All the land was distributed to the nobles and serfdom was progressively established during the 13thcentury.
The Estonian peasants were finally released from serfdom in the early 19th century. The Estonian landscape is still filled with over 1200 manor houses, mostly German, most of which were built in the distinctive classical style with long columns and sharp roofs.
The German nobility ruled Estonia from 13th until early 20th century. Their privileges were nullified and class-society was dismantled after World War I and when Estonian independence was established. Their property was nationalised and given back to the Estonian people.
One notable historic event in 1343 was St. George's Night Uprising (Jüriöö ülestõus in Estonian) when Estonians renounced Christianity, and killed everybody with German ancestry (chronicles give 1,800 as the total number of victims).
The German ruling class in Estonia enjoyed special rights inside the Russian empire; they lived by a separate sets of laws. In Tallinn, Toompea was historically separated from rest of the town since it was ruled by knights, rather than by the mayor as the rest of the town was.
Carl Hermann Hesse, grandfather of famous writer Hermann Hesse was born in Tartu and lived in Paide.
Barclay de Tolly, commander of Russian forces against Napoleon, was born and raised in Livonia (now the southern part of Estonia) and is buried, along with his wife in Jõgeveste, Helme. Barclay de Tolly mausoleum is open to the public, and a popular local attraction.