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Sarema(both: sä`rĕmä), Swed. Ösel, Rus. Ezel, 1,048 sq mi (2,714 sq km), island off the mainland of Estonia, in the Baltic Sea, across the mouth of the Gulf of Riga. It is irregular in shape and has a level terrain. Dairy farming, stock raising, and fishing are the chief occupations. Kuressaare is the main town and port. It is also a health resort and a popular tourist destination. The island was ruled by the Livonian Knights until 1560, when it passed to Denmark, which in turn ceded (1645) it to Sweden. Saaremaa passed to Russia in 1710 and was incorporated into newly independent Estonia in 1917. It is also called Saare.
(also Saare, Sarema, Ezel’), the largest island in the Moonsund (West Estonian) Archipelago, in the Baltic Sea; part of the Estonian SSR. Linked by a causeway with Muhu Island. Area, 2,714 sq km.
The island is mainly a limestone structure, covered in places by glacial and marine deposits. Its low-lying surface, rising to an elevation of 54 m, is marshy in places. The soil, formed from carbonaceous, wind-eroded rocks, is poor and gravelly. There are pine forests and infrequent thickets of juniper. Many sea-fowl nest along the shore. There is commercial fishing for Baltic herring, eels, and flatfish. There are deposits of limestones and dolomites (at Karma). The principal city is Kingissepa. On the western part of the island is the Viidumäe Preserve. Northwest of Kingissepa, in Kaali, there is a game preserve with meteorite craters.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), the island was seized by fascist German forces during September and October 1941 (seeMOONSUND DEFENSIVE OPERATION OF 1941). As a result of the Moonsund Operation of October-November 1944, the island was liberated by troops of the Leningrad Front and naval forces of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet. In Tekhumardi there is a monument entitled To the Defenders and Liberators of Saaremaa (1967, architect A. Murdmaa, sculptors M. Varik and R. Kuld).