The black pleated skirts of Coastal Swedes’ folk costumes were clearly different from the folk costumes of Estonians. In Ruhnu and Vormsi, Estonian women still wore folk costumes daily in the 1930s. World War II ended the Swedish rule in Estonia. From 1943 to 1944, the majority of Coastal Swedes left Estonia to go back to their motherland. But Swedish place names on the coast and island are still a clear indicator of the 700-year history Swedes have had in Estonia.
Sights related to Coastal Swedes
To get a good overview of the life and history of Coastal Swedes, a good place to start is the Albolands Museum in Haapsalu. One of the crown jewels of the museum is the 20 meter-long “Coastal carpet”. It is a carpet that the museum staff and the people who gather there on Thursdays, the so-called Thursday-grannies embroidered for the visit of the King of Sweden in 2002. This was not the Swedish royal family’s first, nor their last visit to Estonia. The current King Carl XVI Gustaf visited Estonia for the first time in 1992, and her daughter, the Crown Princess Victoria visited Estonia in the summer of 2018 and took part of the re-consecration of the Holy Maria Chapel in Naissaar. Throughout history, Coastal Sweden peasants would write complaints to the King of Sweden, if squires tried to limit their rights and freedoms. The last time Estonian Swedes went to deliver a letter to the King was in 2013. Although this was not a complaint as much as it was a greeting to let the king know how the Coastal Swedes have managed in Estonia.
Haapsalu is often called the capital of the Estonian Swedes, because their main settlements were around Haapsalu. In addition to Coastal Swedes, Haapsalu has another connection to Sweden: Ilon Wikland, who is mainly known as the illustrator of the Astrid Lindgren books, spent her childhood here. In honour of Ilon Wikland, there is a gallery and an activity centre mainly for children called Ilon’s Wonderland.