1/ King of Sweden is visiting Estonia and this has reanimated the old myth about „good old Swedish time“. MFA Margus Tsahkna said few weeks ago: „Estonia and Sweden have a long history together. „Good old Swedish times“ as we say in Estonia, and these times were good“. 🧵

2/ Now @BadBalticTakes has put together a thread about the „good old Swedish time“.
I’ll try to explain why that myth is BS. Please keep in mind that my goal is not to dismiss the good relationship between our two countries, but to end the strange „theme-parking“ of our history.
Let’s start with wars – Swedish period (1561-1710) lasted 150 years and 70 years out of it was war. This resulted in total destruction of Estonia and Latvia. Smaller towns and villages were burned down, population slaughtered, their possessions looted.
3/ Estonia lost 50% of its population between 1550 to 1650.

Swedish imperial ambitions also caused constant conflict with neighbouring nations. This meant that Baltic provinces were full of troops – either garrisoned or marching through, bringing additional burden for locals.
4/ Famine – Swedish rule in Baltics coincided with the coolest period in recent history, meaning constant failed harvest and famine. At first it seems that the Swedish crown could not be blamed for that, but when we look closer, they actively worsened the situation for locals.
5/ Grain that could have fed famished peasants was used to feed local garrisons or armies in Germany or was traded in Amsterdam to satisfy the empire’s need for cash.
6/ Famine goes hand in hand with diseases. I don’t think you can call a period of constant pandemic „good old“. Estonia experienced plague epidemics in 1570-1578, 1601-1606, 1657, 1710-1712. Not to mention typhoid fever and other deadly diseases that regulary broke out.
7/ Swedish rule is often credited for curbing the local Baltic-German nobility, which in turn improved the situation of peasants. This statement seems strange as perpetually cash-strapped Swedish rulers were donating land to satistfy the needs of officers and administrators.
8/ By 1680s the crown was out of land and money and nobility had extensive rights to govern their own affairs.
It can be said that Estonian and Latvian peasants lost their remaining freedom during the Swedish rule.
9/ For example – 1671 Livonian police ordinances, introduced by governor Clas Åkesson Tott the younger, really codified the serfdom of local peasantry.
10/ Swedish contribution to Estonian education system is often highlighted. Peasant schools and Tartu university were clearly nice things, still they were not opened to improve the life of locals, but to prepare clerks to fulfill the needs of ever-growing state apparatus.
11/ Thriving medieval small towns were totally destroyed during the long wars, stripped of their rights and donated to Swedish high nobility. Towns did not regain their status until 1780s-1790s.
12/ Paide went to Lennart Torstensson
Viljandi, Haapsalu to Jacob De la Gardie
Rakvere to Reinoud van Brederode

Only towns to actually improve during the Swedish period were Narva and Kuressaare.

Same happened in Latvia.
13/ Sweden was lutheran and its approach to religion was strict. Governors and church made extensive and effective attempts to root out folk-belief and local traditions. Swedish rule brought on the greatest loss of Estonian culture after the 13th century conquest.
14/ When do you think witch trials happened in Estonia? During medieval times? Under the rule of catholic Poland? Yeah, well, think again. Number of witch trials by decades:
15/ The myth of „good old Swedish time“ was born in the 18th century, as a way to complain against Russian rule. Everyone thinks that life was better in their youth and this was also the case back then.
16/ Over time people forgot the calamities of Swedish rule and started longing for the last peace years before the war. It seems that people forgot the Great Famine of 1695-1697, but then again, 200k people died because of famine and war and the memories died with them.
17/ In conclusion – Sweden was not some kind of especially benevolent and enlightened kingdom, who deeply cared about Estonians. It was just another empire, aiming for power, influence and prestige. Anything it did – either good or bad – was serving these goals.
18/ Estonia and Sweden have long history together. Estonia and Sweden have a good relationship and it is important. But…Swedish rule in Estonia was not a „good old time“ – it was catastrophically bad and definitely the worst time in our history after the 13th century conquest.
19/ We can still be fascinated by our history, we can even celebrate it, but we need to remain honest and stop baseless ass-kissing. We want to be Nordic, but sucking up and embarassing ourselves is not the way to achieve that.
This is a super simplified view on a really complex period. Long story short - the transition from medieval to early modern was an absolute shitshow, totally horrible hot mess.
If you want an easily readable overview of this shitshow, please read this:
Few more to help understand the wider context of what was going on in Estonia.
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