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Estonia aavo Kokk Andres eilart

2011 Editor: Vilve Torn Designer: Helen Kokk Proofreader: Scott Diel Translator: Peeter Ristsoo Maps: Regio, © Regio 2011, Publisher: Eesti Ajalehed Printer: Tallinna Raamatutrükikoda Art reproductions: © EAÜ 2011 © Aavo Kokk and Andres Eilart ISBN 978-9949-478-62-0

Introduction Aavo: When you said that it would be a good idea to put together a book like this, I of course grabbed a hold of it immediately. How did you even come up with such a great concept? Andres: I got the idea from my uncle, Jaan Eilart, the great nature activist. And he was of course also an art lover. As early as the 1980s, my uncle was going around with the idea of introducing Estonia’s national landscapes with the aid of artists. Aavo: So why didn’t Jaan Eilart carry out this project himself? He was a great organizer. He put together the Lahemaa National Park, and who knows what else. Andres: He wanted to record national landscapes in a very dignified manner and in accordance with very strict principles. But the passing of time has played its role. Let’s take this very same Lahemaa – what pristine beauty, but at one moment the shore was built up. How can you put up the sign “National Landscape”, if there is a villa in the background? Aavo: Yes, we really weren’t bound with anything like that. Right from the beginning, you set the objective that there be 150 landscapes and that Estonia be covered – and that’s what we did. If one of the classical artists hadn’t been to a specific location, we looked for works by newer names— which was actually beneficial in my opinion. Andres: It’s great that you came up with that idea for the map solution. provides the opportunity for adding works of art to the map that weren’t in the book. It’s nice to see that art and nature lovers have on their own posted many works that are in private collections.


Aavo: Yes, it’s true that in private collections there actually are very many super-interesting works of art that are generally not known about. I even started to regret that we had included so many works that belong to museums. Andres: No problem. Many of the museum pieces are actually kept in storage and can’t be seen by the general public. So even museum collections offer surprises. But, again, where did you get that webpage map idea from? Aavo: I’m a bit of a map nut. When I was still going to school, I used to cut out maps. Later, I made orientation maps, and then I became interested in doing Regio. As you know, Regio has created striking map solutions, and maastikumaal. ee is one result of their endeavours. But what is especially important – as soon as I told the Regio folks about my idea, their ears perked up! Andres: It’s been a pleasure compiling this book. You go to a printer to check out the possibilities, and the person recommends several paintings. You go to a book store to sign a contract, and you’re told that their acquaintances are already queuing up to buy the book! Aavo: And we were especially fortunate that Nordea Bank is such a lover of art and nature. Without their financial aid, we wouldn’t, after all, have undertaken such an extensive project. Andres: Yes, there have been emotions aplenty! For me, one of the high points was when I started to phone the owners of the rights to the pictures. All of them had somehow or other already heard about the book and right away, gave permission to publish the reproduction under discussion.

Andres Eilart


Aavo Kokk PHOTO: Aleksander Ivaškevitš

N58.6048° E27.1298°

Alatskivi, Tartu County The Alatskivi Reservoir was established on the Alatskivi River in Southern Estonia during the Swedish era of the 17th century to provide energy for a watermill. In the 19th century, the owner of the local manor expanded the reservoir so that by the beginning of the 20th century the two-part reservoir had a total surface area of 15 hectares. The reservoir is located in the especially-enchanting Alatskivi Valley. On its southern slope, surrounded by a green park, is Alatskivi Castle. Its architect and original owner, Baron Arved Georg von Nolcken, based his design upon Scotland’s Balmoral Castle. And he was successful – quite justifiably, Alatskivi Castle is regarded as the most beautiful New Gothic building in the Baltic states. The building’s corners are decorated with high towers, with smaller towers and a massive balcony above the entrance. To the north of the reservoir there is wooded Linnamägi Hill. In the woods on the hill there is an old oak with a circumference of four metres. The local people call it the Fidelity Oak, since legend has it that a vow of fidelity made under the tree, on Midsummer Night, cannot be broken. To the north-west of the manor park the slopes of the valley become high and steep and provide a mystical view of it. About a kilometre-and-a-half from Alatskivi, by Peatskivi Mill, the highway passes a large mound beside the river, which had been the location of an Estonian fortress during the second half of the first millennium. But, according to ancient legend, the Estonian mythical hero, Kalevipoeg, slept here. When returning from a trek to Russia, he became tired, took a tree trunk from the forest, and scraped together soil to make himself an improvised resting place. The results were the fortress mound and the two natural lakes in the valley. Further on the highway runs along the Lake Peipus terraced shore offering a magnificent view over woods and meadows of the huge lake. But back near Alatskivi, by the village of Haapsipea, there is a strange-looking field absolutely covered with large rocks. As the locals say, “This is an especially heavy village.” And Lembit Saarts (born 1924) loved to wander and paint in this area. Like many of his colleagues he has had a complicated life. In 1949, during Stalin’s especially repressive rule, he was arrested along with his friends Ülo Sooster, Valdur Ohakas, Henn Roode, and others, and sent to a forced labour camp in Kazakhstan. He was released in 1956. As is the case with the paintings of all his friends, the colouring and composition of Saarts’s works can differ greatly. Thus “Alatskivi Reservoir” is in many ways, unexpectedly different from many of his other paintings.


Alatskivi castle

Lembit Saarts, “Alatskivi Reservoir”, 1986 Tartu Art Museum



N59.5849° E26.1122°

Altja, Lääne-Viru County

Altja tavern


Many an artist has painted landscapes in Altja, on the northern coast of Estonia, east of the capital city of Tallinn. They usually ended up here, in this picturesque but somewhat out of the way village as visitors or vacationers, but Richard Uutmaa (1905–1977) was born near here on a farm just half a kilometre from the sea. That farm no longer exists – the buildings have collapsed and the fields are now a swampy forest. This 1947 painting has preserved the atmosphere of this area as it existed then. Although the farm was surrounded by woods, the nearness of the sea could be sensed everywhere – the sparse but tough coastal pines, the sea that could be glimpsed through the woods, the light that was reflected off the water Idyll in the village of Altja onto the clouds. At the end of the 1930s, and during the war, the artist spent a lot of time in his birthplace painting, as well as doing the various chores that needed to be dealt with on a coastal farm. On Uutmaa’s coastal landscapes the horizon is low, and almost always a lot of space is devoted to the sky with its cumulus clouds. This particular work of art is generally the same, but since the trees cover up the horizon the painting has a unique nuance of its own. Although Uutmaa, during the war, had not fled to the Soviet Union when the Germans invaded Estonia, he was nevertheless recognized by the post-war Soviet occupiers of Estonia. His works were displayed at official exhibits and were even sent abroad, though he was never offered the chance to travel in the West. His paintings were on the walls of the Tallinn railroad station, of the fishing ministry, and of the wine store that occupied the space where the Savoy Hotel in Tallinn is now located. And they were even on display in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Uutmaa’s themes dealing with the life of the coastal people were quite suitable for Soviet society, and his works of art were appropriate to the aesthetic norms of the day. In many ways, the village of Altja today looks as it did in the past. And sightseers should also visit the nearby Sagadi and Vihula manors. Both have been properly restored and give a good idea of what the manors were like in this area before they were expropriated by the Estonian government in 1919. For serious nature lovers there are two hiking trails off the Sagadi-Altja Road. To cope with the swampy and steep terrain formed by an Ice Age glacier, there are boardwalks and wooden stairs.




Richard Uutmaa, “At the Edge of the Woods in Altja”, 1947 Art Museum of Estonia

N58.5283° E22.6968°

Angla, Saare County The year 1958 was quite remarkable for the artist Evald Okas (1915–2011). He completed his masterpiece, “Mahtra sõda” (“The Mahtra War” – artistic depiction of a Northern Estonian peasants’ uprising in June 1858, in the course of which several people were killed). That summer he spent some time in the Art Institute’s resort in Kunda, the cement-manufacturing town in Northern Estonia. Here he painted his first industrial landscapes and discovered a completely new world for himself. Up till that time, except for a few rare landscapes, Okas had been painting, practically, only dramatic historical events. But among these few landscapes was “The Angla Windmills”, which he also painted in 1958. It can be assumed that this year was dramatic for him in many ways, since his Muhu and Saaremaa (two large islands off the north-western Estonian coast) landscapes of that summer are especially emotional compared to his earlier works in this genre. 1958 was a landmark year for Okas also because he had the opportunity to visit Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, which, in those days, was an exceptionally rare privilege for a Soviet citizen. This was the first trip to Western Europe for the much-travelled artist. Okas’s wonderful depiction of the most famous windmills on Saaremaa Island was painted about half a century ago. But even today five freshly restored windmills can be seen in the heart of the village of Angla. One of them actually mills flour, and in another one there is a local mill and agriculture museum. The mills were first built in Angla at the end of the 19th century. So much grain used to be grown on the 13 farms in this area that, for instance, in 1925, there were as many as nine windmills in Angla. At the same time as when Okas was painting on Saaremaa Island, many other known Estonian artists were also discovering the charm of the Angla windmills: Elmar Kits, Linda Kits-Mägi, Günther Reindorff, Valdemar Väli, Lepo Mikko, Richard Uutmaa, and others.



Evald Okas, “The Angla Windmills”, 1958 US Art Gallery




N59.3680° E24.8365°

Assaku, Harju County Over the centuries man has drastically transformed the landscape around the village of Assaku. Now, the village has been split in two by the new four-lane Tallinn-Tartu Highway – a very convenient means of travelling between the two leading Estonian cities, but a destroyer of villages. Assaku in Northern Estonia, not far from the capital city of Tallinn, is still a nice village near a large city. But for how much longer? On both sides of the highway there are already office buildings, warehouses, and factories. And new ones are being built every day. “Logistically, a very convenient location,” is the real estate developers’ slogan. Besides, it is very easy to build in the Assaku area. For instance, under a thin layer of soil, there is solid limestone so that a deep foundation is not essential. The type of landscape portrayed by Olav Maran (born 1933) can be seen both to the east and west of Assaku – fields, meadows, brush, and swampy forest. This landscape was created in ancient times by early farmers and iron smelters, and much later, in the course of the Soviet occupation (1944–1991), by land-improvement programmes. In ancient times there had probably been large forests in this area, but these were cut down to make room for agriculture and to supply fuel for the local elementary iron foundries. In Rae Parish there are still more than 100 ancient sacred and sacrificial boulders. And it is not known how many there had been before the implementation of the Soviet land-improvement programmes. Indentations about five to ten centimetres wide and one to four centimetres deep have been made into these boulders. In some boulders there are as many as several dozen of these man-made cavities. Especially noteworthy is the famous Assaku Witch’s Boulder in which there are 405 such indentations! In his youth Maran had been an energetic experimenter with art: surrealism, collages, cubism, and who knows what else. But at the age of 33 everything changed – Maran started painting things close to home like flowers and landscapes. Religion became essential. Maybe that is why the fields have fascinated him – pondering over the sacred boulders and ancient settlements that existed here can make one aware of how essential is the balance between nature and man’s activities.

The Assaku witch’s boulder


Olav Maran, “Autumn Motif from Assaku”, 1990 Tartu Art Museum



N58.2974° E21.8995°

Atla, Saare County

Atla bay


Evald Okas (1915–2011) did not need to make any concrete plans for painting a picture. For him it was enough to be struck by momentary inspiration. Even in the case of this painting the old master had just written “14 September” on the back of the frame. Just a flash and the result is a painting! In Enn Kunila’s catalogues, this painting is accompanied by the following text: “The painting is divided into two parts – the sky and the ground. And in both cases we can make far-reaching conclusions of how the Pallas art school influenced Estonian art as late as in the 1950s, and even the works of art of those who had not even studied in Pallas, like Evald Okas… The sky, in which the brush impacts that have been applied in various, and, in some cases, even opposing directions, has quite obviously been painted as a background… Its purpose is to allow that which is taking place on the ground to come forth. But here, Okas has not paid much attention to details – objects lack shadows; the trees are not bent by the wind; fences and roads are just assumable; and things that please tourists, like mills and archetypical buildings, have been placed far away on the horizon, and only a few solitary (but nevertheless essential) brushstrokes have been devoted to them.” In this manner, Okas has created spaciousness in this painting which is so characteristic of Saaremaa Island’s west coast region. Across Atla Bay glows the landmark Vilsandi Island lighthouse. From the botanical gardens on Viidumäe Hill there is a panoramic view towards the west. One of Estonia’s outstanding writers about the country’s nature has stated that this area is an extensive canvas of varying patterns. Saaremaa Island’s west coast is one of Estonia’s most painted regions, with the Atla area being especially popular. Saaremaa Island’s west coast is divided up into bays, peninsulas, and smaller islands. Plus, it is very winding. The village of Atla is one of the biggest in the region, with the local highway being bordered on both sides by small lakes and ponds. And in these can be found an especially rare ancient plant known as shoreweed. And in the surrounding woods there are black squirrels, which are usually not seen in Estonia. Atla is one of western Saaremaa Island’s deeper and wider bays. And the harbour is being constantly renovated. This is primarily a local fishermen’s harbour, but will soon be able to also accommodate visiting yachts. There are a whole lot of islets in Atla Bay. One of them, Urverahu, was the place through which limestone quarried in the village of Atla was shipped elsewhere at the end of the 1920s. At the mouth of Atla Bay are Estonia’s two westernmost islands, Nootamaa and Uus Nootamaa.



Evald Okas, “Atla Landscape”, 1958 Enn Kunila collection

N59.5691° E26.3023°

Eisma, Lääne-Viru County In the summer of 1947 Richard Uutmaa (1905–1977) was very busy. The new main building of the Tallinn railroad station was to be finished in time for the upcoming song festival, and the prominent artists Richard Sagrits, Evald Okas, Viktor Karrus, and Richard Uutmaa had been commissioned to paint murals for it. Sagrits and Okas were in such demand that two murals had been ordered from the former, and four from the latter. Plus, Sagrits and Okas were working together with Elmar Kits on a ceiling piece for the rebuilt Estonia Theatre, which was to be completed by August. But, the railroad station murals have, unfortunately, not survived, since the building was totally renovated at the end of the 1960s, and it was found that the murals were no longer suitable. Despite the workload that all these artists had during the summer of 1947, Uutmaa seemed to be able to find enough time to paint a picture of the quaint harbour in Eisma on the north Estonian coast. The artist had been born in another village, Mustjõe, about six kilometres away. In 1197, the king of Denmark organized a military expedition to Estonia to subjugate the local pagans. To award the Danish knight, Odward von Lode, for his services in connection with this endeavour, the king granted him large tracts of land in Northern Estonia. Although Vihula Manor, near the aforementioned village of Mustjõe, is not mentioned in ancient chronicles until 1501, it is very possible that von Lode had settled here as early as the end of the 12th century. The present Vihula Manor buildings date back to the second half of the 19th century, when the manor was quite well off. Money was obtained by selling timber and distilled alcohol, with the main market, St. Petersburg, which was constantly growing, not being too far away. Many manors in Estonia made a fortune from distilling and selling alcohol and vodka, until the tsar established a government alcohol monopoly. But the unofficial alcohol business on the Estonian northern coast started to boom again in the years 1919–1932, when Finland had adopted prohibition. During this difficult time, Estonian shipowners and fisherman were more than glad to be of assistance to their cousins on the other side of the Gulf of Finland. At the end of the 19th century, with the growth of a wealthy urban middle class consisting of both Baltic-Germans and Estonians, it became fashionable to spend summer vacations in the charming coastal fishing villages like Eisma. Seasonal boarding houses and cottages were built to accommodate all these summer visitors. And among them were many artists who found inspiration in these enchanting surroundings that are popular with sightseers to this day.


Vainupea chapel

Richard Uutmaa, “Eisma Harbour”, 1947 Art Museum of Estonia



N58.2135° E26.4168°

Elva, Tartu County The picturesque town of Elva, officially a city, is actually quite new. First, the railroad was built here. Then a railroad station was established, and finally the town itself. Since the location was very pretty, and there was the convenient train connection with Tartu, the major city of Southern Estonia, and the country’s college town, Elva thrived. In the middle of town is Lake Arbi, beside the Tartu-Valga Highway is Lake Verevi with its great beach, and across the railroad tracks there is a reservoir on the Elva River, also with a beach. A large part of the town has been built in pine groves. But, nearby, there is also dense forest like Eduard Kutsar (1902–1970) portrayed in his painting. To the east and south-east of Elva there are thick and dark fir forests – just like in traditional legends and fairy tales! The internationally popular Tartu ski marathon finishes at the Elva skeet range. And this is the starting point for several hiking trails, which are ideal for exploring the surrounding evergreen forests, the wooded hills, and the deep ravines and gullies. On one of the trails by Lake Viti there is an observation tower, which provides an excellent view of the surrounding terrain. In 2001, when American elite forces started to search for Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan, the Estonian locals started to call one particular area in these hills “the Tora Bora Mountains.” Regio even used this name on a map of the area in its 2002 atlas. Needless to say, the Estonian authorities were not pleased, and Regio removed the controversial name from its next year’s atlas. Kutsar drew and painted a great deal. He stated in 1935 that, “I’m 38 and I work 18 hours a day. I’ve completed 2,000 paintings. If my health holds out, I’d like to create 6,000 of them.” Thus, he

Lake Arbi

Swans on Lake Verevi

continued. But in August of 1944, the house in Tartu, in which Kutsar kept most of his paintings, burned down. Before that, he had taken some of his paintings to a farmhouse, but that burned down too, the result being that relatively few of Kutsar’s paintings have survived to this day. Many experts regard Kutsar’s very expertly executed “The Elva Forest”, with its iridescent colours, as being one of the most beautiful Estonian paintings of a forest.


Eduard Kutsar, “The Elva Forest”, 1938 Tartu Art Museum




N58.3427° E26.7727°

Emajõgi River, Tartu County Not having your own boat on Emajõgi River (Mother River) in Southern Estonia is not a major problem, since there are always the sightseeing boats. When the spring floodwaters subside in the country’s major river, the sightseeing boat Pegasus begins its regular runs on the river, with its embarkation point the Sadamateatri Quay in the college town of Tartu. The view of the city from the river is magnificent. But there are even more pleasant surprises ahead. The river flows along through swamps, with alders and willows in full leaf, bending over the river. At this point, there are no signs of human activities, except for anglers’ trails along the banks. It almost feels as if you were floating down the Mississippi with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And then the sightseeing boat arrives in Ihaste where there is a small river harbour. This may be where Ado Vabbe (1892–1961) painted this landscape. In the 1930s, Vabbe worked in Tartu’s prestigious Pallas art school as a painting instructor. His former students have described him as a systematic but withdrawn person, with whom it was sometimes a bit difficult to communicate. But among his students were several young artists who later became well known: Elmar Kits, Johannes Võerahansu, Aleksander Vardi, Karl Pärsimägi, and others. His relations with the other teachers and instructors were not bad, but he preferred to move about and paint on his own. Even then it was possible to take a boat ride to Ihaste and further downriver. Presently, the Pegasus sightseeing trip extends a bit beyond Ihaste. A kilometre downriver, the boat turns into the Porijõe River and turns around in the flooded Aardlapalu sand quarry. Sand is still being quarried here, but the local people value it as a convenient swimming spot. And it is ideal for water-scootering. But, the Emajõgi River does not end here, and there are plenty of sights worth seeing further on. Until the village of Kastreni there is human settlement, but from then on it is only swamp and the huge Emajõgi Delta. Right at Lake Peipus, there is the old village of Praaga, where there are again houses. But since it is reachable only by boat, the village has not had any year-round residents for some time now. The best time for exploring the Emajõgi Delta is early spring or late fall when there are no mosquitoes. With a smaller boat it is possible to get into the many channels and swamp ponds. During autumn, there are quite a few people in the delta, since it would be difficult to find a better place for picking cranberries in Estonia. Thousands of years ago this river flowed in the opposite direction, through Lake Võrtsjärv, and, somewhere near the present city of Pärnu on the west coast into the sea. But at some point the water in Lake Peipus broke through the limestone bluffs to the north, thus creating the Narva River which flows into the Gulf of Finland. 20

Ado Vabbe, “River Landscape with Boat Dock”, 1934 Enn Kunila collection


N58.9591° E23.5119°

Haapsalu, Lääne County

The old harbour of Haapsalu


“Haapsalu Harbour”, painted in the resort town on Estonia’s north coast, west of the capital city of Tallinn, was the last oil painting that Eduard Ole (1898–1995) is known to have done just before fleeing across the gulf to Finland. In the introduction to his memoirs, Ole wrote with a note of regret, “Some of my earlier works were left behind on the other side of the barbed wire, and many of my later paintings have wandered with their new owners to the furthest continents.” And Ole’s art is not actually easy to track down. At the same time, he was one of the few whose creativity received a strong boost in exile. Ole himself described the preparations he made for escaping from Estonia. How he sold his paintings on a barter basis. And sold his paintings mostly to doctors – from them it was always possible to get payment in the form of butter, eggs, and other edibles that they had received as payment from their patients. Thinking about his upcoming departure, Ole visited his own birthplace and those of his dear ones. And he had to find a boat that would take him to Finland. But he kept his departure date a secret from even his friends until the day arrived. Ole reached Finland without knowing the language and with only a couple of small pictures at the bottom of his suitcase, and three or four dollars in his pocket. But painting the portraits of prominent Finnish leaders and cultural figures provided some income, and a year later the artist moved on to Sweden. The scene in Haapsalu Harbour, compared to Ole’s painting, has of course changed quite a bit. Those buildings disappeared a long time ago. But the historical core of the city has survived – the dance hall, the seaside promenade, the Bishop’s Fortress. The fortress’s courtyard is a popular venue for public festivals and celebrations, and the 38-metre high watchtower provides a magnificent view of Old Town, as well as Haapsalu Bay. During the full moon, in August or September, an image appears on the wall of the fortress chapel. This has been the basis for the legend of the phantom White Lady of Haapsalu. But actually it is just an elegant special effect created by a combination of the old architecture and the bright moonlight. Haapsalu is surrounded on three sides by water. In 1825, when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire, a mud spa was established on the shore of the bay, which developed into a luxurious resort. The last four tsars of Russia visited Haapsalu for the curative mud baths, and the great Russian composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, spent a summer here. This fact is confirmed by his instrumental cycle consisting of three piano pieces – “Souvenir de Hapsal”. And in the years 1939–1944, Ilon Wikland, who later became a famous Swedish artist, lived in Haapsalu in a little wooden house beside the Maarja Magdalena Orthodox Church.


Eduard Ole, “Haapsalu Harbour”, 1943 The Mart Lepp Collection


N58.3244° E26.8187°

Haaslava, Tartu County

Lake Kurepalu


“Haaslava Landscape” is one of the last pictures that the big seeker and experimenter, Endel Kõks (1912–1983) painted in his homeland. A year later, at the end of the summer of 1944, when the Soviets were again invading Estonia (the Soviets first occupied Estonia in 1940–1941), Kõks, along with about 40,000 of his compatriots, fled to Germany. A few years later, he emigrated to Sweden. Kõks was a highly respected artist in the exile Estonian community, especially well known for his portraits. He was also very active in archiving various materials dealing with exile Estonian artists, especially those living and working in Sweden. All these priceless materials are now in the archives of the Art Museum of Estonia. The first half of his life Kõks spent in Estonia’s college town of Tartu, where he had been born. He graduated from the renowned Pallas Art College just before the beginning of the war. Haaslava Parish, which Kõks portrayed in the painting, is just outside of the Tartu city limits. The first references to the village of Haaslava and the local manor are made in documents dating back to the beginning of the 15th century. At one point, Haaslava Manor was owned by Swedish statesman Johann Skytte, who was an active promoter of developing education in the Baltic region. For instance, he played an instrumental role in the founding of the University of Tartu, in the 17th century, and was its first chancellor. There are several old villages in the area, of which Kurepalu has developed into a popular vacationing spot with a artificial lake. And nearby is 123-metre high Vooremägi Hill, which in the winter is popular with skiers. At the end of the 1960s, a large fish farm was established in Haaslava, which covers an area of 48 hectares. To this day, the Haaslava fish farm is the country’s biggest supplier of fresh carp. The very picturesque scenery in the Haaslava region – the rolling drumlins covered with woods, the pine forests, the Mõra River – has been sketched and painted by very many artists, both amateurs andprofessionals. Among them can be listed such prominent names as Juhan Püttsepp and Eerik Haamer.

Endel Kõks, “Haaslava Landscape”, 1943 Art Museum of Estonia


N57.6139° E26.4004°

Hargla, Valga County

Sculpture in Mõniste


The old village of Hargla, located in the south-western part of Estonia near the Latvian border, is surrounded by thick forests in which pines are very common. The area is memorable not only for its picturesque woodlands but also for its old historical manors and no-longer-functioning railroad stations. One of Estonia’s all-time best graphic artists, Ott Kangilaski, preserved for posterity in 1959 a visual record of an old pine tree across the road from Hargla Church. The gnarled pine looks today much as it did back then. There are two signs beside it. The newer one just says: “Holy Pine”. The other sign is somewhat worn, and on it we can, among other things, read: “SACRIFICING PINE. 2nd century”. Hargla Parish was formed in 1694, though the church had been there for thirty years already. But the location had apparently been a holy spot since ancient times. A tree, known among the local people as a sacrificing pine, had stood there for hundreds of years. Kangilaski, being a multi-faceted intellectual interested in ancient times, was fascinated not only by the mighty old pine, but also by the stories associated with it. And maybe even the half-pagan tradition that is still observed in that area. Namely, when a funeral procession moves towards Hargla cemetery, then a couple of kilometres before the destination a stop is made. The people get out of their cars, and the departed’s closest male relative carves a cross into the trunk of one of the more imposing pines. When entering Hargla Church, it is possible, among other things, to the see the altarpiece “Removal from the Cross”, painted in 1859 by the German artist Emil Jacobs. Although his art decorates this old rural Estonian church, he himself never visited Estonia, least of all Hargla and its impressive pines. Hargla was, until the beginning of the 1970s, also a railroad town. The Valga-Gulbene narrow-gauge railroad passed through here. But now, the old railroad embankment is, in many sectors, a road. But some of the old Hargla railroad station buildings still exist. North of Hargla, are the forests of the Karula National Park, where there is an abundance of mushrooms, blueberries, and lingonberries.

Ott Kangilaski, “Old Pine in Hargla�, 1959 Estonian Society for Nature Conservation Collection Valga


N59.4210° E24.6229°

Harku, City of Tallinn

Lake Harku


Lake Harku, at the north-west edge of Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, on the country’s north coast, is a popular recreational spot during the hot summer months. It has now been swallowed up by urban expansion, but back in the 1930s the lake was still a part of the rural bliss that dominated a large part of the country. In 1931, the artist Paul Burman (1888–1934), who was committed at the time to the Seewald mental hospital, suffered a serious psychological blow when his good friend and doctor died. He remained in Seewald and withdrew even further into his own world. He drew pictures only for the purpose of exchanging them for cigarettes. But he did take long walks along the seashore and past Lake Harku. It was, obviously, in the course of one of these excursions that this painting was done. And it seems to reflect his mood at that time – a lone, tangled tree surrounded by melancholy emptiness and a hopelessly gray sky. In 1934, when Burman was living on his own he became so ill that he was unable to get out of bed. He had just been painting Lake Harku, had been caught in the rain, and had caught a cold. Very quickly he developed a fever. Being a loner, he did not get in touch with anyone. When he was finally taken to hospital, it was too late. Much of Burman’s work has survived thanks to his doctor, von Kügelgen, who systematically collected the artist’s works for over 15 years. Burman has painted many views of Tallinn and its surrounding areas. He was also one Estonia’s first artists to devote works of art to just animals. And he is well known for his still lifes of flowers and of apples. Lake Harku, which in Burman’s day was out in the country, is now a very popular spot for swimming and other water sports, especially for the residents of the nearby suburbs. And this, despite the fact that if the summer is especially hot, certain parts of the lake become overgrown with blue algae.

Paul Burman, “Landscape at Lake Harku”, 1930–1934 Art Museum of Estonia



N59.4503° E25.1777°

Jägala Falls, Harju County About a mile and a half downstream from Jägala Falls, in Northern Estonia is the Linnamäe hydroelectric power station. It was built as far back as in 1924 and was regarded as being Estonia’s nicest-looking industrial building. But in 1941, as the Red Army was retreating to escape from the advancing German forces, the power station was blown up. It was left in ruins until 2002 when the power station was finally rebuilt. The Linnamäe hydroelectric But, even ruins can be made use of. At the end of the 1970s, a famous Russian power station film director Andrei Tarkovsky filmed his legendary science fiction movie, “Stalker”, in the Tallinn area, using the ruins and surroundigs of Linnamäe Power Station as one of the casting locations. The Jägala River can be quite turbulent, and it naturally becomes especially so at the falls. An average of 10 cubic metres of water per second flows over the edge of the limestone bluff. And during the spring floods, this can increase to as much as 200 cubic metres. The water falls from a height of eight metres, and continues to flow through narrow rapids towards the sea. Before the construction of the power station, the rapids, of course, were even longer than they are now. There has been a watermill on this river since 1240 – the first watermill in Estonia to be mentioned in ancient chronicles. There has been human settlement near the mouth of the Jägala River as far back as 8,500 years ago. Even now, it can be seen that at one time there had been a fortress here, covering an area of three hectares. Thus, it had been one of the biggest fortified settlements in this part of the world at that time. Tiit Pääsuke devotes a lot of time to his paintings. He refines every detail. Sometimes, he devotes several months to just one work of art. The background details are in darker tones, while those in the foreground in brighter ones – therefore, Pääsuke’s paintings are sometimes reminiscent of photographs. Pääsuke loves to bring the contrast of nature and people, or nature and things, into his paintings. And often there will be rather unusual references in his painting – just as there are in this particular work of art. The artist has placed on the balustrade, in the foreground, the catch of the day, a wine glass, and a seagull. It is known that he loved to sip wine with his art instructor Lepo Mikko, and that he liked to fish. And birds often appear in his paintings – after all, his surname, Pääsuke (Swallow), connects him directly with the world of the birds.




Tiit Pääsuke, “Jägala Falls”, 1983 Bank of Estonia Collection


N57.7481° E26.2057°

Kaagjärve, Valga County At the age of 70, Juhan Raudsepp (1896–1984) portrayed Rusi Farm near Lake Kaagjärv, right by the Southern Estonian city of Valga. The title of the picture, taken from a beloved and nostalgic Estonian song dealing with love for one’s birthplace, says everything itself. And in this particular farm was born one of Estonia’s most prestigious sculptors. He is the author of one of the most beautiful tomb monuments in Estonia – “Signe”, what can be seen in Käsmu church garden on the Northern coast of Estonia. The 70-year-old artist did not return to his birthplace to create this picture because he felt that his days were numbered – he lived and created for another 20 years. But rather, because the Rusi Farm’s traditional farmhouse, built in 1874, had just been donated by the family to the Estonian Open Air Museum on the outskirts of Tallinn. The old log house was dismantled in 1967 and within two years, had been resurrected in the landmark museum at Rocca al Mare by the coast. And it can be seen there to this day, surrounded by other buildings brought from the same region. Despite the fact that the farmhouse was taken away, there are still plenty of impressive buildings left in the area. For instance, the grand Kaagvere Manor House is now used as a schoolhouse. And a couple of kilometres towards Valga there are the ruins of a several-winged and three-storeyed brick factory that once housed, at the same time, a brewery, a dairy, a flour mill, as well as a wool mill. And about 5 kilometres away is Lake Pikkjärv (Long Lake), Estonia’s narrowest lake. It is 3 kilometres long but only 170 metres wide at its widest point. Near the western end of the lake there is the Vissi Orthodox Church, which is one of several in this region. Back in the middle of the 19th century, a lot of rural Estonians converted to the Orthodox religion, since there was a rumour at the time that those who converted would be given free land. This rumour proved to be false, so many of these people ended up moving to various parts of Russia, where land could be obtained at very favourable terms, and established Estonian farming villages there. One local legend has it that several sacks of gold are buried near the Vissi church. Since in this region there are many tales about hidden treasure troves, it can be assumed that there is some truth to them.

Kaagjärve-Alamõisa factory building


Juhan Raudsepp, “The Golden Memories of My Childhood Home”, 1966 The Valga Museum


N58.3727° E22.6699°

Kaali, Saare County One of the significant sights to see on Saaremaa Island off the west coast of Estonia is this small, round lake. The lake, with a diameter of 50–60 metres, is located at the bottom of a kettle-shaped hollow, which at the top is 110 metres wide and almost 20 metres deep. And there are also several smaller pits in the area. Throughout the ages, Lake Kaali has been a big mystery – it has been regarded as being the location of an ancient Estonian fortress, or an old volcano crater, or a pit created by a natural gas eruption, or whatever. It was not until 1935 that the Lake Kaali mystery was solved. The meteorite fragments found in the various craters prove that these pits were created by an explosion when a meteorite crashed into earth. At any rate, Lake Kaali is a rarity of nature – the Kaali group of craters is the only one in the world that is located close to dense human habitation and readily accessible. It was not likely that the master artist Varmo Pirk (1913–1980), who painted various locations in Estonia, would overlook something as unique as Lake Kaali. But it is interesting to compare his Lake Kaali with a grand work of art in the Art Museum of Estonia by Friedrich Siegmund Stern (1812–1889), which also depicts this crater. Then it is possible to see how much the place has actually changed over the years. The mystery of Lake Kaali fascinates scientists to this day, and there is still a diversity of opinion concerning when exactly the crater was created. This could have occurred 2,800 years ago, but that is only one opinion. Others find that the meteorite crashed to earth 7,500 years ago. At any rate, this mighty “cosmic bang” has been compared to the Hiroshima nuclear explosion, which means that it would have been felt all over Northern Europe. If the 80-ton meteorite entered Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 15–45 kilometres per second, and crashed at a speed of 10–20 kilometres per second, the bang would have been quite noticeable. When a similar meteorite catastrophe occurred in Siberia in 1908, the crash could be heard as far as 1,800 kilometres away. Within 30 hours the shockwave sped around the world twice and destroyed as much as 6,000 square kilometres of surrounding forest. Within a radius of 150 kilometres, the shockwave tore roofs off buildings and tore trees out of the ground. During the Bronze Age, a 2.7-metre-thick circular wall was built around the crater. Thus, it can be assumed that the lake was of major religious importance, which did not just have local significance. And the lake bottom may very well hide further secrets, but scientists have not been able to penetrate it, since the bottom is covered with a layer of sediments several metres thick.


Varmo Pirk, “Lake Kaali”, 1965 Tartu Art Museum




N59.5185° E25.2765°

Kaberneeme, Harju County The popular artist and set designer Roman Nyman (1881–1951) spent the summer and early fall of 1942 in lovely Kaberneeme on Estonia’s northern coast, where “Coastal Landscape” seems to have been painted. Nyman was educated in St. Petersburg in the Stieglitz School, and studied in Paris, Norway, Germany, and Italy on a scholarship. He spent his summer vacations and later worked a great deal, both before and during World War II, on the north coast of Estonia. Besides Kaberneeme, Nyman was quite familiar with all the picturesque coastal villages in the region. During the German Occupation (1941–1944), German officers often ordered landscape paintings from Nyman to send to their relatives back home. According to Nyman’s own notes of that time, the German officers paid for these views of coastal scenery on a barter basis – with cheese, sausage, tobacco, and alcohol. And Nyman’s general popularity is demonstrated by the fact that from October 1941 to July 1942 he sold 18 works, making him the third biggest-selling artist in the capital city of Tallinn. Nyman was a master picture composer. His Kaberneeme scenic view is a prime example of how Nyman fine-tuned a picture with mathematical precision. If even a single detail were to be removed from the painting, the perfection of its existing tension and density would immediately be out of balance. And, of course, the pines, which always captivate artists. This is nothing surprising, since pines do have fascinating forms. After all, how often have artists, in this region at least, depicted alders? The waters around Kaberneeme peninsula used to be the fishing territory of the monks at the Pirita Abbey on the eastern edge of present-day Tallinn. By the end of the 19th century, Kaberneeme had become one of the most important commercial fishing and fish processing centres in the Tallinn area. For instance, there was a major anchovy cannery here. And it seems that Kaberneeme was one of the first places where fish began to be smoked on a commercial scale. A skill that is practiced here to this day. In the 19th century, Kaberneeme was also an important source for the cobblestones that were used to pave the streets of Tallinn.





Roman Nyman, “Coastal Landscape”, 1942–1944 Enn Kunila Collection

N59.4432° E24.7876°

Kadriorg, City of Tallinn

Siuru, 1917

This antique photograph of eight young creative people is one of the best-known photographs in the history of Estonian culture. This group, which called itself Siuru (a mythical skylark), was founded by the popular writer August Gailit in 1917. Siuru’s motto was coined by his colleague Friedebert Tuglas: “The joy of creativity – that must be our only impetus.” By 1919, the group was already falling apart, but it had been truly creative and rebellious, having shaken the Estonian cultural sphere to its core. Historians feel that its biggest contribution was to popularize Estonian literature among the population as a whole. The activities of Siuru had made all of its participants well-known and respected as writers. Siuru is usually thought of as a literary group, but in the photo we can clearly see two artists – Peet Aren and Otto Krusten. They were Siuru’s associate members. At the time, Peet Aren (1889–1970) was experimenting with various styles and themes. He painted murals for a movie theatre, painted realistic pictures, romantic landscapes, and portraits. In other words, he was being experimentally creative like all of the other members of Siuru. Together with his colleagues Kristjan Raud and Nikolai Triik, Aren participated in the competition to design the newly independent Estonia’s first paper money and postage stamps. But these prominent artists dragged their feet, so that the designs that were eventually chosen were done by less known artists. “Kadriorg Shore” was painted right after Siuru fell apart. A simple and charming piece of work – so appropriate for that location. Kadriorg is one of the Tallinn’s most prestigious and traditional neighbourhoods. In the second half of the 17th century, five wealthy residents of Tallinn received official permission to build summer manors on the city’s pastureland. In 1714, Tsar Peter I bought the central segment of this area and four years later started to build his new palace with its park around it. The area was subsequently named Catharinenthal in honour of the tsar’s wife, which Estonians quickly turned into Kadriorg (Kadri’s Valley). Now, historical Kadriorg Palace houses the Art Museum of Estonia’s permanent foreign art exhibit. Summer vacationers discovered Kadriorg in the middle of the 19th century. Members of the tsar’s family, members of the nobility, and wealthy residents of St. Petersburg came here to enjoy the good life. Nowadays, Tallinn’s beach is further down the road at Pirita, but then swimmers went into the sea where the memorial to the sunken Russian warship Russalka is now. To paint this particular picture, Aren had obviously stood near this tall memorial.

Standing from the left: artists Peet Aren and Otto Krusten. Sitting from the left: writers Friedebert Tuglas, Artur Adson, Marie Under, August Gailit, Johannes Semper, and Henrik Visnapuu.


Peet Aren, “Kadriorg Shore”, 1920 Art Museum of Estonia