Which of Estonia's historical foreign occupiers is most responsible for the firewater epidemic? The Germans were the first to set a bad example, according to historians, but only the first.
Statistics released in connection with this week's publication of the Green Book, which includes prescriptions for reducing drinking and smoking, show that Estonians drink too much alcohol.
Although noting that shifting the blame away from the drinker is typical denial, ETV revisited history in an effort to uncover how alcohol became so ingrained in culture. Apparently Estonians took their lead from the Germans.
As early on as the 15th century the cellar of the Great Guild Hall served as a wine cellar and a feast hall, reported ETV.
"The Guild members had drinks in the Guild Hall every day. Four times a year there were large feasts, for Christmas, Shrovetide, May, and parrot shooting (between Easter and Pentecostal). These revels lasted for two weeks, two weeks of hearty merrymaking," says History Museum researcher and curator Ivar Leimus.
In the 16th century, vodka was still sold as medicine at apothecaries. Under Swedish rule things changed. People did receive money for their work in the Middle Ages people, but food and drink were also used as payment.
"They were given money and beer as a salary all the time. But somewhere around 1620-30 things began to change. They were given vodka instead of beer, " says Leimus.
The Estonian History Museum has a 1.2 liter cannikin that was used for serving vodka, not beer, in taverns in the middle of the 19th century.
In the countryside, alcohol was consumed primarily in taverns which belonged to the manor and only they had the right to sell alcohol. Swedish King Karl IX decreed in 1601 that rest stops for travelers and horses be built everywhere. This is considered to mark the birth of taverns, but the business became most profitable during the Russian rule in the 18th century.
"It is known that in the second half of the 19th century, the tsarist province of northern Estonia [...] produced over 2,000,000 buckets - one bucket is 12 liters - of vodka, half of which went to Russia, one third to Germany. The rest stayed in Estonia," says a curator at the Open Air Museum, Aile Heidmets.