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For the town in Germany, see Ahrensburg. For the village in Tarvastu Parish, Viljandi County, see Kuressaare, Viljandi County.
Kuressaare Castle
Flag of Kuressaare
Coat of arms of Kuressaare
Coat of arms
Kuressaare is located in Estonia
Location of Kuressaare in Estonia
Coordinates: 58°15′N 22°29′E / 58.250°N 22.483°E / 58.250; 22.483Coordinates: 58°15′N 22°29′E / 58.250°N 22.483°E / 58.250; 22.483
Country Flag of Estonia.svg Estonia
County Saaremaa lipp.svg Saare County
First appeared on map 1154
 • Mayor Hannes Hanso
 • Total 14.95 km2 (5.77 sq mi)
Elevation 5 m (16 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 13,166
 • Density 880/km2 (2,300/sq mi)
 • Estonians 97.6%
 • other 2,4%
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 93813
Area code(s) (+372) 045
Vehicle registration K
Website www.kuressaare.ee

Kuressaare (Finnish: Kuressaari, German: Arensburg) is a town and a municipality on Saaremaa island in Estonia. It is the capital of Saare County and the westernmost town in Estonia. The population, according to the 2011 census, was 13,166.[1]

The city is situated on the coast of the Gulf of Riga and is served by Kuressaare Airport, Roomassaare Harbor and Kuressaare Yacht Harbor.


Kuressaare castle towers over the moat at dusk

Its historic name Arensburg[2] (from Middle High German a(a)r: eagle, raptor) renders the Latin denotation arx aquilae for the city's castle. The fortress and the eagle, tetramorph symbol of Saint John the Evangelist, are also the depicted on Kuressaare's coat of arms.

The name was replaced by Kuressaare (probably meaning "Island of the Curonian people," with the name of the people, the Kure, ultimately coming from the Estonian kurg: crane) in 1918 after Estonia had declared its independence from Bolshevist Russia. Under Soviet rule the town from 1952 to 1988 was called Kingissepa after the Bolshevik Kuressaare-native Viktor Kingissepp executed in 1922 (not to be confused with the Russian town Kingisepp, formerly Jamburg).


Kuressaare first appeared on maps around 1154. The island of Saaremaa (German, Swedish: Ösel) was conquered by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword under Volkwin of Naumburg in 1227, who merged with the Teutonic Knights shortly afterwards.[3] The first documentation about the castle (arx aquilae) has been found in Latin texts written in 1381 and 1422. The city around the fortress flourished after its building. It became the see of the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek established by Albert of Riga in 1228, part of the Terra Mariana.[4]

Town hall
Historical buildings in city center

Johann von Münchhausen, bishop since 1542, had turned Protestant. With the advance of the troops of Tsar Ivan IV of Russia in the course of the Livonian War, he sold his lands to King Frederick II of Denmark in 1559 and returned to Germany. Frederick sent his younger brother Prince Magnus to Kuressaare where he was elected as bishop in the following year. From him the city obtained its civic charter, modeled after that of Riga in 1563.[2] The bishopric was finally secularised in 1572 and Kuressaare fell to the Danish crown.

In 1645, it passed to Swedish control by the Treaty of Brömsebro after the Danish defeat in the Torstenson War.[2] Queen Christina of Sweden granted to her favourite Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie the title of a Count of Arensburg, the German and Swedish name by which Kuressaare was known at that time. The city was burnt to the ground by Russian troops in 1710 during the Great Northern War and suffered heavily from the plague.[5] Abandoned by the Swedish it was incorporated into the Governorate of Livonia of the Russian Empire with the 1721 Treaty of Nystad.

During the 19th century Kuressaare became a popular seaside resort on the Baltic coast. During World War I (between September and October 1917), German land and naval forces occupied Saaremaa with Operation Albion. During World War II, the Battle of Tehumardi took place. In October 1990, Kuressaare was the first town in Estonia to regain its self-governing status.

Landmarks and culture[edit]

The Kuressaare Castle in winter

The medieval episcopal Kuressaare Castle today houses the Saaremaa Regional Museum. The castle was originally built in wood between 1338 and 1380, although other sources claim a fortess was first built in Kuressaare as early as 1260.[6][7] In 1968, architect Kalvi Aluve began studies on Kuressaare Castle.[8]

The town hall was originally built in 1654, and restored, retaining classicist and baroque features.[5] It was last restored in the 1960s with dolomite stairs at the front.[5] St Nicolaus Church was built in 1790.[5]

Annual Saaremaa Opera Days (Saaremaa Ooperipäevad) are held in Kuressaare each summer since 1999. Other festivals include Kuressaare Chamber Music Days (Kuressaare Kammermuusika Päevad), held since 1995 and Kuressaare Martime Festival (Kuressaare Merepäevad), held since 1998.

Kuressaare also hosts the FC Kuressaare football club.

Notable residents[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin cities — Sister cities[edit]

Kuressaare is twinned with:[9]

See also[edit]


  2. ^ a b c Bes, Lennart; Frankot, Edda; Brand, Hanno (2007). Baltic Connections: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany. BRILL. p. 178. ISBN 978-90-04-16431-4. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Kjaergaard, Thorkild (1994). Castles around the Baltic Sea: the illustrated guide. Castle Museum. p. 64. ISBN 978-83-86206-03-2. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Murray, Alan V. (2001). Crusade and conversion on the Baltic frontier, 1150–1500. Ashgate. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7546-0325-2. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Taylor, Neil (17 August 2010). Bradt Estonia. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-84162-320-7. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  6. ^ O'Connor, Kevin (2006). Culture And Customs of the Baltic States. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-313-33125-1. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Jarvis, Howard; Ochser, Tim (2 May 2011). DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania. Dorling Kindersley. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-4053-6063-0. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Lang, V.; Laneman, Margot (2006). Archaeological research in Estonia, 1865–2005. Tartu University Press. p. 185. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "Kuressaare sõpruslinnad". Kuressaare linn. Retrieved 21 October 2010. 

External links[edit]