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Tallinn (täˈlĭn), Ger. Reval, city (1994 pop. 442,679), capital of Estonia, on the Gulf of Finland, opposite Helsinki. It is a major Baltic port, a rail and highway junction, and an industrial center. Tallinn also has military and naval installations. Industries include shipbuilding, metalworking, food and fish processing, and the manufacture of machinery and electrical consumer goods. Tourism is also important. The population is about 55% Estonian and about 40% Russian and Ukrainian. Tallinn contains the Estonian Academy of Sciences, the Estonian National Museum of Art, and many other educational and cultural institutions.

Tallinn was first mentioned by the Arab geographer Idrisi in 1154. It was destroyed in 1219 by Waldemar II of Denmark, who built a fortress there. The city's name comes from the Estonian Taani linn (“Danish castle”). A member of the Hanseatic League from 1285, Tallinn was sold (1346) with the rest of Estonia by Waldemar IV to the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. Upon the dissolution of the Livonian Order in 1561, it passed to Sweden. Captured by Peter I in 1710 during the Northern War, Tallinn was ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. It underwent development as a port for Russia's Baltic fleet and in 1870 was linked by rail with St. Petersburg. Tallinn became the capital of independent Estonia in 1919 and of the Estonian SSR in 1940. It suffered considerable damage during the German occupation in World War II. In 1991, it again became the capital of an independent Estonia.

The historical center of Tallinn consists of an upper town, on a steep hill topped by a medieval cathedral, and an adjoining lower town dating from Hanseatic times. The picturesque lower town is surrounded by a medieval wall with massive round towers. Its landmarks include the 13th-century Danish Toompea Castle (rebuilt in 1935 as a government building), the 13th-century Gothic Church of St. Olai, and the 14th-century city hall.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(formerly Revel, Reval), a city and capital of the Estonian SSR. It is an important industrial, scientific, and cultural center and a major transportation junction and seaport.

Tallinn is located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. The city’s shoreline follows a winding course: within the city limits are the Kakumäe, Kopli, and Tallinn bays, the Kakumäe, Kopli, and Paljassaar peninsulas, and the island of Aegna. The Pirita River flows through the eastern part of the city, and this area of Tallinn is called Pirita. Lake Ülemiste is located in the southeastern outskirts of the city, and Lake Harku in the southwestern outskirts. The main part of the city is on a coastal terrace adjoining the sea and bounded on the south by a steep limestone escarpment. The most ancient part of the old city is known as the Upper Town. It is located on a residual limestone plateau called Toompea Hill that rises above the coastal terrace to an elevation of 48 m.

The climate is marine, and frequent thaws occur during the winter. The average temperature in February is –5.8°C, and the average temperature in July is 16.4°C. Westerly and southwesterly winds predominate. The total annual precipitation is about 600 mm.

Tallinn covers an area of 145.9 sq km. The city’s estimated population on Jan. 1, 1975, was 399,000, compared with 176,000 in 1941, 282,000 in 1959, and 363,000 in 1970. Tallinn accounts for 28.6 percent of the population of Estonia. As of 1970, 55.7 percent of the city’s inhabitants were Estonians, 35 percent were Russians, 3.7 percent were Ukrainians, and 2 percent were Byelorussians. The city is divided into four administrative districts.

Historical survey. Archaeological data reveal that the origins of the Upper Town date from the tenth century, when the Estonians built a fortified town on Toompea Hill. An Estonian traders’ and artisans’ settlement subsequently arose at the foot of the hill. This area came to be known as the Lower Town.

The first extant reference to Tallinn in written sources dates from 1154. In the Russian chronicles the city was known as Kolyvan’—that is, the city of Kalev, who is a hero of the Estonian folk epos. The Scandinavians called the city Lindanisa. Captured by the Danes in 1219, it came to be known as Reval, from the name Rávala for the northwestern part of Estonia. The Estonians did not accept the new name for the city and began calling it Tallinn, which derives from Taanilinna, or Danish city.

In 1230, Tallinn was granted the Laws of Lübeck, which created a privileged position for the German merchants and artisans. The city joined the Hanseatic League in 1285. During an uprising that began on St. George’s Day in 1343, Tallinn was besieged by Estonian detachments, which the Danes were able to defeat only through the help of the German knights of the Teutonic Order. In 1346, Denmark sold Tallinn, together with its holdings in Northern Estonia, to the Teutonic Order, which put the acquisitions under the control of the Livonian Order. The knights built a citadel on Toompea Hill and engaged in continual hostilities with the Lower Town. With the dissolution of the Livonian Order, Tallinn in 1561 came under Swedish rule.

In the course of the Livonian War of 1558–83, Russian forces unsuccessfully besieged Tallinn in 1570 and 1571 and again in 1577. During the Northern War of 1700–21, the city officials and nobility of Tallinn surrendered to the army of Peter I on Sept. 29, 1710. Retaining all its rights and privileges, Tallinn, along with the rest of Estonia, was incorporated into the Russian Empire. The city became the center of Revel Province, which in 1783 was renamed Estland Province.

The Tallinn-St. Petersburg Railroad was put into service in 1870. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Tallinn became an important industrial center of Northwest Russia. This period saw the appearance of such manufacturing establishments as the Dvigatel’ Railroad Car Plant, the Volta Electromechanical Plant, and the Baltiiskaia Manufaktura Mill. With respect to freight turnover, the port of Tallinn came to rank fourth in Russia after St. Petersburg, Riga, and Odessa. In 1897, Tallinn had more than 64,500 inhabitants. Approximately 6,000 workers were employed in large-scale industry in 1900.

Marxist circles appeared in Tallinn in the early 20th century. M. I. Kalinin carried out underground party work in the city from 1901 to 1904. A committee of the RSDLP was established in 1904. Tallinn’s proletariat took an active part in the Revolution of 1905–07. On Jan. 12, 1905, a large-scale strike took place. On October 14, the workers of Tallinn joined the All-Russian Political Strike. On October 16, tsarist troops fired on a workers’ mass meeting in the city. The funeral of those who were killed turned into a large political demonstration. The workers of Tallinn had links with the sailors of the Baltic Fleet. An uprising took place on the cruiser Pamiat’ Azova in July 1906 near Tallinn. Industry, especially shipbuilding, developed rapidly in Tallinn before World War I.

After the victory of the February Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd, a soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies was formed in Tallinn on March 3 (16), and a Red Guard unit was organized. On Oct. 22, (Nov. 4), 1917, a military revolutionary committee was set up. Soviet power was established on October 26 (November 8). In February 1918, Soviet sailors removed some vessels from Tallinn Bay so that the ships would not fall into the hands of the Germans, who captured Tallinn on Feb. 25, 1918 (seeICE CAMPAIGN OF THE BALTIC FLEET OF 1918). In league with foreign imperialists, the Estonian bourgeoisie managed to overthrow Soviet power, and, in November 1918, Tallinn became the capital of bourgeois Estonia. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of Estonia, the working people of Tallinn struggled to restore Soviet power (seeTALLINN UPRISING OF DEC. 1, 1924). On June 21, 1940, the bourgeois government was overthrown, and in Tallinn, as throughout Estonia, Soviet power was restored. On Aug. 6, 1940, Estonia was accepted into the USSR, and the city became the capital of the Estonian SSR.

The beginning of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 saw a heroic defense of Tallinn by the Soviet Army and Navy. The city was severely damaged during the fighting and subsequent occupation. Underground party and Komsomol organizations operated in occupied Tallinn. During the Tallinn Operation of 1944, the city was liberated on September 22 by the Soviet forces.

Tallinn was completely restored after the war. The city’s industry reached its prewar level in 1947 and exceeded the prewar level by a factor of nine in 1957. On Nov. 27, 1970, Tallinn was awarded the Order of Lenin.

Economy. During the years of socialist construction, old industrial enterprises were modernized and expanded, small ones were combined, and many new enterprises were built. Between 1940 and 1974 the total industrial output increased by a factor of 33. Tallinn accounts for 43.4 percent of the republic’s gross industrial output.

The branches of the city’s industry and their contributions to the gross output are as follows: food processing, 32.4 percent; machine building and metalworking, 23.6 percent; light industry, 20.9 percent; lumbering and wood products, including pulp and paper, 8 percent; building materials, 3.9 percent; and other branches, 11.2 percent.

Machine building and metalworking constitute one of the most important industrial sectors. The electronics, electrical engineering, and instrument-making industries are developing especially rapidly. The largest enterprises in this area are the Volta Plant, which produces electric motors, the M. I. Kalinin Electrical Equipment Plant, the Eesti Kaabel Cable Plant, and a plant producing monitoring and measuring instruments. The largest enterprises in the area of general and heavy machine building are the J. Lauristin Machine-building Plant, the Ilmarine Plant, an excavator plant, and a ship-repair yard.

The chemical industry is represented by, for example, the Flora Production Association and the Orto Chemical Combine, which manufacture consumer products, and by a chemicals and pharmaceuticals plant.

Important enterprises in the lumber and wood-products industries include a plywood furniture combine, the V. Kingissepp Pulp and Paper Combine, and the Standard Experimental Furniture Factory.

Various building materials are produced. A prefabricated-housing combine is in operation.

The most highly developed branches of light industry are textiles (for example, the Baltiiskaia Manufaktura Cotton Combine), knitwear (the Marat Production Association), garments (the Baltika and V. Klementi production associations), and leather and footwear (the Kommunaar Production Association).

The largest food-processing enterprises are the Kalev Confectionary Factory, a fish-processing combine, a dairy products combine, a meat-canning combine and a milling combine. The trawlers and refrigerated vessels of the Okean Association are based at Tallinn.

Tallinn obtains its electric power from the Baltic and Estonian state regional electric power plants near the city of Narva, which are part of the Integrated Northwestern Power Grid. The city is supplied with natural gas by the Kohtla-Jarve-Tallinn and Leningrad-Tallinn pipelines. Railroad lines from Moscow, Leningrad, Riga, and Pskov converge at Tallinn. Electrified suburban lines run between Tallinn and, for example, Paldiski, Vasalemma, and Kehra. The commercial seaport is one of the largest in the Soviet Union. There is passenger steamship service between Tallinn and Helsinki. Tallinn also has an airport.


Architecture. Aside from some small changes, Tallinn has preserved its medieval nucleus, which is called the Old Town. This district occupies the central place in the city’s planning system. The Old Town consists of two independent parts: the Upper Town on Toompea Hill and, to the southeast, the Lower Town.

Several interesting structures are to be found in the Upper Town. The construction of the citadel began in the 13th century, and the fortress was rebuilt several times. At the corners of the western and northern walls are three towers dating from the 14th to 16th centuries. The former Governor’s Palace, which now houses the Council of Ministers of the Estonian SSR, represents a transition from the baroque to classicism (1767–73, architect J. Schultz). Also noteworthy is the relatively recent building of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR (1920–22, architects E. Habermann and H. Johanson). The cathedral known as the Toomkirik was originally built in the 13th to 15th centuries in the Gothic style; the vestibule and chapels date from the 15th to 17th centuries. The cathedral has a baroque tower (1779, architect C. L. Geist). Interesting interior features are several tombstones dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, including works by A. Passer; the carved wooden altar (1694–96, from a design by the architect N. Tessin); and the pulpit (1686). The altar and pulpit were both executed by the sculptor C. Ackermann. The classical style is represented by a group of buildings that formerly housed the Russian provincial court (1784–92, architect J. Moor).

The Lower Town has a network of narrow medieval streets and is surrounded by a belt of defensive works. Among the fortifications that have been preserved are remnants of walls dating from the 13th to 16th centuries and 27 towers. The most noteworthy of the towers are the Paks Margareeta (Fat Margaret), which was completed in 1529 and represents the work of G. Koningk, and the Kiek in de Kók (Look in the Kitchen), which was built in the 15th to 17th centuries. Fragments of 17th-century earthworks have also been preserved.

The Lower Town contains many interesting examples of the architecture and art of the 14th to 17th centuries. The ensemble of buildings on Raekoja (Town Hall) Square includes a pharmacy dating from the 15th to 17th centuries and the Town Hall, which was initially constructed between 1402 and 1404. The interiors of the Town Hall contain works of art of the 14th to 17th centuries. The Niguliste, Pühavaimu (Holy Spirit), and Oleviste (St. Olav’s) churches are in the Gothic style. The Niguliste Church was constructed in the 13th to 15th centuries; its northern vestibule was rebuilt between 1674 and 1678 in the baroque style, and its chapels date from the 15th to 18th centuries. The Pühavaimu Church is of the 14th century. The upper portion of its tower (1630) is in the Late Renaissance style. The church has an intricate carved wooden altarpiece (1483, B. Notke) and a carved wooden pulpit (late 16th century, B. Bennicker). The Oleviste Church was built in the late 15th and early 16th centuries; the spire rises 123.7 m above ground level. Noteworthy are the Gothic structures of the Great Guildhall (1417) and of the Fraternity of the Black Heads. The facade of the latter building is in the Renaissance style (1597, architect A. Passer), and the building’s Olevi Hall is in the Gothic style (1405–22). The Lower Town has residential buildings of the 15th and 16th centuries.

The boundaries of Tallinn now encompass the ruins of the church of the Convent of St. Bridget (1407–36) and the baroque Kadriorg palace-park ensemble (1718–25, architects N. Michetti and M. G. Zemtsov).

After 1825 many medieval buildings received “model” facades in the classical style. In the second half of the 19th century parks were laid out on the site of the 17th-century earthworks. Tallinn’s suburbs grew during this period and became new residential districts of the city. For the most part, one-and two-story houses with few services or amenities were built in these areas. Several buildings were erected in Tallinn in the eclectic and art nouveau styles. Examples are the V. Kingissepp Estonian Drama Theater (1910, architects N. Vasil’ev and A. Bubyr’), the administration building on the Párnu Highway (1912, architect Eliel Saarinen), and the Estonia Theater (1913, architect A. Lindgren), which has been rebuilt. The architecture of a number of structures erected in the 1930’s reflected elements of functionalism. An example is the House of Artists (1934, architects E. Kuusik and A. Soans).

Many of Tallinn’s buildings were destroyed during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. The city was reconstructed after the expulsion of the fascist invaders. Large new residential districts arose, in which the buildings are arranged in attractive groups so as to make effective use of space and form a unified architectural whole. Examples are Mustamäe (under construction since 1961, principal architects M. Port, B. Tippel, T. Kallas, and L. Pettai) and Väike-Ôismäe (under construction since 1972, principal architects M. Meelak and M. Port). As of 1975, the city’s housing stock amounted to 5.9 million sq m.

A general plan for Tallinn’s development was adopted in 1971. The plan was the work of a number of architects, including L. Haljak, H. Sepp, D. Bruns, and M. Port. It provides for the development of the central part of the city toward Kopli Bay, continued construction in new areas, and the maximum possible preservation of the historical and architectural heritage of the Old Town. In 1966 the Old Town was put under state protection by a decree of the government of the Estonian SSR.

Structures erected in recent years include the Estonenergo Building (1958, architects P. Tarvas and U. Tölpus); the Open Air Song Stage (1960, architects A. Kotli and H. Sepmann, engineer E. Paalmann), the arch of whose shell has a span of 73 m; the Baltic Station (1965, architects P. A. Ashastin and E. D. Lokhanova); the Polytechnic Institute (under construction since 1962, architects U. Tólpus, O. Konchaeva, and H. Sepmann); the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Estonia (1968, principal architects M. Port and R. Karp); the Hotel Viru (1972, principal architects H. Sepmann and V. Tamm); and the House of Radio (1972, architects A. Eigi and J. Jaama).

Tallinn has many monuments. Among the most interesting are the V. I. Lenin Monument (1950, sculptor N. V. Tomskii, architect A. Kotli), the Monument to the Crew of the Russian Battleship Rusalka (unveiled in 1902, sculptor A. Adamson), the Linda Monument (1920, sculptor A. Weizenberg), the M. I. Kalinin Monument (1950, sculptor A. Kaasik, architect A. Alas), the Monument to the Delegates to the First Congress of Estonian Trade Unions (1968, sculptor A. Kaasik, architect U. Tölpus), and the Monument to the Armed Uprising of the Estonian Proletariat on Dec. 1, 1924 (1975, principal sculptor M. Varik). All the monuments listed above are in bronze and granite. Other noteworthy monuments are the monument to the soldiers of the Soviet Army killed in the liberation of Tallinn in 1944 (bronze and flagstone, 1947, sculptor E. Roos, architect A. Alas), the E. A. Nikonov Monument (stone and granite, 1960, sculptor E. Haggi), and the first section of the Memorial to the Fighters for Soviet Power (bronze and dolomite, unveiled in 1975, sculptor M. Varik, principal architect A. Murdmaa).

Cultural affairs. In the 1914–15 academic year, Tallinn had 73 schools with an enrollment of 12,600 pupils. There were no secondary specialized or higher educational institutions. In the 1974–75 academic year, the city had 72 general-education schools with an enrollment of 57,800. In addition, the 11 vocational-technical schools of the system of state vocational education had 4,300 pupils, the 12 secondary specialized schools had 13,700 pupils, and the four higher educational institutions (a polytechnicai institute, a pedagogical institute, an institute of art, and a conservatory) had 12,200 students. In 1975 there were 163 preschool institutions with an enrollment of 23,900 children.

Tallinn is the seat of the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian SSR and its institutes of thermal and electrical physics, cybernetics, chemistry, geology, economics, history, and language and literature. Other institutions located at Tallinn include the Estonian Division of the Central Economic Mathematics Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Botanical Garden, the Scientific Research and Design Institute of Silicate Concrete Autoclave Curing, the Institute of Party History of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Estonia, the Scientific Research Institute of Construction of Gosstroi (State Committee for Construction) of the Estonian SSR, and the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Medicine.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, Tallinn had 44 public libraries containing a total of 1,649,000 books and magazines. The city is the site of the largest library in the Estonian SSR: the F. R. Kreutzwald State Library of the Estonian SSR (seeSTATE LIBRARIES OF THE UNION REPUBLICS). A total of 13 museums or museum branches are located in Tallinn. The Tallinn City Museum has the following branches: the Cottage Museum of Peter I, the Kiek in de Kók Tower Museum, and the Tallinn Dominican Monastery. Also in Tallinn is the State Historical Museum of the Estonian SSR, which has two branches: the Workers’ Cellar and the Museum of the Estonian Komsomol. Other museums are the Tallinn Art Museum, the State Nature Museum of the Estonian SSR, the Estonian State Open Air Museum of Folk Architecture and Life, the Estonian State Marine Museum, the Museum of Theater and Music, and the E. Vilde and A. H. Tammsaare Memorial Museum.

Tallinn has a number of entertainment and recreational organizations and facilities. As of 1975, these included the Estonian Theater of Opera and Ballet, the V. Kingissepp Estonian Drama Theater, the Russian Dramatic Theater, the Young People’s Theater, the Puppet Theater, the Philharmonic Society, the Tal-linfil’m Motion-picture Studio, 27 clubs, 18 stationary motion-picture projection units, and ten extracurricular institutions—for example, the Palace of Pioneers and Schoolchildren, the Central Station of Young Naturalists, the Central House of Young Engineers, the Central Club of Young Sailors, and the Children’s Stadium.

The republic’s publishing houses Eesti Raamat, Valgus, and Kunst are located in Tallinn, as are the main editorial offices of the Estonian Soviet Encyclopedia. Newspaper and magazine publishers in the city include Perioodika and the publishing house of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Estonian SSR. The republic radio and television systems are centered in Tallinn, which has a television studio. The Estonian Telegraph Agency is based in the city. A total of 25 magazines and ten republic newspapers are published, in addition to a city newspaper in Estonian, Ôhtuleht (Evening Newspaper), which has appeared since 1944 (a Russian edition, Vechernii Tallin, has been published since 1972).

Television programs are broadcast on three channels. On the average, a total of 28½ hours of broadcasting is provided daily, including 20½ hours of programs relayed from Moscow and Leningrad, eight hours of local programs in Estonian and Russian, and 1½ hours of color broadcasts. An average total of 32½ hours of radio programs is broadcast each day. Intrarepublic programs account for 29.6 hours, of which 23.1 hours consist of regularly scheduled programs in Estonian and Russian.

Public health. As of Jan. 1, 1975, Tallinn had 22 hospitals with a total of 5,000 beds—that is, 12.3 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. (In 1940 the city had 13 hospitals with 2,200 beds—that is, 12.4 beds per 1,000 inhabitants.) The number of doctors in 1975 was 2,300, which corresponds to one doctor per 180 inhabitants. The figures for 1940 were 410 doctors and one doctor per 429 inhabitants. The city had 5,200 secondary medical personnel in 1975, compared to only 600 in 1940. Tallinn has a sanatorium.

Tallinn attracts a great number of tourists, including many from abroad. Nine all-Union routes pass through the city. There are nine hotels (including several specially for tourists), a tourist center, and two campgrounds. Popular places for excursions include the Old Town, Kadriorg Park, and Pirita (site of yacht racing during the XXII Olympiad).


Bruns, D. Tallinn segodnia i zavtra. Tallinn, 1964.
Reinsalu, A. Tallinn: Putevoditel’. Tallinn, 1973.
Bruns, D., and R. Kangropool. Tallinn: Khudozhestvennye pamiatniki XIII-XX vv. Leningrad-Moscow, 1971.
Nymme i Mustamiae. Tallinn, 1971.
Istoriia Tallinna. Tallinn, 1972. (Translated from Estonian.)
Kammal, U., and V. Tarmisto. Tallinn. Tallinn, 1960. (Translated from Estonian.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Tallin
the capital of Estonia, on the Gulf of Finland: founded by the Danes in 1219; a port and naval base. Pop.: 384 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005