March 18, 2013

"Estonia remained one of the last corners of medieval Europe to be Christianized."

"In 1193 Pope Celestine III called for a crusade against pagans in Northern Europe. The Northern Crusades from Northern Germany established the stronghold of Riga (in modern Latvia). With the help of the newly converted local tribes of Livs and Letts, the crusaders initiated raids into part of what is present-day Estonia in 1208. Estonian tribes fiercely resisted the attacks from Riga and occasionally themselves sacked territories controlled by the crusaders. In 1217 the German crusading order the Sword Brethren and their recently converted allies won a major battle in which the Estonian commander Lembitu was killed. The period of the several Northern Crusade battles in Estonia between 1208 and 1227 is also known as the period of the ancient Estonian fight for independence."

In Estonia, today's "History of" country, which looked like this before September 21, 1217:

22 comments:

Sorun said...

It's a little known fact that pagan Estonia enjoyed both women priests and gay marriage rights. Then the Catholics showed up. - Cliff Clavin

edutcher said...

Never heard of the Northern Crusades.

Madame, you neglect your pedagogical duties when you don't post a country.

Even a used-to-be country.

YoungHegelian said...

Estonian is, along with Hungarian, Finnish, & Basque, a non Indo-European language spoken in modern Europe.

As you can tell from the place names on the map, it's closest to Finnish.

And, what's really weird, it's right next door to the language that's considered the closest survivor to Proto Indo-European, Lithuanian.

YoungHegelian said...

A great book on the Christianization of the Northern "barbarians" is called, not surprisingly, The Barbarian Conversion.

It took a damn long time, all considered.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

So the local crusading tribes were not 'Liv-and-Lett lives?'

Archilochus said...

Estonia is on my short list of destinations after passing the bar exam. Any commenters with experience traveling or living in the Baltic states?

Archilochus said...

YoungHegelian, it did take a damn long time. But it seems the pagans will have the last laugh...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2011/08/paganism-and-the-decline-of-religion.html

YoungHegelian said...

@Archilochus,

Maybe it's time to send out a modern Cyril & Methodius tag-team to work on this New Age paganism.

What I find really bazoo about modern paganism is that it's based on a "squishy" view of how nature is wonderful & beautiful & "The Earth is our Mother", while the old Paganism, what we know of it, was all about how fucking scary Nature is, and if don't keep all those spirits propitiated, we are in for a world of hurt.

In this, as in so many other things, the Ancients knew how to find their buttcheeks with both hands. Unlike the Moderns.

Bill said...

Go figure. This BBC article calls Estonia the least religious country based on current polling data: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14635021 (also embedded as a link from a prior poster).

Probably not a coincidence, and the long reach of history can be pretty amazing.

john said...

dang you Ruth Ann

Archilochus said...

But the modern pagan is still a humanist and man remains the central, holiest object in his universe. To them, physical nature is no longer so dangerous because industry and commerce have tamed her.

Now man's industrial activities are threatening, rather than the old Gods of nature. Civilized man himself is to be feared. Attempts to recover a pre-civilized man, like these neo-Pagan movements and, in a more attenuated sense, radical environmentalist calls for reducing the carbon human footprint, are attempts to propitiate the wrath which they are bring down upon themselves.

Kirby Olson said...

The capital Tallinn is just across from Finland. It's an amazing place.where I.went many times. I loved the old thick walls of the city. The walls were ten feet thick! Holes in the walls were for outgoing cannon fire. Candle lit restaurants were snuggled in the walls. About a third of Estonian women prostituted themselves to Finns after the USSR fell. There was no money. It's a beautiful place with a long savage history. I was almost mugged there by a Russian. I outran him! He only had a knife and was drunk. I was trying to find a museum of sports in an obscure part of town far from the center. It just had bicycles and blood pressure gauges and old photos of a few Olympians. I ended up showing my own speed on those cobblestoned streets!

ironrailsironweights said...

No point in one of my snowfall reports.

A curious fact about Estonia is that it is one of the three European countries using a non-Indo-European language, the others being Finland and Hungary. All three languages originated somewhere to the east of the Ural Mountains in Asia.

Peter

ken in sc said...

I once had a course in which we had a visiting professor—from somewhere famous, I don't remember where—who said that Finnish and Japanese had many cognates. One of them being fugi for fire. That indicates a great deal of vast migration of peoples, he said.

kentuckyliz said...

Ruth Anne Adams 3:13 p.m. wins the thread. Well played, Ruth Anne, well played.

AlanKH said...

Estonia also tops all the other former Communist countries on the Index of Economic Freedom, currently ranking 13th worldwide.

Nichevo said...

Archi, Solzhenitsyn wrote that he'd never met a bad Estonian.

I dated one once. If a wave of them whored themselves out to the Finns, then lucky Finns.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld said...

The old city in Tallinn is lovely. It's a short ferry ride across from Helsinki.

As you come into port you see the Tallinn concert hall. It's one of those buildings that makes you ask "Fascist or Communist?" I finally settled on "Communist" because the workmanship was so slip-shod and because of the pervasive use of bad concrete.

http://photos.state.gov/libraries/estonia/325288/speech/linnahall.jpg

jimbino said...

I spent the Summer Solstice at an all-night rock festival near Tallinn. It seemed that almost the whole country was in attendance.

If it weren't for the long winter, Estonia would be a fine place to settle down. The country is among the most libertarian and laissez-faire in the world, with a top tax rate of something like 15%.

And unlike Finland, Sweden and Norway, you don't have to sell your firstborn to afford a case of beer.

Mitch H. said...

However, such a linking of archaeologically defined cultural entities with linguistic ones cannot be proven and it has been suggested that the increase of settlement finds in the period is more likely to have been associated with an economic boom related to the warming of climate.

I like this. There's way too much speculation based on pottery finds in the absence of supporting evidence like this. Recent genetic studies and actual observation of preliterate cultural shifts suggest otherwise, that cultures shift without mass population transfers. Brutal defeat and cultural shaming combined with the founders effect can wipe a preliterate culture clean in a half a generation, at least in the steppes to the south. But then...

The Estonians are cousins of the Finns, speaking a Finno-Ulgraic language rather than Balts like their neighbors to the south. As such, they're sort of half-way in the Scandinavian sphere and half-way in the Germanic sphere. Conquered initially by Danish crusaders, then that Danish crusader state was taken in turn by a German militant monastic order. Seized in turn by the Swedes for centuries, then conquered by Russia. But all during the latter period Estonia retained a German-speaking noble class, which is why they get grouped together with the other Baltic provinces/states instead of with Finland - all of these little states along the Baltic Coast, from the River Elbe to the Gulf of Finland, featured Germanic nobles and non-German peasantry, the enduring results of the great northern crusades. Something similar occurred in Hungary and the rest of the Hapsburg Empire in the east, btw - the middle class spoke German and the nobility French, with Magyar relegated to the peasantry until the era of nationalist resurgence. In England and lowland Scotland, the nobility spoke Norman French for over two hundred years before merging into the new English.

Anyways, Estonia is one of those nations recreated in the Age of Nationalism from half-digested half-extinct peoples under cultural domination by one of the more successful lingo-cultural groups. Think of Sir Walter Scott and the cult of the Highlander - a cultural centrifugal impulse. In Germany and Italy, nationalism was a centripetal, centralizing force of absorption - the Prussians and Wends of the western Baltic provinces were subsumed in the Germanic nationalizing project, while the Latts and Lithuanians and Estonians and Poles of the east became banners under which local particularism and liberalism were able to rally in union against Great Russian imperial pressure. Since the German nobility had been co-opted by the patrimonial system, the banner had to be peasant culture and peasant language instead of the culture of the ruling class.

Mitch H. said...

I don't remember where—who said that Finnish and Japanese had many cognates. One of them being fugi for fire

I'm pretty sure that the standard Japanese for fire is hi (conflagration) or hono (flame) or half a hundred other synonyms or related words, but fugi must be really archaic, I can't find a reference.

And I'd apologize for double-posting, except I seem to be thread-death for these "History Of" posts, and I might as well double-tap this sucker.

Kirby Olson said...

Finnish has cognates in Korean and Japanese and a few other languages throughout the Siberian northern aspects of Russia. There is a big part of northeastern Russia that speaks Finnish. Stalin lopped it off as part of the price of the Winter War (in which he was badly beaten although his forces outnumbered the Finns 50-1). Those people still speak Finnish.

Finns have broader faces than the rest of the Europeans. They are like Albino Koreans.

Absolutely beautiful if you ask me. The most stunning people on earth.

The Estonians look slightly more Danish. They have thinner faces and are also very beautiful. But they lost their country to Stalin and it's a mess there comparatively speaking.