|First appeared on map||1154|
|• Total||14.95 km2 (5.77 sq mi)|
|Elevation||5 m (16 ft)|
|• Density||850/km2 (2,200/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (EET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (EEST)|
Kuressaare (Estonian pronunciation: [ˈkureˈsˑɑːre]) is a town on the island of Saaremaa in Estonia. It is the administrative centre of Saaremaa Municipality and the seat of Saare County. Kuressaare is the westernmost town in Estonia. The recorded population on 1 January 2018 was 13,276.
The town is situated on the southern coast of Saaremaa island, facing the Gulf of Riga of the Baltic Sea, and is served by the Kuressaare Airport, Roomassaare harbour, and Kuressaare yacht harbour.
Kuressaare's historic name Arensburg (from Middle High German a(a)r: eagle, raptor) renders the Latin denotation arx aquilae for the city's castle. The fortress and the eagle, tetramorph symbol of Saint John the Evangelist, are also depicted on Kuressaare's coat of arms.
The town, which grew around the fortress, was simultaneously known as Arensburg and Kuressaare linn[disputed ]; the latter name being a combination of Kuressaare—an ancient name of the Saaremaa Island—and linn, which means town. Alternatively, the town's name may come from kurg (crane) and saare (island), a name that may have come from the city's German name and coat of arms, or may have existed before German settlers arrived. Eventually, the town's name shortened to Kuressaare and became official in 1918 after Estonia had declared its independence from Bolshevist Russia. Under Soviet rule, the town was renamed Kingissepa in 1952. This name came from the Bolshevik Kuressaare-native Viktor Kingissepp executed in 1922. The name Kuressaare was restored in 1988.
Saare County pre–1227
Bishopric of Riga 1227–1228
Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek 1228–1236
Saare County 1236–1241
Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek 1241–1261
Saare County 1261–1262
Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek 1262–1343
Saare County 1343–1345
Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek 1345–1560
Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek (Danish-controlled) 1560–1572
Kingdom of Denmark 1572–1645
Kingdom of Sweden 1645–1704
Tsardom of Russia 1710–1721
Russian Empire 1721–1917
Russian Republic 1917
German occupation 1917–1918
Republic of Estonia 1918–1940
Soviet occupation 1940–1941
German occupation 1941–1944
Soviet occupation 1944–1990
Republic of Estonia (in transition) 1990–1991
Republic of Estonia 1991–onwards
The town first appeared on maps around 1154. The island of Saaremaa (German, Swedish: Ösel) 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 of the castle (arx aquilae) was found in Latin texts written in 1381 and 1422. Over time, a town, which became known as Arensburg or Kuressaarelinn, grew and flourished around the fortress. It became the see of the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek established by Albert of Riga in 1228, part of the Terra Mariana.
Johann von Münchhausen, bishop since 1542, converted to Protestantism. With the advance of the troops of Tsar Ivan IV of Russia in the course of the Livonian War, Münchhausen 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 bishop the following year. It was through his influence that the city obtained its civic charter in 1563, modeled after that of Riga. The bishopric was finally secularised in 1572 and Kuressaare fell to the Danish Crown.
In 1645, it passed to Swedish control through the Treaty of Brömsebro after the Danish defeat in the Torstenson War. Queen Christina of Sweden granted her favourite, Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie, the title of Count of Arensburg, the German and Swedish name for Kuressaare at that time. The city was burnt to the ground by Russian troops in 1710 during the Great Northern War and suffered heavily from the plague. Abandoned by the Swedes, it was incorporated into the Governorate of Livonia of the Russian Empire through the Treaty of Nystad in 1721.
During the 19th century Kuressaare became a popular seaside resort on the Baltic coast. During World War I, between September and October 1917, German land and naval forces occupied Saaremaa with Operation Albion. During World War II, the Battle of Tehumardi took place. In October 1990, Kuressaare was the first town in Estonia to regain its self-governing status.
Kuressaare is a well-known summer and resort town. The city is one of the most visited tourist centers in Estonia. The first known tourist group visited Kuressaare almost 165 years ago.
In the middle of the 19th century, Kuressaare became a spa town when large reserves of healing mud were discovered near the town. The first mud spa was built in 1840, but healing with mud baths has been tested on the west coast of Saaremaa since the mid-1820s. It was the health mud that became Kuressaare's key word. New sanatoriums and boarding houses were created, the order was considerably improved and the number of visitors continued to grow.
Between 1918 and 1940, the resort's heyday continued. The share of Russians among visitors decreased, giving way to Latvians, Finns and Swedes.
The development of tourism slowed down from the beginning of the Second World War until the end of the Soviet occupation, when the entire Saaremaa was declared a closed border zone, which excluded all foreign tourism. Only strictly limited and controlled domestic tourism was allowed.
Today, Kuressaare is once again a resort town. New health facilities and hotels have been built, and historical monuments have been restored. Two thirds of the current visitors to the city are mainland Estonians, the remaining visitors are mainly from Finland, Sweden and Latvia.
In the old town of Kuressaare, mainly the 18th and 19th centuries have been preserved. historical buildings from the 19th century, but there are also older ones. In the old town there are, for example, St. Nicholas Church and Laurentius Church, a goods yard, an old mill (1899), a harbor yard (1663) and residential buildings. The baroque town hall and council house date from the Swedish era in the 17th century, while the building of the Saaremaa Knights, located next to the Kuressaare town hall, dates from the 18th century. Among the oldest preserved buildings are also the parsonage building at Kauba tänav 5 and the Põlluvahi house at the corner of Kitsa and Kitzbergi streets.
The city's biggest attraction is the Kuressaare Bishop's Castle, which mainly dates from the 14th century, and currently houses the Saaremaa Museum. The square-shaped fortress consists of four building wings around the courtyard. On the northeast side are the gate and two towers: Pikk Hermann and Sturvolt. 17-18 are also important. The powerful earthen fortifications of the Kuressaare fortress around the medieval fortress core date from the 19th century. Kuressaare Castle is one of the best preserved in the Baltic States. It has been restored several times since the beginning of the 20th century. Since 2001, Kuressaare Castle Days have been organized every summer with knight tournaments, theatrical tours and processions, and other medieval attractions.
To the south-west of the castle is Tori bay, where the port of Kuressaare is located.
Kuressaare Castle Park and the historicist-style Kuressaare Kursaal are the center of resort life. Both were founded in the second half of the 19th century.
At the beginning of Lossi Street, in the former fish market, there is a monument to those who fell in the Estonian War of Independence.
There are nine neighborhoods of Kuressaare:
The medieval episcopal Kuressaare Castle today houses the Saaremaa Regional Museum. The original wooden castle was constructed between 1338 and 1380, although other sources claim a fortress was built in Kuressaare as early as 1260. In 1968, architect Kalvi Aluvebegan studies on Kuressaare Castle.
The town hall was originally built in 1654, and restored, retaining classicist and baroque features. It was last restored in the 1960s with dolomite stairs at the front. St Nicolaus Church was built in 1790.
The annual Saaremaa Opera Days (Saaremaa Ooperipäevad) have been held in Kuressaare each summer since 1999. Other festivals include Kuressaare Chamber Music Days (Kuressaare Kammermuusika Päevad), held since 1995 and Kuressaare Maritime Festival (Kuressaare Merepäevad), held since 1998.
Kuressaare also hosts the FC Kuressaare football club.
|Climate data for Kuressaare (1971–1999)|
|Record high °C (°F)||8.3
|Average high °C (°F)||−0.1
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−2.2
|Average low °C (°F)||−4.9
|Record low °C (°F)||−31.6
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||44
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||11||8||9||8||6||7||7||10||12||12||14||14||118|
|Average relative humidity (%)||87||86||85||79||71||75||78||80||82||84||86||87||82|
|Source: Estonian Weather Service|
Kuressaare is served by Kuressaare Airport, located on a peninsula southeast of the town. There is regular traffic to Tallinn, as well as seasonal flights to the island of Ruhnu.
There are bus connections around the island, as well as with Kuivastu on Muhu Island, a ferry terminal with connection to the mainland.
In 1917, during the German occupation, an urban railway was built in Kuressaare, and in 1918, it was transferred to the town administration. It connected the port with the city center/ One of the stations was provisionally located in Kurhouse, and in 1924, the dedicated Park Station was built. The railway functioned until the 1930s when it was gradually disused and mostly dismantled. An attempt to revive the railway in the beginning of the 1950s, during the Soviet period, was unsuccessful, and ended up with rails fully removed from the streets.
The former municipality of Kuressaare was twinned with:
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