Doctoral defence: Ilmar Tammisto “Nobility and state in Swedish Livland 1634–1680”

On 2 May at 16:15 Ilmar Tammisto will defend his doctoral thesis “Nobility and state in Swedish Livland 1634–1680”.

Associate Professor Enn Küng, University of Tartu

Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Astrid Wendel-Hansen, University of Jena (Germany)

Anyone that has studied Estonian history has at least some sort of a perception of both the Baltic German nobility and the time period when the territory of modern-day Estonia was a part of the Swedish empire. The expression “good old Swedish time” is well known to most Estonians, even if one is not entirely certain of what is meant by the expression. Similarly, the stereotype of a cruel and greedy landlord who only seeks personal gain is a familiar one. The goal of my dissertation was to offer additional interpretations about the aspirations and attitudes of the Swedish state authorities and the Baltic German nobility. I focused on Swedish Livland (an administrative unit on the territory of modern-day Southern-Estonia and Northern-Latvia) in the years 1634 to 1680. During this time there was a significant increase in the influence of the Livonian nobility and a network of institutions run by the local nobility developed in Livland, which in many respects formed a parallel governance structure to that of the state. Among other things, I wanted to find out why the Swedish state authorities allowed these developments to occur and what was the Livonian nobility trying to achieve with the help of their strengthened position. I reached the conclusion that the aforementioned developments were largely influenced by the expectation of mutual benefits. Swedish state authorities hoped that in return for certain favours, they could acquire additional resources from the Livonian nobility and affirm their allegiance to the Swedish crown. It became evident that besides collecting taxes and protecting the province, the state had very limited capacities to deal with other issues. Although there were problems with public violence, conditions of roads and bridges, efficiency of the courts and many other issues, the representatives of the state showed little initiative to deal with them. Here, the local nobility stepped in. In return for giving up resources, the Livonian nobility sought the permission of the state to deal with the issues troubling the land. For this end, proposals were made to state officials for the issuing of regulations and the founding of new institutions, the offices of which were in most cases without any kind of remuneration. To conclude, it can be said that the expectation of mutual benefits was largely met for both sides – the nobility generally acceded to the demands of the state and in return had the opportunity to influence local governance in a way that was suitable to them.

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