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Map of the Estonian archipelago (Saaremaa and Hiiumaa)

Saaremaa (Swedish and German Ösel) is the largest island (2673 km²) belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongsto the west Estonian archipelago. The capital of Saaremaa is Kuressaare, which has about 16,000 inhabitants; the whole island has about 40,000 inhabitants.

Saaremaa is the main island of Saare County, called Saaremaa or Saare maakond in Estonian. The Swedish and German name of the island is Ösel, while in Finnish it is called Saarenmaa- literally isle's land.


Main article: History of Estonia

According to archeological finds, the territory of Saaremaa has been inhabited for at least five thousand years. In old Scandinavian sagas, Saaremaa is called Eysysla which means exactly the same as the name of the island in Estonian: the district (land) of island. This is the origin of the island's name in German and Swedish, Ösel, and in Latin Osilia. The name Eysysla appears sometimes together with Adalsysla, 'the big land', perhaps 'Suuremaa' or 'Suur Maa' in Estonian which refers to mainland Estonia. Sagas talk about numerous skirmishes between islanders and vikings. Saaremaa was the wealthiest county of ancient Estonia and the home of notorious Estonian pirates, sometimes called the Eastern Vikings. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia describes a fleet of sixteen ships and five hundred Osilians that was ravaging the area that is now southern Sweden, then belonging to Denmark. In 1227 Saaremaa was conquered by the Livonian Order, but remained a hotbed of Estonian resistance. When the Order was defeated by the Lithuanian army in 1236, Saaremaa islanders rebelled. The conflict was ended by a treaty that was signed by the Osilians and the Master of the Order.

Part of Saaremaa was ruled directly by the Order, while another part was ruled by the semi-independent Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek. On 15 April 1560 the bishopric and Saaremaa were sold by the last prince-bishop to Denmark.

In 1645, Saaremaa was ceded from Denmark to Sweden by the Treaty of Brömsebro. In 1721, along with the rest of Swedish Estonia, Saaremaa (then known by its Swedish name of Ösel) was ceded to Imperial Russia by the Treaty of Nystad, becoming a part of the Russian governorate-general of Estonia, to which it has since remained attached.

Estonia became independent after the October Revolution and the collapse of Imperial Russia, but was annexed by the USSR in June 1940. It became the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic as a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact. Independence was regained on August 20, 1991 in the collapse of the Soviet Union

Transport to Saaremaa

It is possible to reach Saaremaa by ferry from Virtsu on the Estonian mainland to Muhu island, which is itself connected to Saaremaa via a causeway. Saaremaa can also be reached using a ferry from Sõru on the island of Hiiumaa.

There are regular bus services from Tallinn, Pärnu and Tartu on the mainland.

It is possible to fly from Kuressaare to Tallinn, and there are also seasonal flights to Pärnu.

See also

External links

  • Saaremaa (
  • Avies ( fly daily between Tallinn and Kuressaare
  • Neomobile ( provide local bus services across the islandaf:Saaremaa

de:Saaremaa eo:Saaremaa et:Saaremaa nl:Saaremaa pl:Sarema fi:Saarenmaa sv:Ösel tr:Saaremaa


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