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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe


Ungenois / Ugaunians (Estonians of Dorpat / Tartu)
Incorporating the Chuds/Chudes

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 (or Ugandi) being defeated by the prince of Kiev. Over the course of its history, it was conquered by Kiev, the Order of the Knights of the Sword, Poland, Sweden, and the Russian empire, but from 1918 it formed part of a united Estonian nation.

By 1170 some of the native Estonian tribes could be identified by name. Those of the south and east of modern Estonia were the Ugaunians or Unguenois. This was the Estonian name (albeit recorded by non-Estonian-speakers) for the southern Estonian component of the greater body of Chudes or Chuds - to the early Rus - who extended into Karelia and modern north-western Russia with a centre in Tartu). Each tribal region (or parish once Christianity had been introduced) in Estonia was headed by a council of elders.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Gediminas Kiveris and Merit Pai, from Life in Estonia, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from Eric's Chronicle, from the 15th Yearbook of the Estonian Learned Society in Sweden, 2010-2014 (Eesti Teadusliku Seltsi Rootsis aastaraamat XV. 2010-2014), Ants Anderson (Ed, Stockholm, 2015), and from External Links: Archaeology: The First Vikings, and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA. Other major sources listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page.)


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 in 1030. 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).

That act could be the culmination of increasing resistance against the Kievans. In 1060 they launch a military campaign against a tribe which the Old East Slavic chronicles call the Sosols, believed to be the Sakala people to the west of the Ungenois. They too are forced to pay tribute. In 1061 they rise up against the Kievans to destroy the Kievan fortress of Yuryev (either contradicting the claim that this is done by the Ungenois or, possibly, in alliance with them even though the two are usually inimical to one another). The Sosols at least then go on to threaten Pskov.

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.


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 Order of the Knights of the Sword, 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?


Over the course of this period, North Estonia is slowly taken by force under Danish control. This begins with the arrival of a Danish fleet led by Valdemar II. On 15 June 1219, he attacks the fortress of Lindanäs (now Tallinn). The battle is a hard-fought one and the Danes are close to admitting defeat when, according to tradition, a red cloth with a white cross falls from the sky, inspiring them to fight on and conquer the town.

In the same year the Order of the Knights of the Sword raid Vironian lands, aided by contingents of recently christened Lets, Livs, Sakalians, Ugaunians, and 'Jervians' (presumably people of the Alempois). The raid continues for five days, killing and pillaging Vironian people and settlements, before several elders request a truce. One admits - without having much of a choice - that he is ready to accept the Christian god. The other Vironian elders also accept Christianity and the German crusaders take the customary hostages in the form of the sons of elders to ensure that the truce is maintained.

1219 - 1245

Hermann I of Buxhoeveden

First bishop of Dorpat. Brother of Albert of the Order of the Knights of the Sword.


Following quarrels between the Danes and the Order of the Knights of the Sword over the precise borders between their conquests, Denmark agrees to submit the southern Estonian provinces of Sakala and Ugaunia (Dorpat) which are already under the control of the knights. Bishop Albert in Livonia officially submits to Denmark and North Estonia the provinces of Harria (Harju), Vironia (Viru), and Jerwia (Järva).

1224 - 1225

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


Construction is begun of the first stone fortress on Toomemägi.

1240 - 1242

Denmark attacks Novgorod to the east of its lands in North Estonia. Apart from teaching Novgorod a lesson and perhaps winning some territory, the Finno-Ugric Votians are also targeted as the Danes want their territory. Overall, though, the campaign fails to gain any territory at all. In fact, Novgorod is able to launch a reprisal attack.

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).

Dorpat 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 Dorpat'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



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.


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


1323 - 1341

Engelbert von Dolen

1342 - 1344


1344 - 1346?

Johannes I

1346 - 1373

Johannes II Viffhusen

1373 - 1378

Heinrich Velde

1378 - 1400

Dietrich III Damerow


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).


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.

Tartu and the River Emajõgi
Estonia's second city of Tartu, with the River Emajõgi ('mother river') running through it, has origins that go back to a time before AD 1030 and its first mention in any written sources (tap or click on image to view full sized)

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.