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Otto Wilhelm Masing

Otto Wilhelm Masing (8 November [O.S. 28 October] 1763 in Lohusuu, Kreis Dorpat – 15 March [O.S. 3 March] 1832 in Äksi, Kreis Dorpat, then Livland Governorate, now Estonia) was a clergyman, writer, journalist, linguist, notable early Estophile and a major advocate of Estonian commoners' rights, especially regarding education.


Masing was born in 1763 in the village of Lohusuu, Kreis Dorpat (then part of Russian Empire, now Estonia). His father Kristian Masick was a local ethnic Estonian Lutheran clergyman, and mother Anna Ludovica von Hildebrandt was a noblewoman of German descent.

Masing received schooling at the town school of Narva (1777–1779), and at the Gymnasium of Torgau (1779–1782) in Germany. He then studied theology, music and drawing at the University of Halle before returning to Estonia in 1786.

In 1796, Masing married Dorothea Amalie Ehlertz (1776–1809) in Tartu (Dorpat),[1] a daughter of the city councillor Carl Ulrich Ehlertz (1739–1790) [2] and his wife Louisa Dorothea née Stockenberg (1755–1803), a great-granddaughter of the sculptor Johann Gustav Stockenberg.


Church of St. Andrew in Äksi (2015)

Masing's first employment after concluding his studies was as private tutor at the manor in Püssi (Neu-Isenhof) for the children of the nobleman Otto Magnus von Toll.

In 1788, he became the pastor of the Lutheran church in Lüganuse (Luggenhusen), and then served from 1795 in Viru-Nigula (Maholm), and from 1815 in Äksi (Ecks), where he remained as pastor until his death.[3]

From 1818 he also took on the post of assessor of the consistory of Livonia and from 1821 onwards he was also Provost for Tartu.

Contributions as publicist and linguist

Title page of 'ABD' by Otto Wilhelm Masing, published in 1795

In 1795, Masing compiled and published a children's textbook for learning reading, the ABD. (The letter 'C' does not appear in Estonian words, and back then, was not considered part of the Estonian alphabet. This considered, the title could be translated as "ABC.") He published a further textbook with methodical reading instructions, the Luggemislehhed, in 1821.

In 1821–1823, and in 1825, Masing published a newspaper Marahwa Näddala-Leht (Estonian for Land People's Weekly), one of the earliest periodical publications in the Estonian language.

Among other linguistic contributions, Masing is credited with creating the letter 'õ' to denote an Estonian phoneme not found in other related languages.[4]



  1. ^ Entry in the Register of Marriages of the Parish of St. John (Estonian: Tartu Jaani kogudus)
  2. ^ von Lemm, Robert Arthur (1960), Dorpater Ratslinie 1319-1889 und das Dorpater Stadtamt 1878-1918, Marburg/Lahn: Herder-Inst.
  3. ^ "Eesti monumentide e-kataloog - Viru-Nigula Otto Wilhelm Masing".
  4. ^ "Kuidas tuli õ-täht eesti kirjakeelde?".
  5. ^ Napiersky, Karl Eduard (1851), Beiträge zur Geschichte der Kirchen und Prediger in Livland. Drittes Heft, Lebensnachrichten von den livländischen Predigern, mit litterärischen Nachweisen. Zweiter Theil, H-P, Mitau: J.F. Steffenhagen und Sohn, hdl:10062/29497, ISBN 9789949317660
  6. ^ Paucker, Hugo Richard (1849), Ehstlands Geistlichkeit in geordneter Zeit- und Reihefolge, Reval: Lindfors Erben, hdl:10062/17510