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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in Valga Raion, Estonian SSR, situated in the Otepää Upland, 15 km from the Palupera railroad station on the Tartu-Valga line. Otepää is a junction of highways leading to Tartu, Valga, and Võru. There is a motor vehicle repair plant and a workshop of the Areng textile factory in the city. Nearby are numerous lakes, including Lake Pühajärv. Otepää has a house of rest and sports facilities.

The site of an ancient town has been found in Otepää on a two-level, steeply sloping hill, rising 30 m high. On the upper level there were fortifications; the lower level was a settlement. Excavations carried out under the direction of O. Saadre between 1950 and 1962 and between 1967 and 1973 have ascertained that the hill was first settled in the second half of the first millennium B.C. A new stage of settlement began in the fifth century a.d. During the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, Otepää was a major economic and political center of the southeastern Estonian lands. The city was mentioned in ancient Russian chronicles beginning in the 12th century under the name “Medvezh’a golova” (Bear’s head). Otepää became part of Kievan Rus’ and subsequently belonged to Novgorod. In the early 13th century, the city was an important stronghold of the Estonians in their struggle against the German feudal aggressors. In 1224 the Germans took the city. A fortress was built afterward by Bishop Hermann of Tartu. Situated on the upper level of the hill, the fortress was preserved until the 15th century. Only fragments of its walls remain today.


“Drevnie poseleniia i gorodishcha.” Arkheologicheskii sb. [vol.] 1. Tallinn, 1955.
Izv. AN Est. SSR, 1955, no. 1.
Izv. AN Est. SSR: Seriia obshchestvennykh nauk, 1956, no. 4.
Ibid., 1958, no. 2. Ibid., 1964, no. 3.
Istoriia Estonskoi SSR.vol. 1. Tallinn, 1961.
Mägi, H. Otepia-Kiariku. Tallinn, 1973.




an upland in southeastern Estonian SSR. The maximum elevation is 217 m. The terrain is hilly; the central part is dissected.

Otepää Upland was formed from morainic loam, clay, and sandstone-gravel deposits. There are outcrops of Devonian sandstone. The upland is the source of the Emajõgi River. There are numerous lakes in the area. The summits and slopes of the hills are under cultivation or covered with pine, fir, and mixed forests. At the base of the upland there are meadows and swamps. Otepää Upland is a popular tourist area.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.