A glance at Hiiumaa’s history

Archaeologists have found out a great deal about Hiiumaa’s ancient history. The tale becomes more fascinating and tact-filled with each dig and expedition. Already a dozen Stone Age settlements or camps have been found. The bones, potsherds and tool fragments found on the excavations help put together a picture of what life was like thousands of years ago.

The finds indicate that people first arrived on the island over 7,000 years ago. True, they lived only seasonally on the island back then, to fish and hunt seals. But the discovery of fields cultivated in the 11th and 12th century speaks to permanent settlement. Presumably the permanent settlements developed earlier, 1000-500 BCE, when the dead began to be buried in stone coffins.

Yet there is a ten-century gap in our knowledge of Hiiumaa history. From the 13th century on, there is a written record:

Year / event

  • 1228 – First written record of the island under the name of Dageida
  • 1254 - Hiiumaa is divided between the Bishopric of Öser-Wiek and the Teutonic Order. The first place names such as “Soela vain”, Orjaku, Sarwo (Sõru, Sarve?), Reigi and Pihla island are mentioned.
  • ca 1255 – The construction of Pühalepa stone church begins
  • 1470s - Pühalepa church’s high altar, dedicated to St. Anna, is finished
  • 1490s – The Hanseatic League repeatedly seeks the establishment of a seamark on Hiiumaa
  • 1492/1515 Käina stone church built
  • 1504/1505 – Years of plague
  • 1504/31 - Kõpu lighthouse built
  • 1559/63 – Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, including part of Hiiumaa comes under rule by Danish Duke Magnus
  • 1563 – Swedes conquer Hiiumaa, the Swedish era begins
  • 1564 – First mention of several villages, including the modern capital Kärdla
  • 1582/94 – Salt works operating in Reigi
  • 1603 – Famine, plague
  • 1612 – Major Danish incursion on Hiiumaa
  • 1624 – Count J. De la Gardie buys a major part of the island
  • 1627 - Reigi church splits to form a separate Reigi parish
  • 1628-64 - Hüti village is home to Estonia’s first glass foundry
  • 1710 - Hiiumaa becomes essentially part of the Russian empire, peace treaty in Great Northern War
  • 1716/20 – Island under control of the Russian Admiralty
  • 1755/58 - E. M. Stenbock (1704-1775) reinstates his landholding rights in Hiiumaa, construction of the Suuremõisa manor begins, the Stackelbergs move to Kassari
  • 1779 – The current Reigi pastorate building is completed
  • 1779/82 – The Emmaste manor house is completed (currently a schoolhouse)
  • 1781 – Reigi’s Swedes are exiled to southern Ukraine
  • 1781 – O. R. L. von Ungern-Sternberg (1744-1811) moves to the island after purchasing manors in northern Hiiumaa
  • 1796 – The Ungern-Sternbergs acquire Suuremõisa and now control a majority of the island
  • 1802 – The Reigi stone church is completed
  • 1803/04 - O. R. L. von Ungern-Sternberg is convicted of killing one Captain Malm and is sent to Siberia
  • 1819 - Putkaste manor house is completed (manor mentioned as Saulepa as early as 1524)
  • 1820 - Paluküla stone church is built
  • 1829 – A textile mill built by the Ungern-Sternberg brothers launches, it is called the Hiiu-Kärdla Broadcloth Factory
  • 1848 – The sailing ship Hioma is built at Suursadam (Deep Harbour). It is the first Estonian ship to cross the equator and to round Cape Horn
  • 1851 - K.-E. von Baer visits Hiiumaa
  • 1863 - J. Köler at Vaemla manor, about ten works from Hiiumaa completed. The new stone church in Kärdla is consecrated
  • 1866 – The Emmaste parish is formed, a year later a new stone church is completed
  • 1873 – Composer Rudolf Tobias born in Käina
  • 1874/75 - Ristna and Tahkuna lighthouses built
  • 1884 – Baptism spreads on Hiiumaa
  • 1890s – Three Orthodox churches built
  • 1908 - Mänspäe gets a new church
  • 1911 – The first viscose rayon plant in Estonia (Viskoosa) is built in Kõrgessaare
  • 1913 – Electricity reaches Hiiumaa, Kärdla experiences cinema for the first time
  • 1917/18 - German occupation
  • 1918 – Hiiumaa becomes a part of the independent Republic of Estonia
  • 1924 – Hiiumaa inhabitants hear their first radio broadcast
  • 1926 – The first pan-Hiiumaa song day
  • 1934 – The first pan-Hiiumaa rural women’s day in Käina
  • 1937 – The peat industry is launched
  • 1938 – Kärdla receives city rights
  • 1939 – Soviet military bases are built
  • 1940 - Hiiumaa is occupied by the Soviet Union
  • 1941 – The first mass deportation, the war reaches the island, the broadcloth plant is burned, German occupation begins
  • 1944 – Soviet forces occupy the island again
  • 1948 – The first kolkhoz („Käina Säde“) is established
  • 1949 – The second deportation, a fishermen’s kolkhoz Hiiu Kalur is founded
  • 1961 – Fish plant is launched in Kõrgessaare
  • 1989 – Major renovation of Kõpu lighthouse launched, the Western Estonian Archipelago nature reserve is established
  • 1990 – The first global Hiiumaa days, Hiiu County is reinstated
  • 1991 – Estonia declares its re-independence
  • 1993 - The last Soviet units leave the island
  • 1996 – The flag and coat of arms of Hiiu County are registered in the Government Office