shaan.typepad.com > Virumaa

Introduction

The first signs of human settlement in Virumaa date back 8000 years. Almost at the same time when the British isles broke away from the mainland, hunters and gatherers settled near the present town of Kunda. Their tools were made of bone and stone. It was the stone age... By 1025 counties and parishes had formed in Estonia. Two mourning mothers in Uppland, Sweden, erected a runestone in memory of their sons. The sons had fallen during a military raid into Virumaa (a uirlanti). This is the first written record of Virumaa. Still it will take 200 more years before Virumaa joins the written history of Estonia.

In 1238 the hundred year long Danish rule began in Virumaa. The Estonian stronghold of Tarvanpää (built in the beginning of Ist millenium) was re-named Wesenbergh. A town developed around the castle and in 1302 Rakvere was given the Lübeck town rights. In the Danish period, the manor made its first appearance in the history of Virumaa. The Danish king did not bring any army with him to defend his new acqusitions, but rented the lands to his vassals. The feudal lords who used the land borrowed from the king, increased their possessions and their rights step by step. The fief became, in essence, their property. Formally, the lords of the manor became real owners of the manors only during the reign of Catherine II in the 18th century.

Under the Danish rule the ancient parishes were changed into church parishes, and the ancient county boundaries were preserved. In 1346 the Danish king sold Northern Estonia to the German Order. The Order ruled here for almost two centuries. Virumaa was not a separate administrative unit during that time. The rule of the German Order is ended in 1558 by the invasion of the troops of the Russian Ivan Groznyi, into Estonia. The period of the Livonian war was bloody and cruel, the town of Rakvere is destroyed. The villages of Virumaa were looted mercilessly. The men were drawn into war. Hunger and plague were everywhere... The Russians establish themselves here for 30 years.

In 1581, the country changed hands once more. The famous Swedish army leader, Pontus de la Gardie, laid siege to Rakvere castle. After 4 days of battles the Russians gave up. But the peace had not arrived yet because the Poles invaded Virumaa. The years 1602-1605 passed under the Polish rule. In 1605, the so-called golden Swedish time began. According to the Swedish sources there were 98 manors in Virumaa in 1561, 9 of them belonged formerly to the German Order and 87 were owned by nobility. In 1601-1681 four manors disappeared and 20 new ones emerged.

In 1580s Virumaa becomes a district or a county, with the self-rule of the nobility and a district court. But the situation in Rakvere was quite bad, and it lost its town rights. The castle was not part of the defences any more; it was a ruin where people took materials to rebuild the town that had been destroyed in the war. After the war both the town and the castle were given to the manor.

In 1721 Estonia was joined to czarist Russia. Once again Virumaa had suffered from a war. But this time the Russian rule also had some positive effects. Since 1783 Virumaa was a county again and Rakvere a district town, belonging to the province of Estonia.

Estonians came to power in Rakvere during the elections in 1914. In 1918 Virumaa became a county in the Republic of Estonia. The Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940 put us once more under Russian rule. Now Virumaa was divided into two, the districts of Rakvere and Kohtla-Järve. After restoration of independence, they are named West-Viru and East-Viru counties. The history goes on...

In Estonian (but very understandable) :

http://www.virumaa.ee/