Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Esthonians, a historical Finnish nation long settled on the southern shores of the Gulf of Finland, where they give their name to the Russian province of Esthonia; but for centuries they have been mere serfs on the large estates which are owned by German and Danish nobles, though their social condition was much improved by the Imperial edicts of 1804 and 1816. They are first mentioned by the Greek navigator Pytheas (about 340 B.C.) under the name of .AEstii, which is evidently the Eystur or "Eastlanders" of the Norse chronicles. and they wer.7 known to King Alfred (Orosius) by the same name. This Germanic word has even been adopted by the people themselves, who often call their country Eesti-Maei, though the more usual expression is Meie-Maa, "Our Land." The Esthonian confederacy, which held its national eessemblies at Rugala, had to recognise the supremacy of the Danes in the 11th century; and in 1347 Waldemar IV., King of Denmark, ceded his rights to the Teutonic Knights, under whose administration German influences became dominant. Nevertheless, the rural classes preserved their nationality and their Finnish language, which is still spoken in two varieties (those of Revel and Dorpat) by about 700,000 Esthonians and their Livonian kindred. But this language, which at one time prevailed throughout the whole of the Baltic provinces, is now extinct in Kurland. Its literature is mainly confined to religious works, chronicles, and national songs, printed chiefly in Dorpat. The Esthonians are nearly all Lutherans, and. although they have been Russian subjects since the Treaty of Nystad (1721), the Russian language and religion have hitherto made little progress amongst them. (H. H. Howorth, The Finns and Some of their Allies, in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1871; Rutenberg, Geschichte der Ostsee-Provinzen, Leipzig, 1860.)