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Saaremaa
Saaremaa
(Estonian pronunciation: [ˈsɑːremɑː]; Danish: Øsel; English (esp. traditionally): Osel;[1] Finnish: Saarenmaa; Swedish & German: Ösel) is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km2 (1,032 sq mi).[2] The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island and west of Muhu
Muhu
island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago. The capital of the island is Kuressaare, which has about 15,000 inhabitants; the whole island has over 30,966 inhabitants. It is believed by some scholars to have been the historic Ultima Thule.[3][4]

Contents

1 Etymology 2 History 3 Geography

3.1 Nature 3.2 Kaali Meteorite 3.3 Resources

4 Characteristics 5 Transportation 6 Sport 7 Famous residents 8 Trivia 9 Gallery 10 See also 11 References 12 Further reading 13 External links

Etymology[edit] The island is called Saaremaa
Saaremaa
in Estonian, and in Finnish Saarenmaa — literally "isle land" or "island land".[5] In old Scandinavian sagas, Saaremaa
Saaremaa
is called Eysysla and in the Icelandic Sagas Eysýsla, which means exactly the same as the name of the island in Estonian: "the district (land) of island". This is the origin of the island's name in Danish Øsel, German and Swedish, Ösel, Gutnish Oysl, and in Latin, Osilia. The name Eysysla appears sometimes together with Adalsysla, "the big land", perhaps 'Suuremaa' or 'Suur Maa' in Estonian, which refers to mainland Estonia. In Latvian, the island is called Sāmsala, which means "the island of Saami". History[edit] Main article: History of Estonia See also: Oeselians

Old Coat of arms of Danish Saaremaa
Saaremaa
(Øsel).

According to archaeological finds, the territory of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
has been inhabited from at least 5,000 years BCE. Pre-Viking age Salme ship burials have been found in Sõrve Peninsula. Sagas talk about numerous skirmishes between islanders and Vikings. Saaremaa
Saaremaa
was the wealthiest county of ancient Estonia
Estonia
and the home of notorious Estonian pirates, sometimes called the Eastern Vikings. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia describes a fleet of sixteen ships and five hundred Osilians ravaging the area that is now southern Sweden, then belonging to Denmark. In 1206, King Valdemar II of Denmark
Denmark
built a fortress on the island but found no volunteers to man it. The Danes burned it themselves and left. Probably around 1000, Gunnar Hámundarson
Gunnar Hámundarson
from Iceland took part in a Viking raid at Eysýsla (Saaremaa). There he obtained his famous atgeir, by taking it from a man named Hallgrímur. Njáls saga
Njáls saga
tells the following:

Thence they held on south to Denmark
Denmark
and thence east to Smálönd and had victory wherever they went. They did not come back in autumn. The next summer they held on to Rafala (Tallinn) and fell in there with sea-rovers, and fought at once, and won the fight. After that they steered east to Eysýsla (Saaremaa) and lay there somewhile under a ness. There they saw a man coming down from the ness above them; Gunnar went on shore to meet the man, and they had a talk. Gunnar asked him his name, and he said it was Tófi. Gunnar asked again what he wanted. "Thee I want to see," says the man. "Two warships lie on the other side under the ness, and I will tell thee who command them: two brothers are the captains — one's name is Hallgrímur, and the other's Kolskeggur. I know them to be mighty men of war; and I know too that they have such good weapons that the like are not to be had. Hallgrímur has an atgeir which he had made by seething-spells; and this is what the spells say, that no weapon shall give him his death-blow save that atgeir. That thing follows it too that it is known at once when a man is to be slain with that atgeir, for something sings in it so loudly that it may be heard a long way off — such a strong nature has that atgeir in it.

Kuressaare
Kuressaare
Castle (Arensburg)

In 1227, Saaremaa
Saaremaa
was conquered by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword during the Livonian Crusade
Livonian Crusade
but remained a hotbed of Estonian resistance. The crusaders founded the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek
Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek
there. When the Order was defeated by the Lithuanian army in the Battle of Saule in 1236, the Saaremaa
Saaremaa
islanders rebelled. The conflict was ended by a treaty that was signed by the Osilians and the Master of the Order. In the following year, the Sword-Brothers were absorbed into the Teutonic Order. As the crusaders' hold on Saaremaa
Saaremaa
got stronger, Christianity also became more established on the island, and to this day Saaremaa
Saaremaa
has a unique set of medieval churches in Kaarma, Karja, Kihelkonna, Muhu, Pöide, Püha and Valjala churches. The crusader's fortress Kuressaare
Kuressaare
Castle, known in German as Schloss Arensburg, was built by the Teutonic Order, beginning in 1380, for the bishops of Ösel-Wieck (Estonian: Saare-Lääne). It is one of the most well-preserved medieval castles in Estonia
Estonia
and bears testimony to the late Medieval Age. During the 14th–16th centuries, and possibly earlier, local inhabitants started to expand across the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
into surrounding areas thus establishing villages at Livonian coast. Most of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
was ruled directly by the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, while some parts were enfeoffed to the Livonian Order. In 1559, the bishopric and Saaremaa
Saaremaa
were sold to Denmark, becoming part of Danish Estonia. From 1570 until 1645 the entire island was under Danish possession. In 1645, Saaremaa
Saaremaa
was ceded from Denmark
Denmark
to Sweden
Sweden
by the Treaty of Brömsebro. In 1721, along with the rest of Livonia, Saaremaa
Saaremaa
(then known by its Swedish name of Ösel) was ceded to the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
by the Treaty of Nystad, becoming a part of the Governorate of Livonia. In 1840 the first spa opened in Kuressaare
Kuressaare
(then known as Arensburg), and the town experienced renaissance and became a resort for Russians and Baltic Germans. In World War I, the Estonian islands were conquered by Imperial German Army in October 1917 and remained occupied (Operation Albion) until the end of hostilities. Estonia
Estonia
became independent after the October Revolution and the collapse of the Russian Empire. As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the new state was incorporated into the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
in June 1940 as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Most of the Baltic German
Baltic German
population of the island was evacuated to Germany
Germany
following the Pact. The island was occupied by Nazi Germany
Germany
in 1941 (Operation Beowulf); German troops remained there until expelled by the Red Army
Red Army
in the Moonzund Landing Operation
Moonzund Landing Operation
in October and November 1944. In 1946, Saaremaa
Saaremaa
was declared a restricted zone, closed to foreigners and to most mainland Estonians. It remained a restricted area until 1989. Estonian independence was regained on 20 August 1991, in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Geography[edit] The island forms the main barrier between the Gulf of Riga
Gulf of Riga
and the Baltic Sea. To the south of it is the main passage out of the gulf, the Irbe Strait, next to Sõrve Peninsula, the southernmost portion of the island. In Medieval times islanders crossed the strait to form fishing villages on the Livonian coast, notably Pitrags. In those days it was easier and quicker to cross the strait towards nearby Kolka, Saunags
Saunags
or Mazirbe, than travel by horse large distances inland. The highest point on the island is 54 m above sea level. One particularly interesting feature found on the island is the Kaali crater. The island has lots of forested terrain. One of the symbols of the island is the juniper.

Panga Cliff.

Nature[edit]

Shore of Saaremaa, by Estonian artist Konrad Mägi
Konrad Mägi
(1913-1914).

More than 10,000 years ago the first parts of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
arose from the Baltic Ice Lake. The uplift of the Earth's crust is continuing even today, at 2 millimetres (0.079 in) per year. The West Estonian islands are lowlying plains resting on limestone, their average elevation being about 15 metres (49 ft) above sea level. Limestone
Limestone
has become denuded in a great number of places, resulting in cliffs, limestone pits and quarries at Mustjala, Ninase, Pulli, Üügu and Kaugatuma. Because of its mild maritime climate and a variety of soils, Saaremaa has a rich flora, illustrated by the fact that 80% of the plant species found in Estonia
Estonia
are represented here. Altogether 1200 species of vascular plants can be found in Saaremaa. About 120 of the local plant species are rare ones that have received special protection status. The most famous endemic species is Rhinanthus osiliensis, a rare little flower growing mostly in spring fens. Rare and beautiful flowers are widespread; out of the 36 species found in Estonia, 35 of them are found on Saaremaa
Saaremaa
and neighbouring islands. Over 40% of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
is covered with forests. They are mostly mixed forests but in some areas one can find broad-leaved (deciduous) trees, which are relict plant communities of former milder climatic periods. Wooded meadows were common in Saaremaa
Saaremaa
before World War II, but many of these unique natural complexes have gradually become overgrown and thus turned into the ordinary forest. The same is true for alvars (limestone areas covered with thin soil and stunted vegetation). Once a typical and exclusive landscape element in Saaremaa
Saaremaa
alvars are now in decline. Nature conservation planning for Saaremaa
Saaremaa
now includes protection of the largest and most unusual alvar areas. Saaremaa
Saaremaa
has a wide variety of rare wildlife species, ranging from insects to seals. The smallest protected wildlife species include Cloude Apolle butterflies and Roman snails. The coastal areas of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
are famous seal habitats. The gray seal that is common here can be found in three large permanent resting areas on the islets off the coast in the western and southern parts of Saaremaa. The local population of grey seals is slightly increasing. Ringed seals can be encountered everywhere in the coastal waters of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
but, because of their timidity, it has not been possible to make an estimation of their number. The islands lie in the East Atlantic Flyway, a migration path of waterfowl. This "bird road" connects northeastern Europe with Arctic regions. Each year hundreds of thousands of migratory birds visit Saaremaa
Saaremaa
in spring and autumn. The barnacle goose, mute swan, whooper swan, eider, shelduck and a great many other bird species have been given protection status. But on the whole, the islands are somewhat poorer in wildlife species than the mainland. Neither mole, mink, nor otter can be found here, the lynx and the brown bear are infrequent guests.[6] Kaali Meteorite[edit]

The nearly circular main Kaali meteorite crater

Main article: Kaali crater Kaali is a small group of nine unique meteorite craters on Saaremaa. The largest of the craters measures 110 metres (360 ft) in diameter and contains a small lake, known as Kaali järv ("Lake Kaali"). The meteor cluster had an impact velocity of 10–20 kilometres per second (6–12 mi/s) and a mass of 20–80 tons. At the altitude of 5–10 kilometres (3–6 mi) the meteor broke into pieces. The largest fragment produced the main crater with a depth of 22 metres (72 ft). Eight smaller craters with diameters ranging from 12 to 40 metres (39 to 131 ft) and depths varying from 1 to 4 metres (3 to 13 ft) are all within 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of the main crater. The age estimates of the crater vary, with 4000 ± 1000 BCE being a commonly accepted estimate,[7] though other estimates suggest the explosion was as recent as 660 ± 85 BCE.[8] The energy of the impact — about 80 TJ (20 kilotons of TNT), comparable with the Hiroshima bomb) — burned forests within a radius of 6 kilometres (3.7 mi). There are numerous legends related to the crater; these are summarized by Lennart Meri
Lennart Meri
in his book Hõbevalge.[8] Resources[edit] Dolomite, limestone, curative mud, mineral water, sand and gravel, ceramic clay are the major local minerals. Of these local resources the dolomite is perhaps the most famous above all.[9]

Mihkli Farm Museum in Viki village.

Characteristics[edit] The majority of the population is Estonian (97%). The biggest minority nationality is Russian, comprising 2% of the inhabitants. Compared to the Republic of Estonia
Estonia
on the whole, the population of Saare County and particularly of Kuressaare
Kuressaare
town is younger, whereas the number of the retired people is considerably smaller. Saaremaa
Saaremaa
is located in the centre of the Baltic region with the most rapidly growing market in Europe containing 70 million consumers. Gates to the West include not only the newly reconstructed Kuressaare
Kuressaare
Airport and Roomassaare Port, the operation of modern ferries between Saaremaa
Saaremaa
and the mainland but also the rapid development of the telecommunications, highly important for the island. Saaremaa
Saaremaa
is a tourist destination, revisited by 35% of foreign and 95% of domestic tourists. Saaremaa
Saaremaa
has an entrepreneur-friendly, safe, and strain-free economic environment.[10] Transportation[edit]

A typical road on Western Saaremaa

Saaremaa
Saaremaa
is reached by TS Laevad's ferries from Virtsu
Virtsu
on the Estonian mainland to Kuivastu
Kuivastu
on Muhu
Muhu
island, which is itself connected to Saaremaa
Saaremaa
by a causeway, the Väinatamm. Saaremaa
Saaremaa
can also be reached by ferry from Sõru on the island of Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
to Triigi. There are also passenger services from Roomassaare to the smaller island of Abruka. During many winters it is possible to drive to Saaremaa
Saaremaa
by an ice road between the mainland and Muhu
Muhu
or between Saaremaa
Saaremaa
and the island of Hiiumaa. There are regular bus services from Tallinn, Pärnu
Pärnu
and Tartu
Tartu
on the mainland, which use the ferry from Virtsu
Virtsu
to Muhu. There is an airport at Kuressaare
Kuressaare
with regular flights to Tallinn operated by Transaviabaltika. In the summer season there are regular service to Ruhnu
Ruhnu
and Pärnu
Pärnu
operated by Luftverkehr Friesland Harle, and a twice weekly service to Stockholm
Stockholm
operated by Estonian Air. Historically there was a Soviet air base at Aste during the Cold War. Plans to connect Saaremaa
Saaremaa
to the mainland either by the Saaremaa Bridge or Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Tunnel are being studied. Sport[edit] FC Kuressaare
Kuressaare
competes in the first tier of Estonian football, the Meistriliiga. Saaremaa
Saaremaa
competes in the biannual Island
Island
Games. There are three main international traditional sport events in Saaremaa:

Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Rally takes place every year in October and attracts thousands of rally fans. The first rally was an amateur competition and it took place in 1974. The first professional competition took place in 1975 and from 1993 the rally has been international.[11]

Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Velotuur is a group race of road cyclists that is oldest in the Nordic countries (held since 1957) and the only international one in the Baltic states.[12]

Saaremaa
Saaremaa
3-day running marathon takes place on the roads around Kuressaare
Kuressaare
town and Sõrve peninsula. Main race consist of three different runs, which are held on three sequential days (10+16,195+16=42,195 km). The first marathon was held in 1974.[13]

Famous residents[edit]

Louis Kahn, one of the most influential architects of the mid-20th century, spent his childhood in Saaremaa

Hannibal Sehested (1609–1666), Danish diplomat. Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen
(1778–1852) lead of the second expedition to successfully cross the Antarctic Circle
Antarctic Circle
and likely first to see continent of Antarctica. Louis Isadore Kahn
Louis Isadore Kahn
(1901–1974) was born on Saaremaa
Saaremaa
to Leopold and Bertha Kahn. One of the most influential architects of the mid-20th century. Paul Friidrih Saagpakk (1910-1996) was born in Mustjala. He wrote the largest Estonian-English dictionary published in 1982.

Trivia[edit] Saaremaa
Saaremaa
has more spas than anywhere else in Estonia.[5] Gallery[edit]

The cliffs near the village of Panga on the north coast of Saaremaa

Women in traditional Saaremaa
Saaremaa
dress performing a folk dance

Monument to the mythological giant Suur Tõll
Suur Tõll
and his wife Piret in Kuressaare

Kuressaare
Kuressaare
Castle in winter

Soviet World War II
World War II
memorial, Tehumardi, Saaremaa

Historic buildings near the center of Kuressaare

Saaremaa
Saaremaa
countryside

Farmhouse in Järveküla

Tagalaht
Tagalaht
Bay panorama

Valjala Church

Kihelkonna St. Michael's Church

Karja Church
Karja Church
in the village of Linnaka

Angla windmills in Leisi Parish

Kiipsaare leaning lighthouse

Lighthouse at Sõrve Peninsula

Kaarma ring fort

Odalätsi springs

Red deer in winter in Leisi Parish

See also[edit]

List of islands of Estonia List of islands in the Baltic Sea Saare County Extreme points of Europe Pöide Church Œsel – Œsel
Œsel
(Œselia), ancient Estonian independent eldership in the present territory of Saare County 4163 Saaremaa, asteroid Sääretükk Lighthouse

References[edit]

^ Rand McNally and Company's Enlarged Business Atlas and Shippers Guide. Rand McNally and Company. 1893.  ^ Official Web page of Saaremaa ^ [1] ^ [2] ^ a b Toomse, Liine. "10 Estonian Islands You Should Visit." http://www.traveller.ee/blog/tallinn/10-estonian-islands-you-should-visit. Retrieved 8 March 2016. ^ http://www.saaremaa.ee/eng/general/default.htm Saaremaa
Saaremaa
County – nature ^ "Kaalijärv". Earth Impact Database. University of New Brunswick. Retrieved 2008-12-30.  ^ a b Veski, Siim; Heinsalu, Atko; Kirsimäe, Kalle; Poska, Anneli; Saarse, Leili (2001). "Ecological catastrophe in connection with the impact of the Kaali meteorite about 800–400 B.C. on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia" (PDF). Meteoritics & Planetary Science. 36 (3): 1367–1375. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.2001.tb01830.x.  ^ http://www.saaremaa.ee/eng/general/default.htm Saaremaa
Saaremaa
County – resources ^ http://www.saaremaa.ee/eng/general/default.htm Saaremaa
Saaremaa
County – population ^ Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Rally homepage http://www.saaremaarally.eu ^ Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Velotuur homepage http://www.saaremaavelotuur.ee/ ^ Saaremaa
Saaremaa
3-day running marathon homepage http://www.saaremaajooks.ee/

Further reading[edit]

Taylor, N. with Karin T (2008). Saaremaa: a History and Travel Guide. Tallinn: OÜ Greif. ISBN 978-9985-3-1606-1 Geotourism highlights of the Saaremaa
Saaremaa
and Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
islands (2009) (23 mb pdf)

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saaremaa.

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Saaremaa.

Saaremaa
Saaremaa
at Curlie (based on DMOZ) Saaremaa Saaremaa
Saaremaa
for tourists. Photos and stories. Visit Saaremaa
Saaremaa
- Official Tourism page of Saaremaa Neomobile provide local bus services across the island Estonian Air
Estonian Air
fly between Tallinn
Tallinn
and Kuressaare Watch Saaremaa
Saaremaa
online via webcam Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Estonica

v t e

Islands of Estonia

Gulf of Finland

Aegna Aksi Allu Hara Keri Koipsi Kräsuli Kumbli Liivakari Mohni Munasaar Naissaar Osmussaar Pakri Islands
Pakri Islands
(Suur-Pakri, Väike-Pakri) Pedassaar Prangli Rammu Rohusi Tiirloo Uhtju islands Ulkkari Umblu Vaindloo

West Estonian archipelago and the Väinameri
Väinameri
Sea

Abruka Adralaid Ahelaid Aherahu Ahessäär Allirahu Anekäbrud Ankrurahu Antsulaiud Anulaid Auklaid Eerikulaid Elmrahu Esirahu Hanemaa Hanerahu Hanikatsi laid Harilaid Hellamaa rahu Hiiumaa Härjakare Härjamaa Hobulaid Hõralaid Hülgelaid Hülgerahu Innarahu Juksirahu Kadakalaid Kaevatsi Kajakarahu Käkimaa Käkirahu Kakralaid Kakrarahu Kassari Kasselaid Kesselaid Kitselaid Koerakuiv Kõinastu Kõrgelaid Kõverlaid Kriimi laid Külalaid Kullikare Kumari Kunnatilaid Kurgurahu Laasirahu Laidu Läkumätas Langekare Leemetikare Liia Liisi Liivanuka ots Linnusitamaa Lombimaa Loonalaid Luigerahu Maturahu Mihklirahu Mõndelaid Muhu Munaderahu Mustarahu Nabralaid Naistekivi maa Ninalaid Noogimaa Nootamaa Nosurahu Öakse Oitma Ojurahu Öörahu Oosäär Ooslamaa Orikalaid Paelaid Pakulaid Paljarahu Papilaid Papirahu Pasilaid Pihelgalaid Pihlakare Pihlalaid Piiukaarelaid Pikknasv Piskumadal Pitkasääremaa Põdvalaid Põiksäär Pöörilaid Pühadekare Puningalaid Rannasitik Reigilaid Riinurahu Ristlaid Rohurahu Rooglaid Rukkirahu Rusulaid Saare ots Saaremaa Saarnaki laid Salava Seasaar Selglaid Sepasitik Siiasaar Siimurahu Sipelgarahu Sitakare Sokulaid Suuregi laid Suurepoldi Suurlaid Suurrahu Sõmeri Tagarahu Taguküla laid Täkulaid Täkunasv Tarja Tauksi Telve Tondirahu Tõõdilaid Udrikulaid Umalakotid Urverahu Uuemaarahu Uuemererahu Uuluti laid Uus-Nootamaa Vahase Vahelmisrahu Vaika islands Väike Siimurahu Väike-Tulpe Valgerahu Vareslaid (Käina) Vareslaid (Väinameri) Varesrahu Vasikalaid Vesiloo Vesitükimaa Viirelaid Vilsandi Vissulaid Vohilaid Võilaid Võrgukare Võrkrahu Vormsi

Gulf of Riga

Ahtra Annilaid Imutlaid Kihnu Kõrksaar Küllisäär Manilaid Ruhnu Sangelaid Sillalaid Sorgu

Lakes and rivers

Kreenholm Piirissaar Tondisaar

Former islands

Mardirahu Noarootsi Paljassaar Puhtu Sõrve

Bold marks populated islands.

v t e

Inhabited islands in the Baltic Sea

Denmark

Bornholm Ertholmene Falster Lolland Møn

Estonia

Abruka Aegna Hiiumaa Kassari Kesselaid Kihnu Kõinastu Manilaid Mohni Muhu Naissaar Prangli Osmussaar Ruhnu Saaremaa Väike-Pakri Vilsandi Vormsi

Finland

Archipelago Sea
Archipelago Sea
Islands (Åland Islands) Hailuoto Kimitoön Laajasalo Lauttasaari Replot Suomenlinna

Germany

Dänholm Fehmarn Hiddensee Poel Rügen Ummanz Usedom

Poland

Uznam Wolin

Russia

Kotlin

Sweden

Blekinge archipelago Fårö Gotland Stora Karlsö Stockholm
Stockholm
archipelago Öland

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 237697409 GND: 404326

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