Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia


1. Christianity before the Reformation. Estonia, a Baltic country at the outfall of the Finnish Gulf, N continental Eur., experienced its 1st contacts with Christianity in the 11th c. Russ. Prince Yaroslav's (ca. 988–1054) “Christianizing” activities ca. 1030 failed, as did efforts of the Fr. Cistercian miss. Fulco, consecrated Bp. of the Estonians by Abp. Eskil* of Lund ca. 1164. The 1st successful miss. effort among Estonians, Lativians, and Livonians came from Ger. in the 12th century. Ger. merchants and missionaries settled in the Riga area. Meinhard (Meinhart; d. 1196), Augustinian canon of the monastery at Segeberg, Holstein, began miss. work there in the 1180s; est. a ch. at Ekskile (variants include Üksküll, Ikeskola), 17 mi. SE of Riga; made Bp. of Livonia, with see at Ikskile, 1186 by Abp. Hartwig II of Bremen. He was succeeded by Berthold of Hanover (d. 1198), who died in a crusade against Baltic people. His successor, Albert* I, led a crusade against Baltic people ca. 1200 and dedicated the territory to Mary (Terra Marina; Marienland). The Knights of the Sword (Bothers of the Sword; Livonian Knights; Fratres militiae Christi) were organized ca. 1201, confirmed by Innocent III (see Popes, 10) 1204, and given one third of the land; absorbed by Teutonic Knights 1237. Albert I was recognized as imperial prince 1207 and 1225. He won a major battle 1217 over Estonian forces led by Lembitu. In the summer of 1219 King Waldemar II of Den. est. a foothold in N Estonia. In connection with his campaign, Dietrich, Bp. of Estonia, was killed. The succession was contested between Wescelin (or Guecelin), Waldemar's candidate, and Hermann, Albert's candidate and brother, with the former recognized by Rome. By 1220 Järvamaa and Virumaa (the suffix “-maa” means “region”) were in Dan. hands; by 1227 the whole country was under Christian rule, with Christian baptism enforced. During the Middle Ages 4 powers emerged: the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights (Knights of the Sword), the prince-bps., the nobles, and the cities. Most natives belonged to a politically powerless and economically exploited 5th estate.

2. The Reformation and subsequent history. Reformation ideas reached Livonia and Estonia from cen. and N Ger. in the 1520s. Reformation in Estonia was influenced by the ideas of A. Knöpken,* Sylvester Tegetmeyer,* and MHofmann* (or Hoffmann). Luth. teachings gained adherents early. Estonia lacked an outstanding reformer, but Johann Lange (d. 1531), Zaeharias Hasse (d. 1531), and Hermann Marsow (came to Tartu [Dorpat] ca. 1523) were leading evangelicals. Lange and Hasse preached in Tallinn [Reval] since ca. 1523. In 1524 Christliche Ordnung im kirchlichen Regiment est. the organization of the ev. ch. in that city (see also Lutheran Confessions, A 5). Though Bp. Johannes Blankenfeld's spirited opposition arrested early spread of ev. ideas in Tartu, the outside help of Tegetmeyer and Hof[f]mann turned the tide. Little is gen. known of the spread of the ev. movement in smaller towns. Real evangelization of the countryside occurred in the 17th and 18th cents.

The ev. climate promoted pub. of catechetical helps (the catechism of Simon Wanradt and Johann Koell 1535; Franz Witte's catechism 1554). The NT appeared in 2 dialects 1686 and 1715; Anton Thor Helle's whole Bible (Piibli Raamat) appeared 1739.

In 1558 Russ. attacked and annexed Tartumaa, Viljandimaa, Järvamaa, and Virumaa. Swed. acquired Tallinn and Harjumaa-Virumaa. The Northern War (1563–70) resulted in a Prot.-RC curtain that halved the country. Swed. took possession of the mainland 1629, adding the islands 1645. Under Swed. rule Bp. Kristian Agricola provided directives for a clearly defined ch. organization ca. 1585; a Prot. university was est. at Tartu 1632; Estonian religious literature prospered; Swed. ch. statutes became effective in Estonia 1692. After the Great Northern War (ca. 1700–21) Estonia was occupied by Russians. Moravian Brethren (see Moravian Church) appeared; though outlawed 1743 they reached a height of influence in the 1st half of the 19th c. In the middle of the 19th c. the Russ. govt. initiated a policy of Russification that led to persecution of Luths.

3. The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Est. of the indep. Rep. of Estonia 1918 resulted in an indep. Estonian Ev. Luth. Ch. The 1919 Gen. Assem. of the EELC approved a constitution which maintains that the EELC is a free people's ch. Its teachings are based on Scripture and the Confessions of the Ev. Luth. Ch. The ch. is governed by a primate (Jakob Kukk 1919; Hugo Bernhard Rahamägi 1934; Johan Köpp [b. 1874] 1939). Official pub.: Eesti Kirik. The EELC is a mem. of LWF and WCC

WW II and for. occupations (Russ. 1940–41; Ger. 1941–44; Russ. 1944– ) have impeded the work and development of the EELC Köpp fled to Swed. 1944. Mems. of the EELC in Exile are scattered in many different countries and not formally organized or incorporated. Bp. J. O. Lauri of Stockholm (b. 1891; educ. Dorpat; ordained 1917; bp. 1943; to Ger. 1944; then to Swed.) succeeded Köpp as head of the EELC in Exile.

Since October 1967 Abp. Alfred Tooming (ordained 1934; rector St. Paul's parish, Viljandi, and dean of the Estonian Ch.'s Viljandi district 1949) headed the 350,000-mem. EELC in the Soviet Union. HOK

Estonia was conquered 1490 by Russia and made part of the Union* of Soviet Socialist Reps. Area: ca. 17,400 sq. mi.

See also Virginias, Adrian.

E. Uustalu, The History of Estonian People (London, 1952); J. Köpp, From Established Church to Free People's Church (Stockholm, 1949); Baltische Kirchengeschichte, ed. R. Wittram (Göttingen, 1956); L. Arbusow, Die Einführung der Reformation in Liv-, Est-, und Kurland, in Quellen und Forschungen zur Reformationsgeschichte, III (Leipzig, 1921); O. Sild, Eesti kirikulugu vanimast ajast olevikuni (Tartu, 1938); A. Torma, The Church in Estonia, reprint bound with H. Perlitz, The Fate of Religion and Church Under Soviet Rule in Estonia 1940–41 (New York, 1944); Papers of the Estonian Theological Society in Exile, No. 15: Estonia Christiana (Wetteren, Belgium, 1965); J. Aunver, Religious Life and the Church in Estonia (Stockholm, 1961).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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