolaus

1323 - 1341

Engelbert von Dolen

1342 - 1344

Wescelus

1344 - 1346?

Johannes I

1346 - 1373

Johannes II Viffhusen

1373 - 1378

Heinrich Velde

1378 - 1400

Dietrich III Damerow

1379

Dietrich hates the Livonian Knights with some intensity, so much so that he forms a coalition against the Knights with Lithuania, Mecklenburg and the notorious Victual Brothers who are Baltic pirates. The Knights invade the bishopric but achieve no success. In the end their lack of results removes from them the right to demand military service from the Livonian bishops.

1400 - 1410

Heinrich Wrangel

1410 - 1413

Bernhard Bülow

1413 - 1441

Dietrich IV Resler

1441 - 1459

Bartholomäus Savijerwe

1459 - 1468

Helmich von Mallinkrodt

1468 - 1473

Andreas Pepler

1473 - 1485

Johannes Bertkow

1485 - 1498

Dietrich Hake

1499 - 1505

Johannes III von der Rope

1505 - 1513

Gerhard Schrove

1513 - 1514

Johannes Duesborg

1514 - 1518

Christian Bomhower

1518 - 1527

Johann Blankenfeld

Already bishop of Dorpat (1514), then archbishop of Riga (1524).

1525

The German Lutheran reformation reaches Tartu, accompanied by a surprisingly violent stripping of the churches (the furnishings of the Diocesan Cathedral on the Dome Hill are also destroyed). Crowds even make preparations to attack the bishop's residence. A similar mood of destructive reformation occurs in the capital city of North Estonia.

1528 - 1543

Johannes VII Bey

1543 - 1551

Jodokus von der Recke

1552 - 1558

Hermann II Wesel

Deported to Russia.

1547 - 1558

Russian czar Ivan the Terrible involves the bishop in a dispute which becomes the main pretext of the Livonian Wars. Ivan demands that the bishopric pay a huge tribute of 40,000 talers, insisting that city of Dorpat is the ancient Russian fortress of Yuryev, referring to the short term Ruthenian rule of the area after its conquest by Prince Yaroslav I the Wise of Kiev between about 1030-1061. Bishop Hermann tries to negotiate a smaller tribute in the interests of extending the truce, but Ivan dismisses the diplomats and starts the war.

1558 - 1562

In the very first stage of the Livonian Wars (1558-1583) the city of Dorpat is conquered by Russian troops and the bishopric is terminated. The bishop is taken to Moscow and imprisoned. Dorpat is the first of the Old Livonian states to cease to exist.

Tartu Town Hall
The Town Hall in Tartu city centre is now the seat of administration for the region

1562 - 1582

The Livonian Wars witness Poland, Sweden and Denmark enter the conflict in the hope of gaining a chunk of Old Livonia. In 1582, the signing of the Jam Zapolski Peace Treaty sees Tartu become part of the Poland-Lithuanian kingdom.

During the seventeenth century, Tartu continually changes hands between warring Polish and Swedish overlords. In 1704 it is taken by the Russians, who hold it until the 1918 declaration of independence in Estonia, after which it remains part of a single Estonian nation.