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Tartu (tärˈto͞o), Ger. and Swed. Dorpat, city (1994 pop. 105,844), E Estonia, a port on the Ema River. The second largest city of Estonia, it is an important industrial and cultural center and a rail junction. Food processing, metalworking, printing and publishing, and the production of leather footwear and agricultural machinery are the leading industries. Tartu's university was founded in 1632 by Gustavus II of Sweden, suppressed in 1656, and reopened in 1802. The city was founded in 1030 as Yurev by Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev. Named Dorpat after its capture by the Livonian Knights in 1224, it developed as a trade center of the Hanseatic League. After the dissolution (1561) of the Livonian Order, the city was contested by Poland, Sweden, and Russia. Gustavus II secured its formal cession in 1629 after a Polish-Swedish war. Captured by Peter I in 1704, during the Northern War, it was ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. The name Yurev was revived in 1893, only to be changed (1918) to Tartu when Estonia became independent. In 1920, Soviet peace treaties with Estonia and Finland were signed in the city. Tartu is built around a hill topped by an old fortified castle and a restored 13th-century cathedral (the site of the present university library). The rest of the city dates mostly from the 18th and 19th cent.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city under republic jurisdiction and administrative center of Tartu Raion, Estonian SSR. Situated on both banks of the Ema River, 30 km from the river’s influx into Lake Peipus (Chudskoe) and 187 km southeast of Tallinn. Port; junction for railroad lines and highways to Tallinn, Riga, Pskov, and other cities. Population, 98,000 (1975; 57,000 in 1939, 74,000 in 1959).

In the fifth century A.D., a permanent fortified town arose on the site of what is now Tartu. In the Primary Chronicle, Tartu is mentioned under the year 1030 as the city of Iur’ev, which was occupied and rebuilt by Iaroslav the Wise. In 1223–24 the Aesti, in alliance with the Russian prince Viachko, fought to defend Tartu from the Teutonic Knights, who captured it and named it Dorpat, and it became the center of the Bishopric of Dorpat (Tartu). From the 13th to 16th centuries the city was part of the Hanseatic League and played a significant role in the league’s trade with Pskov and Novgorod. In 1558, during the Livonian War of 1558–83, the Tartu garrison surrendered to the Russian troops. In 1582, in accordance with the Truce of Iam-Zapol’skii, the city passed to Poland, and in 1625 it became a possession of Sweden. In 1632 a university was founded in Tartu (see).

In 1704, during the Northern War of 1700–21, the city was captured by Russian troops. In accordance with the Treaty of Nystadt (1721), Tartu was definitively made part of the Russian Empire. In 1783 it became a district capital of the Province of Liveland. The university was reopened in 1802. The first Estonian song festival was held in Tartu in 1869. The city was renamed Iur’ev in 1893.

In the early 20th century there were 20 large industrial enterprises in Tartu. The city’s workers actively participated in the Revolution of 1905–07. As a result of the February Revolution of 1917, a soviet of workers’ deputies was organized in Tartu, and by September of that year, the Bolsheviks held a majority in the soviet. Soviet power was established by peaceful means on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917. On Feb. 24, 1918, the city was seized by German troops. It was liberated by the Red Army on Dec. 22, 1918, and Soviet power was restored. On Jan. 14, 1919, the city was captured by White Estonian troops. From 1919 to 1940 it was part of bourgeois Estonia. In 1919 it was renamed Tartu. On July 21, 1940, Soviet power was reestablished in Tartu and throughout Estonia. From July 24, 1941, through Aug. 25, 1944, the city was occupied by fascist German troops, which destroyed 50 percent of the residential area and more than 40 percent of the industrial enterprises. In the postwar years the city was reconstructed.

Tartu is Estonia’s second most important industrial and cultural center, after Tallinn. The city’s enterprises produce about 8 percent of the republic’s gross industrial output. Tartu has food industry and light industry; there is also machine building and metalworking. Building materials are produced. The main industrial enterprises are an instrument-making plant, the VŌit agricultural machinery plant, a plant producing reinforced-concrete items, a milk combine, and a meat-packing plant. The city also has enterprises of the leather and footwear, textile, and printing industries. Educational institutions include the University of Tartu, the Estonian Agricultural Academy, and medical, pedagogical, music, and art schools. The city has museums of art, literature, ethnography, zoology, and geology, the Vanemuine Music and Drama Theater, and a concert hall.

Tartu is situated in the Ema River valley and on the adjacent rolling plain. The oldest part of the city, dating from the Middle Ages, is located on the right bank of the river, on Toomemagi Hill; the city center developed between Toomemagi and the river. The left bank was built up later.

Tartu’s architectural outline took shape in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many buildings were constructed in the classical style. Among them are the group of administrative buildings (including the town hall, now the city soviet, 1789; architect J. H. Walter) and residential buildings on Nōukogude Square and the main building of the university (1809, architect J. W. Krause). Two Gothic structures have been preserved, the Jaanä Church and the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul (both 13th and 14th centuries, partially in ruins). During the Soviet period, a general plan was developed (approved 1948; architects A. Soans and P. Tarvas; adjustments made 1973–75). Residential construction has been carried out on Tiigi Street (1950’s, architect P. Aarmann) and Nóukogude-Soola Street (1960’s, architect M. Palm) and, since 1965, in the Anne region across the river (architects M. Meelak, M. Port, and I. Jaagus). Among the public buildings that have been erected are those of the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian SSR (1965, architect P. Madalik), the new building of the Vanemuine Theater (1967, architects P. Tarvas, A. Volberg, and U. Tölpus), the Maarjamõisa hospital (1970, architects M. Hansmann and K. Ruubel), the classroom building of the Estonian Agricultural Academy (1970, architects A. Vulp and V. Lukk), and the university dormitories (1971 and 1974, architects Raal and Raul Kivi and H. Sakkov).

Tartu has monuments to V. I. Lenin (unveiled in 1952; A. Vomm, G. Pommer, V. Sannamees, E. Taniloo), K. M. Ber (bronze and granite, unveiled in 1886; A. M. Opekushin), M. B. Barclay de Tolly (bronze and granite, erected in 1849 from drawings by V. I. Demut-Malinovskii), N. N. Burdenko (bronze and granite, 1952; A. Vomm, L. Israels), N. I. Pirogov (granite and bronze, 1952), and F. R. Kreutzwald (granite, 1953; E. Taniloo and J. Hirv).


Liubarskii, A. Svet russkoi nauki: Ocherki. Tallinn, 1952.
Varep, E. Tartu. Tallinn, 1960.
Tartu: Spravochnik. Putevoditel’. Tallinn, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in SE Estonia: successively under Polish, Swedish, and Russian rule; university (1632). Pop.: 95 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005