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Prince-Bishops of Ösel-Wiek / Saare-Lääne (Livonia)
AD 1228 - 1562

Interest in the Baltics by the increasingly powerful states of Germany and Denmark during the twelfth century may have been generated in part by the continued raids by 'Eastern Vikings' on their ports and ships. These fierce and combative Couronians and Osilians (of Ösel or Osilia, modern Saaremaa), along with the Rotalians of modern Läänemaa, harried the western states for decades before retaliatory raids grew into militaristic attempts at conquest. The Germans especially had already proven themselves capable of applying creeping subjugation on their less advanced eastern neighbours, as could be seen in the march of Lusatia and the North March.

The Danes had already briefly occupied the island of Ösel in 1206, but had been forced to abandon their conquest due to a lack of volunteers to man the fortress they built there. While they were securing all of North Estonia by force from 1219 onwards, the rest of the Baltics was undergoing the same process from the south. What is now Estonia and Latvia quickly came to be governed by German prince-bishops in Courland, Dorpat, Ösel-Wiek (Saaremaa and Läänemaa combined), and, governing the heart of later Latvia, the prince-bishop of Riga. The Order of the Brothers of the Sword conquered the rest of Latvia and central Estonia. The captured territory between Danish Estonia and Lithuania became known as Livonia.

FeatureFrom 1227, the conquered territory of Ösel-Wiek was divided between the archbishop of Riga, the Order, and the city of Riga. Over the course of the next few years, the city of Riga lost its domain and Saaremaa remained under the governance of two landlords - the bishop of Saare-Lääne (Oesel-Wiek) and the Order. The bishops of Ösel-Wiek, along with the islands of Dagö (Hiiumaa) and Moon (Muhu), ruled their feudal territories in the fashion of local kings, controlling their Estonian subjects from episcopal castles, most notably the one in the capital of Saaremaa, at Kuressaare, which dates to the early thirteenth century and which is one of the few of its kind to have survived almost completely intact (see feature link). Unfortunately the same cannot be said of records regarding the prince-bishops - these can sometimes be a little sparse.

Haapsalu Episcopal Castle was also a domain of the prince-bishops, lying as it does at the heart of Haapsalu's Old Town. Along with Kuressaare, it is also one of the best-preserved castles in Estonia. Built in the thirteenth century it was actively used until the end of the seventeenth century. At its heart is the main building which housed the living quarters and administrative premises, as well as this small medieval state's 'cathedral', a decorated dome church. The main structure is surrounded by outer wards, which are all circled by a medieval wall which is embellished with seven towers and four gates. Today, the main castle houses an impressive museum while the outer wards have been turned into a park.

Seto People of Estonia

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Annika Mändla, from Cultural heritage in Lääne County, Ülla Paras, Raina Jeeberg, & Vormsi Parish (NGO Läänemaa Turism & Lääne County Foundation (SA Läänemaa, 2019), from Architectural Archaeology Surveys at Saaremaa's Maasi Castle, Garel Püüa (Saaremaa Museum, Lossihoov), 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), from Guide to Castles in Estonia, Mart Helme (Kunst, Estonia, 2003), from Most Beautiful Manors and Castles, Valdo Praust (Grenader Grupp, Estonia, 2004), and from External Links: Life in Estonia (dead link) and Visit Estonia, and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Livonian War (Histrodamus), and History of Estonia (Country Studies), and World Statesmen.)

1228 - 1229

Gottfried

Cistercian. Stepped down? Died after 1257.

1229 - 1234

The bishop's seat in Ösel-Wiek falls vacant with Gottfried's departure from the post. Authority over the bishopric falls to the bishop of Riga and the Order of the Brothers of the Sword. When Heinrich I assumes the position, its seat is moved to Leal (Lihula), with the result that the bishopric of Ösel-Wiek can also be referred to as the bishopric of Leal (Lihula). In 1251 the seat is moved again, to Perona (Vana-Pärnu).

Livonian Knights
This image is taken from a somewhat later, slightly romanticised depiction of the Order of the Knights of the Sword, but their general uniform is of the same style as that of the better-known European crusaders of the Near East

1234 - 1260?

Heinrich I

Dominican. Bishop of Leal / Perona (Ösel-Wiek). Died.

1237

After 1237, Ösel-Wiek is in the hands of the Livonian Knights in Livonia. In this year the Order effectively becomes the local branch of the Teutonic Knights after it joins this more powerful organisation as an autonomous unit following decimation by the Samogitians and Semigallians.

1241 - 1242

While Denmark is attacking Novgorod to the east of its lands in North Estonia from 1241, and Bishop Hermann of Dorpat and his Ungenois forces are being defeated along with the Teutonic Knights on 5 April 1242 during the Battle of the Ice on Lake Peipsi, Ösel-Wiek faces its own problems. In 1241, having just transferred further rights and property to the Teutonic Knights, an uprising by the local population against the church sees lay people and clergy being killed and the bishop narrowly escaping death himself.

1260

Less than a decade after having signed a treaty with the elders of the islands of Muhu, Saare, and Sõrve, 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.

Teutonic Knights
Already veteran soldiers from their time in the Holy Land, the Teutonic Knights would have presented a fearsome spectacle to their main direct opponent, the Old Prussians - and a deadly opponent

1262 - 1285?

Hermann I de Becheshovede

Early Baltic-German Buxhoevden family member. Died?

1279

FeatureBishop Hermann grants town rights to Hapsal (Haapsalu), a town which is overlooked by the large and impressive episcopal castle which belongs to the bishop himself (see feature link for more). He transfers the official seat of the bishopric of Saare-Lääne there at the same time.

1290? - 1294

Heinrich II

Bishop of Hapsal. Not Heinrich I of Reval (1298-1318). Died.

1294 - 1297?

The bishop's seat appears to fall vacant again. Once again authority over the bishopric very likely falls jointly to the now-archbishop of Riga and the Livonian Knights (formerly the Order of the Brothers of the Sword).

1297? - 1307?

Konrad I

Died.

1307? - 1310

Konrad's decade of fulfilling the duties of his office end with his death. The bishop's seat in Ösel-Wiek falls vacant for a third time, administered once again by the office of the archbishop of Riga and the Livonian Knights.

1310 - 1321

Hartung / Garttungus

Died.

1322 - 1337

Jakob

1338 - 1362

Hermann II Osenbrügge

Died 1362 or 1363.

1343 - 1345

Pöide Castle on Ösel-Wiek has remained the military headquarters of the bailiwick of that name until now. The St George's Night Uprising (the Jüriöö Uprising) sees the native people of the island capture the castle and, according to legend, all of the Germans in the castle are killed. Following that the castle itself is destroyed. After the uprising is put down by Burchard von Dreileben, master of the Livonian Knights, the locals on the island are forced to build Maasi Castle on the north-western coast as punishment. Burchard's successor, Goswin von Herike, soon enlarges the new castle.

St George's Night Uprising
The oppressed Estonian peasants began the St George's Night Uprising in 1343, which was brutally put down by the Livonian Order, resulting in the Order being able to take control of all of the major Danish strongholds in the duchy of Estonia

1363 - 1374

Konrad II

Died.

1374 - 1381

Heinrich III

Formerly bishop of German Schleswig. Assassinated.

1379

Bishop Dietrich of Dorpat 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.

1381 - 1385

The bishop's seat is vacant for the fourth time until the post is filled by Winrich von Kniprode. His mother is Margarete von Uexküll, linking him to what will become one of the most prominent Baltic-German families. His uncle is the identically-named Winrich von Kniprode, grand master of the Teutonic Knights.

1385 - 1419

Winrich von Kniprode

Former bishop of Samland (1378-1379). Died 1419.

1420 - 1423

Kaspar Schuwenflug

Died.

1423 - 1432

Christian Kuband

Died.

1432 - 1438

Johann I Schutte

Died.

1439 - 1458

Ludolf Grove 'Older Bishop'

In Ösel (Saaremaa) and Dagö (Hiiumaa) only.

1449

Internal politics in and around the archbishopric of Riga at this time is rife with struggles to achieve power, prestige, and position. The position of Ludolf Grove has been properly approved by Riga and by the Pope, but this is the period of the 'Great Schism' in papal affairs.

Haapsalu Castle
Haapsalu Castle in Läänemaa was built mainly in the thirteenth century as the seat of the bishops of Ösel-Wiek (click or tap on image to read more)

In 1447, shortly before being deposed, Pope Eugene IV had appointed Johann Cruel to the post in opposition to Grove, despite Grove continuing to fulfil his duties to the utmost of his abilities. The new 'bishop' establishes his seat in Wiek while Grove remains on the island of Ösel. In time Grove outlives his rival.

1449 - 1457

Johann II Creul 'Younger Bishop'

In Wiek (Läänemaa) only. In opposition to Ludolf. Died.

1458 - 1460

Upon the death of Ludolf Grove the bishop's seat in Ösel-Wiek falls vacant for the fifth time. Given that it will take a few months for the replacement to arrive, he is probably appointed in 1459.

1460 - 1471

Jodokus Hoenstein

Died.

1471 - 1491

Peter Wetberch

Died. Secretary later Bishop Johannes Duesborg of Dorpat.

1491 - 1515

Johann III Orgas

Died.

c.1500

The wide single-nave church of Martna is completed around this time. It carries the coat of arms with its three diamonds of Johann III Orgas. The church also contains an archaic christening stone with its Gotlandic design, made of limestone from Ungru.

Kõpu Lighthouse, Estonia, by Kersti Hansen
Reputedly the third-oldest still-working lighthouse in the world (after examples in Spain and Genoa), Kõpu lighthouse stands on a raised mound on the western Estonian island of Hiiumaa (click or tap on image to read more)

1515 - 1527

Johann IV Kyvel

Former coadjutor (assistant bishop). Died.

1527 - 1530

Georg von Tiesenhausen

Also bishop of Reval (1525-1530). Died 12 October 1530.

1532 - 1541

Reinhold Buxhoewden

Retired. Died 1557.

1542 - 1559

Johann V von Münchhausen

Last German bishop. Sold the see to Denmark.

1559 - 1560

Following Russian provocation and the conquest of Dorpat, the Livonian Wars erupt in the Baltic states (1558-1583). In 1560 the last German bishop sells the castle and the town of Kuressaare to the Danes, who also take Courland, both of which are held by Magnus, duke of Holstein in Denmark. Magus then adds Reval to his list of possessions. Wiek is ceded to Poland in exchange for Livonian possessions in what is now the duchy of Ösel.

Duchy of Ösel
AD 1562 - 1645

Provocation by the Russian czarate and its conquest of Narva and Dorpat ignited the Russian-Livonian War. Dorpat was the first of the Old Livonian states to cease to exist, but not the last. The specific Russian-Livonian War quickly escalated into the broader Livonian Wars as fighting spread across the Baltic states between 1558 and 1583. The wars ripped apart the old order in Livonia and North Estonia: the Livonian Knights were destroyed in battle in 1560, while southern Estonia and the duchy of Courland became part of Poland-Lithuania (slightly delayed in the latter's case), ending the independent reign of the archbishopric of Riga.

Changes were also to hit the bishopric of Ösel-Wiek (Saaremaa and Läänemaa). This had been a semi-independent principality encompassing what are now Saare and Lääne counties (Lääne meaning 'western' in Estonian) in the islands and west of Estonia respectively (with Saare being known as Ösel by the Danes). In 1560 the bishopric was purchased from the last German prince-bishop by Denmark. Wiek was ceded to Poland in exchange for Livonian possessions on Ösel. Two years later Ösel itself was given as an appendage to the king's brother, Magnus Herzog von Holstein, becoming a duchy in its own right. Magnus, otherwise known as Magnus of Livonia, already owned the bishoprics of Courland and Reval, coming to be styled the titular 'king of Livonia'. He did not reside on Ösel though, leaving the administration of the islands to local governors.

Seto People of Estonia

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Architectural Archaeology Surveys at Saaremaa's Maasi Castle, Garel Püüa (Saaremaa Museum, Lossihoov), from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), 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), from Genealogisches Handbuch der baltischen Ritterschaften, Teil 2, 2: Estland, Görlitz (1930, in German), and from External Links: Life in Estonia (dead link), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Livonian War (Histrodamus), and World Statesmen, and Dietrich Von Behr (WikiTree), and the Baltic Historical Commission, and MyHeritage, and WikiTree, and Academic.)

1560 - 1562

Magnus of Livonia

Bishop of Courland & Reval. 'King of Livonia'. Died 1583.

1560

Magnus of Livonia (Duke Magnus of Holstein) is installed as duke of Ösel, with the first governor being Dietrich Behr, father of Johann von Behr who has been entrusted with the overall administration of Magnus' possessions.

Kuressaare Episcopal Castle, Saaremaa, Estonia
Also known as Kuressaare Stronghold, the Bishop's Palace, and perhaps less commonly by its old German name of Schloβ Arensburg, Kuressaare Episcopal Castle dates to the early thirteenth century (click or tap on image to read more)

1560 - 1562

Dietrich Behr

First governor, under Magnus. Died 1577.

1561 - 1562

The Danish statesman, Christoffer Valkendorff, escorts Duke Magnus of Holstein (otherwise known as Magnus of Livonia) to Ösel so that the duke can inspect his new holdings as the titular bishop of the diocese. In the following year, 1562, the Danes cede Wiek and Dägo (Hiiumaa) to Poland in exchange for Livonian possessions on Ösel, which is reformed as a duchy. Duke Magnus does not govern directly but he remains active in Estonian and Livonian politics.

1562 - 1567

Heinrich Wulf

Self-proclaimed on 5 March on eastern Ösel.

1562

Heinrich Wulf proclaims himself the new authority of Ösel on 5 March 1562 (although whether this is in the role of bishop or duke remains unclear - the latter probably as the diocese has already been secularised). In October 1563, Christoffer Valkendorff is installed as the governor under Magnus of Livonia, in opposition to Heinrich.

1563 - 1567

Christoffer Valkendorff

Installed in October. Opposed Wulf. Recalled in 1567.

1566

Ösel (Saaremaa) is invaded by Swedes as an act of the Northern Seven Years War. They pillage the entire island and leave with a huge quantity of loot. Being unable to defend another castle besides Kuressaare if the Swedes attack again, the Danes destroy Maasi Castle in the same year. They soon began to regret that decision and instead reinforce the castle again.

1568

In the summer of 1568, the Swedes return to Maasi Castle, this time in eighteen ships. On 14 August the castle is handed over to them, together with Pöide and the island of Muhu. There is a break in the Danish administration of the island, at least as far as official records go.

Kuressaare Episcopal Castle, Saaremaa, Estonia
Also known as Kuressaare Stronghold, the Bishop's Palace, and perhaps less commonly by its old German name of Schloβ Arensburg, Kuressaare Episcopal Castle dates to the early thirteenth century (click or tap on image to read more)

1570 - 1575

Signed in 1570, the Stettin Peace Treaty stipulates that Sweden is supposed to return Maasi Castle and its surrounding territory to Denmark, but the act is delayed. John III of Sweden fails to respect the peace treaty and in 1575 he gives Maasi Castle to 'Duke Magnus of Saxe-Lauenburg', who is allied to Sweden (a problematical assertion as Franz I is the current duke. His son, the future Magnus II, is the probable candidate here).

Magnus arrives on Ösel (Saaremaa) in the same year, promptly taking over Maasi Castle and, somewhat later, Muhu island as well. While there, he imprisons the Danish Praetor Claus (Klaus) von Ungern but soon releases him and leaves Ösel.

As a response, Ungern surrounds the Swedish-held Maasi Castle. A few days later the city's defenders surrender thanks to a large fire breaking out in the castle. As the Swedes had easily been able to capture it not once but twice, the castle is blown up in 1576 upon the orders of Frederik II of Denmark.

1573 - 1576

Klaus von Ungern zu Dalby

Governed May-Aug. Briefly imprisoned.

1576 - 1579

Johann von Mentz / von Uexküll

Baltic-German. Governed from 2 Sep. Died 1583.

1579

Vincent Juel

Died.

1579 - 1584

Jürgen Farensbach

Baltic-German. Removed from office. Died 1602.

1581 - 1584

The county of Läänemaa (Wiek) is forcibly taken from Poland by Sweden in 1581, giving it control of all of North Estonia. Southern Estonia remains part of Livonia at this stage, having been so since it was conquered largely by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword in the 1200s.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1581
In the near-three centuries since 1300 the Norwegians and Swedes had massively increased their dominance of the once-uncharted northern depths of Fenno-Scandinavia, although Denmark now dominated Norway (click or tap on map to view full sized)

With the permission of his king, Jürgen Farensbach has successfully led his own band of mercenaries in the service of Poland in order to ensure no Russian control of the Livonian territories during the Livonian Wars. However, eventual success and rewards force the king - who is still engaged in fighting Poland in the Baltics - to remove him from his office on Ösel in 1584. He switches entirely to Polish service.

1584 - 1589

Mathias Budde

Related to Dietrich Behr? Died 1591.

1584

Shown simply as Mathias Budde in lists with no background, he would appear to be the Mathias Budde who is married to Ursula von Behr, likely a relation of Dietrich Behr, first Danish governor of the duchy of Ösel in 1560. He has been resident on the island since his birth in 1550. His own son Frederik Mathiassøn Budde, is also born on the island in 1589.

1589 - 1594

Johan Schwalbe / Swabe

Pomeranian.

1594 - 1612

Claes Maltesen Sehested

Governed from 2 Feb. Died.

1612 - 1613

Nils Kraggen

1613 - 1622

Jakob Wacke / Jacob Berk

1622 - 1634

Frederik Rantzau

1629

The First Polish-Swedish War ends with the Treaty of Altmark, which sees the Swedes take all of Poland-Lithuania's remaining mainland Estonian and Livonian territory. It is probably during this period that many of the old German crusader castles such as Helme Order Castle are destroyed (see feature link). The remainder of Livonia, the eastern part of Livonia, named Latgallia, remains in Polish hands and survives today as the Latgale region of Latvia.

Swedish coin of the duchy of Estonia
Issued in the name of the king of Sweden, this Reval shilling bears the name of King Johan III of Sweden (1568-1592), as ruler of the duchy of Estonia

1635 - 1643

Anders Bille

Died in 1657 of battle wounds.

1643 - 1645

Ebbe Ulfeld / Ulfeldt

Last Danish governor. Died 1682.

1645

One of the first acts of Queen Christina of Sweden is to negotiate the peace with Denmark. She does so successfully, gaining all of Estonia when the Danes hand over Ösel under the Treaty of Brömsebro. Ösel is subordinated to the Swedish governors-general of Livonia while the Swedish queen adopts the style 'Prince of Ösel'. The Swedes also gain the island of Götaland and the Norwegian districts of Härjedale and Jämtland which remain part of Sweden to this day. Swedish governors are placed in command of Ösel.

Swedish Governors of Ösel
AD 1645 - 1919

The Russian-Livonian War was the precursor to the wider Livonian Wars between 1558 and 1583. Russian provocation and their conquest of Narva and Dorpat ignited the fuse which led to the extinction of the Old Livonian states. The wars ripped apart the old order in Livonia and North Estonia: the Livonian Knights were destroyed in battle in 1560, while southern Estonia and the duchy of Courland became part of Poland-Lithuania (slightly delayed in the latter's case), ending the independent reign of the archbishopric of Riga.

The bishopric of Ösel-Wiek (involving modern Saaremaa and Läänemaa), in the islands and west of modern Estonia respectively (with Saare being known as Ösel by the Danes) was also terminated by these wars. In 1560 the bishopric was purchased from the last German prince-bishop by Denmark. Wiek was ceded to Poland in exchange for Livonian possessions on Ösel. Two years later Ösel itself was given as an appendage to the king's brother, Magnus Herzog von Holstein, becoming a duchy in its own right. During the next century it was the Swedes who became the dominant Scandinavian power, taking much of what is now Estonia during the early years of the seventeenth century.

The Swedes finally gained control over all of what was now Swedish Estonia when the Danes handed over the island of Ösel under the terms of the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645. There was a smooth transition of power, with a Swedish governor immediately replacing the Danish one on 31 October. The Swedes now had to face a growing Russia which would eventually wrest control of the mainland from them. However, unlike the rest of Swedish Livonia and Estonia, the Swedes managed to retain a degree of control on Ösel following the conclusion of the Great Northern War, even though they were forced to submit to Russia. Swedish and Baltic-German governors remained in place to administer local affairs until the formation of an independent Estonian state was achieved in 1918.

Seto People of Estonia

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), 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), from Genealogisches Handbuch der baltischen Ritterschaften, Teil 2, 2: Estland, Görlitz (1930, in German), and from External Links: Life in Estonia (dead link), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Livonian War (Histrodamus), and World Statesmen, and the Baltic Historical Commission.)

1645 - 1646

Erik Gustafsson greve Stenbock

First Swedish governor. Died 1659.

1646 - 1648

Anders Eriksson Hästehuvud

Former governor of the duchy of Estonia. Died 1657.

1648 - 1654

Johan Pendersson Utter

1654 - 1660

Friedrich friherre Lieven

1660 - 1676

Karl friherre Sparre

1674

With the appointment of Andreas Lennartson Torstensson to Reval, the position of governor of the duchy of Estonia is elevated to that of governor-general (see map, below).

Map of Scandinavia AD 1660
The Swedes were driven out of Livonia in 1601 but returned in 1629 following the results of further conflict. Russia was becoming increasingly important in these territorial struggles (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1676 - 1678

Karl Johannsson friherre Sjöblad

1678 - 1687

Georg (Jürgen) von der Osten-Sacken

From the Swedish-Baltic noble family.

1687 - 1689

Karl Johannsson friherre Sjöblad

Second term of office.

1689 - 1690

Georg (Jürgen) von der Osten-Sacken

Second term of office. Died 27 August 1690.

1690 - 1701

Per friherre Örneklow

Died 1701.

1695 - 1697

Estonia suffers a severe famine, known as the Great Famine, which leads to the death of almost a fifth of the entire Estonian population. The famine is theorised to be the result of climate change, and Estonia is not the only victim. Finland and Livonia also suffer large-scale death due to famine, all of which could perhaps be attributed to the Little Ice Age, a period of intense cooling across Europe which also regularly freezes the River Thames in London.

1700

Sweden finds itself attacked by Russia, Poland, and Denmark in the Great Northern War (alternatively entitled the Second Northern War) which lasts until 1721. Sweden's expansion at the end of the Livonian Wars had antagonised several states, notably those on the receiving end of defeats such as Russia and Denmark. The latter state takes the opportunity presented by the death of Charles XI of Sweden to organise an anti-Swedish coalition.

Kuressaare Episcopal Castle, Saaremaa, Estonia
Also known as Kuressaare Stronghold, the Bishop's Palace, and perhaps less commonly by its old German name of Schloβ Arensburg, Kuressaare Episcopal Castle dates to the early thirteenth century (click or tap on image to read more)

1701 - 1710

Engelbrecht Mannerburg

1710

Sweden loses control of the rest of Estonia to the Russians. The city of Arensburg (Kuressaare), the capital of Ösel, surrenders to Russian forces on 26 September 1710 and the occupation of the island (Ezel' in Russian) is completed (and is formally ceded by Sweden to Russia on 10 September 1721).

1713

On 8 August, Ösel becomes an autonomous part of the province of Livonia, directly administered by the governor-general of Livonia until 1781. Baltic Swedish and German lords manage the internal government of the island.

Friedrich Johann von Lode

Landschaftshauptmann ('land captain marshal').

Nicolas von Krämer

First Ritterschaftshauptmann ('knight captain'). Died 1739.

Christian Friedrich von Poll

Died 1748.

Otto Friedrich von Vietinghoff

Died 1777.

1753 - 1760

Reinhold Gustav von Nolcken

First Landmarschälle ('land marshal').

1760 - 1765

Hermann Gustav von Weymarn

1762 - 1783

With an increase of direct Russian control of the Baltic states in mind, Catherine the Great orders Livonia to be administered directly by the governor-general of the Baltic Provinces, Count George Browne. Estonia follows suit in 1775. Local governors are re-introduced to both Estonia and Livonia in 1783.

Czarina Catherine the Great
The assassination of Czar Peter III and the seizure of the imperial throne by his widow, Catherine (pictured on the balcony at the time of her accession as czarina), resulted in a shift in Russian policy and in its administration of the Baltic Provinces

1762 - 1772

Carl Gustav von Güldenstubbe

1772 - 1780

Otto Frommhold von Buhrmeister

1780 - 1783

Johann Christoph von Nolcken

Assessor.

1781 - 1783

Balthasar Baron von Campenhausen

Vice-governor, until 14 July.

1783 - 1796

Autonomy for the island is abolished on 14 July 1783. Ösel is administered directly by Livonia. On 28 November 1796, limited local autonomy is restored. This is confirmed by all successive Russian czars upon their accession before 1881, but after that it is gradually extinguished.

1795

The joint kingdoms of Poland-Lithuania are extinguished, with Prince Nikolay Repnin-Obolensky, governor-general of the Baltic Provinces, having played a key role in their dissolution. Now overseen by the Vilna Governate, Lithuania is submerged within imperial Russia. The following year, the Riga governorate which oversees the administration of Livonia is renamed the 'Governorate of Livonia'.

1797 - 1800

Karl Johann Gustav von Ekesparre

1800 - 1806

Georg Friedrich von Sass

1806 - 1808

Otto Fromhold von Buhrmeister

Second term of office.

1808

Estonia is removed from the responsibility of the governor-general of the Baltic Provinces. From 1809 the post of governor of Estonia itself is vacant for two years when the incumbent, Duke Peter von Oldenburg, a younger son of the grand duke of Oldenburg, marries Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna of Russia in order to keep her out of the hands of the now-divorced Napoleon Bonaparte of France. Later occupants of the post are increasingly drawn from the local nobility.

Napoleon Bonaparte cornwed king of Italy in 1805
As depicted in 'The Coronation of Napoleon', by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon was crowned king of Italy in Milan, in May 1805, virtually completing his domination of Southern Europe as far east as the Adriatic Sea

1808 - 1813

Otto von Buxhoeveden

1812

Napoleon invades the Russian empire with one of the largest armies which French-dominated Europe has ever seen. He occupies the Baltic Provinces for several months, interrupting the governor-generalship between 24 October and 9 November 1812. The governor of Courland flees to Riga and remains there for the period of French occupation.

1813

On 5 January, with Napoleon Bonaparte having been hurried out of imperial territory on his ignominious retreat towards Central Europe, Estonia is once again included in the responsibilities of the governor-general of the Baltic Provinces.

1813 - 1816

Reinhold Friedrich Pilar von Pilchau

1816 - 1818

Peter Anton von Sass

1817 - 1819

The emancipation of the serfs in Livonia is something which is advantageous to the nobility, as it dispossesses the peasants of their land without compensation. The social structure changes dramatically, and a class of independent farmers establishes itself after reforms allow the peasants to repurchase their land.

1818 - 1841

Peter von Buxhoeveden

1841

Alexander von Nolcken

Acting.

1841 - 1843

Karl von Güldenstubbe

Acting.

1843 - 1849

Georg von Ditmar

1849 - 1862

Karl von Güldenstubbe

1862 - 1864

Ernst Baron Nolcken

Acting.

1863 - 1880

The January Uprising or 'Second (January) Insurrection' across much of the former Poland-Lithuanian commonwealth includes Poland, Lithuania, the Baltic Provinces, Latgallia, and Livonia. It results in a policy of Russification throughout these regions after spreading from Latgallia to the rest of Livonia.

January Uprising 1863
The January Uprising of 1863 took place in Poland, but it disrupted Russian governance much further afield and caused the policy of Russification to be firmly enforced

1864 - 1865

Ottokar von Aderkas

1865 - 1867

Ernst Baron Nolcken

Acting for the second time.

1867 - 1876

Charles Freytag von Loringhoven

1876 - 1905

Between these years, authority over the Baltic Provinces is devolved to the provincial governors. Revolution in the Baltics in 1905 takes on a nationalist character, and in the same year the position of governor-general of Courland (from 23 August) and Livonia (from 11 December), but not Estonia, is revived on a temporary basis until 1909.

1876 - 1906

Oskar von Ekesparre

1906 - 1919

Axel Baron Buxhöveden

Last Swedish landmarschälle. Assassinated.

1909 - 1914

Between these years authority over the Baltic Provinces is again devolved to the provincial governors. In 1914, the position of special plenipotentiary for civil administration of Livonia, Estonia, and Courland is created. The first incumbent is given responsibility for Estonia and Livonia, but excluding the district of Riga in 1914, then Reval (Tallinn), Baltischport (Paldiski), and Dünamünde (Daugavgriva).

Map of Scandinavia AD 1917-1944
The twentieth century wrought great changes on the borders of the Nordic countries with Finland, controlled from Moscow since 1809, now becoming a battleground between Soviet and German interests, while Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1918 - 1919

The Baltic Provinces are formally transferred to German authority by Russia in 1918 following the Treaties of Brest-Litovsk and of Berlin. However, Germany is in no position to enforce its power and Estonians quickly push for independence, with the declaration being delivered on 23 February 1918. Power is transferred to a new council for the island on 18 November 1918. On 16 February 1919, the last Swedish administrator is assassinated by Bolsheviks on his estate, amid a local peasants' revolt at the lack of services and provisions.