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Kuressaare ( ) is a town and a municipality on Saaremaamarker island in Estoniamarker. It is the capital of Saare County. The current population is about 15,300.

The town is situated on the coast of Gulf of Rigamarker and is served by Kuressaare Airportmarker.
Kuressaare castle towers over the moat at dusk


Its historic name Arensburg (from Middle High German a(a)r: eagle, raptor) renders the Latin denotation arx aquilae for the town's castle. The fortress and the eagle, tetramorph symbol of Saint John the Evangelist, are also the depicted on Kuressaare's coat of arms.

The name was replaced by Kuressaare (probably from Estonian kurg: crane) in 1918 after Estonia had declared its independence from Bolshevist Russia. Under Sovietmarker rule the town from 1952 to 1988 was called Kingissepa after the Bolshevik Kuressaare-native Viktor Kingissepp killed in 1922 (not to be confused with the Russianmarker town Kingiseppmarker, formerly Jamburg).


Kuressaare first appeared on maps around 1154. The island of Saaremaa (German, ) was conquered by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword under Volkwin of Naumburg in 1227, who merged with the Teutonic Knights shortly afterwards. The first documentation about the castle (arx aquilae) has been found in Latin texts written in 1381 and 1422. The town around the fortress flourished and developed after it became the see of the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek established by Albert of Riga in 1228, part of the Terra Marianamarker.
Town hall
Johann von Münchhausen, bishop since 1542, had turned Protestant. With the advancement of the troops of Tsar Ivan IV of Russia in the course of the Livonian War, he sold his lands to King Frederick II of Denmark in 1559 and returned to Germany. Frederick sent his younger brother Prince Magnus to Kuressaare where he was elected as bishop in the following year. From him the town obtained its civic charter, modeled after that of Rigamarker in 1563. The bishopric was finally secularised in 1572 and Kuressaare fell to the Danish crown.

In 1645 it passed to Swedish control by the Treaty of Brömsebro after the Danish defeat in the Torstenson War. Queen Christina of Sweden granted to her favourite Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie the title of a Count of Arensburg, the German and Swedish name by which Kuressaare was known at that time. The town was burnt to the ground by Russian troops in 1710 during the Great Northern War and suffered heavily from the plague. Abandoned by the Swedish it was incorporated into the Governorate of Livonia of the Russian Empiremarker with the 1721 Treaty of Nystad.

During the 19th century Kuressaare became a popular seaside resort on the Baltic coastmarker. In October 1990, Kuressaare was the first town in Estonia to regain its self-governing status.
The castle in spring


The medieval episcopal castle today houses the Saaremaa Regional Museum. Annual chamber music recitals are held in summer.

Kuressaare is a safe and healthy town, open for international cooperation and communication. It also hosts the FC Kuressaare football club.

Born in Kuressaare

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Kuressaare is twinned with:Ekenäs, Finlandmarker since 21 November 1988

Rønnemarker, Denmarkmarker since 3 October 1991

Mariehamnmarker, Finlandmarker since 24 October 1991

Skövdemarker, Swedenmarker since 23 June 1993

Vammalamarker, Finlandmarker since 30 June 1994

Turkumarker, Finlandmarker since 30 May 1996

Talsimarker, Latviamarker since 27 May 1998

Kuurnemarker, Belgiummarker since 9 August 1998

See also

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