Swedes are one of the earliest known national minorities in Estonia, residing mostly on the North and West coasts of Estonia, smaller islands and the Noarootsi peninsula. Most of them emigrated back to Sweden during the Soviet occupation and after World War II, however nowadays, in regions where the Swedish language is still spoken, local people are starting to regroup and resurrect their traditions.

Swedes started arriving around 13th century, even before Estonia came under Swedish control as a result of the Livonic wars.

  • In 1583 Northern and Western parts of Estonia were conquered by Sweden.
  • In 1629 all Estonia came under Swedish control. This period in Estonia is remembered as the “Golden Sweden age”, since it brought some considerable benefits and regulation for Estonian peasantry. It also marked a beginning of educational reforms and marks a start for evolution of Estonian as a written language.

Town and villages in West Estonia and the coastal islands e.g. Vormsi, have many Swedish-like names: Hosby, Einbi, Österby. These all were settlements of so-called Aibolanders (‘rannarootslased’ in Estonian and ‘Estonian-Swedes’ or 'Coastal Swedes' in English).

The best known figure from the Swedish period is King Gustav II Adolf - famous for his numerous military victories, involvement in the Thirty Years’ War and founding of the University of Tartu.

In a recent survey it is claimed Estonians are the world’s least religious people, nevertheless the church has had an impact here. Since Sweden was Protestant, so too was Estonia, so Lutheran has become the common religion in Estonia. Estonia churches today are almost all Lutheran.

Sense and see Swedish history at:

University of Tartu building, situated in Tartu’s Old Town.

Gustav Adolf’s Gymnasium, one of Europe’s oldest working grammar schools in an old monastery building in Tallinn Old town – sandwiched between a Russian Orthodox church and the medieval town hall.

Kihnu Island, also called ‘the beacon of gender equality’, and Noarootsi peninsula with its use of traditional Swedish language and architecture.

Haapsalu, town situated in Läänemaa – best preserved for tracking the now lost culture of Aibolanders, the Estonian-Swedes.