Another day…in Tartu

Day 17 – Back to Tartu and onto Parnu

Our last day in Tartu and we weren’t happy to leave. Still, we decided to make the most of it and visit a couple of remaining sights – St Johns Church and the City Museum.

St Johns Church (below) was first mentioned in 1323 and is famous for the thousand (at least) terracotta figures that inhabit the church, remnants of the 2000 that it had in the middle ages. This makes it one of the most significant sites in Western Gothic architecture.

Tartu’s City Museum was recommended to us as the best museum covering the history of Tartu. It wasn’t extensive in terms of exhibits but it opened my eyes. People like Tartu. A lot.

  • 500’s: Tarbatu, an ancient Estonian stronghold, was built on the current site of Tartu.
  • 1030: Russians capture Tarbutu.
  • 1061: Estonians reclaim Tartu.
  • 1224: Germans capture Tartu and build a town called Dorpat. Dorpat becomes a bishopric and joins the Hanseatic Nations as part of Livonia (along with other bishoprics such as the Bishopric of Riga).
  • 1525: Reformation movement reaches Tartu and the Bishopric movement finally ends.
  • 1558: Russians capture Tartu as the Livonian War (between Russia, Poland-Lithuania, Sweden and Denmark) begins.
  • 1582: Polish win Tartu from the Russians.
  • 1625: Swedish troops capture Tartu. They build the first university on site.
  • 1656: Russians capture Tartu…again. This time it was part of the Northern War.
  • 1893: Tartu renamed to the Russian name of Yuryev.
  • 1918: Estonia became independent, and Tartu was officially named Tartu. Estonia signs a peace treaty with Russia. Russia denounce sovereignty to Estonia (and Tartu) for ‘all time’.
  • 1940: ‘All time’ ends and the Russians recapture Tartu.
  • World War II: Germany takes Tartu. Russians ‘liberate’ Tartu four times. Russia maintains control.
  • 1991: Estonia regains independence. YAY!
After the city museum, we headed back into the town square. It looked absolutely empty, compared to the crowds of just two days before. We said goodbye (sadly) to Tartu and hoped that Parnu was somewhat comparable.

“It is disgraceful and dishonourable not to know one’s abode; but to know it thoroughly is as praiseworthy as it is honourable. Oh, if we try to learn about the places in the country where we are staying, we will understand the fate of the peoples and towns in which we spend our life! And then we start wondering about how quickly human affairs and circumstances pass and change!” 

Johannes Claudii Risingh “Speech of the town of Tartu”, 1637.