Otepää celebrating 900th anniversary of first historical written mention of fortress

Otepää fortress was first mentioned in a Russian historical chronicle called a “letopis” 900 years ago yesterday. Arrowheads found on an archaeological dig in the area also date back to a battle in 1116 as well.

History buffs organized an expedition to Otepää’s Fortress Hill, where they commemorated the events of the historical day in the first of a series of events dedicated to the 900th anniversary of the town’s first written mention, ETV news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera” reported.

University of Tartu history professor Ain Mäesalu displayed the first Novgorod letopis from 1116, where the first of a number of important events was chronicled thus: “Mstislav went with the Novgorodians against the Chudes [Estonians] and conquered Medvezja Golova [Otepää] on the Day of Forty Saints.” Such entries can be found in the letopises of other towns as well.

“We don’t have that many Estonian fortresses, Estonian settlements mentioned so far back,” explained Mäesalu. “The only places mentioned prior to [Otepää fortress] are Tartu and Keava fortress. Otepää is mentioned as the third most important hub in Estonia. Otepää fortress has been explored a great deal archaeologically, but there have been few finds tied to this day in particular. Essentially these are Russian-style arrowheads; indeed, there are 11 specimens which can be dated to the year 1116.”

Ain Mäesalu led the group of history enthusiasts to the top of Fortress Hill. He along with him a copy of a gun from the turn of the 15th century which had been found right there on Forest Hill, one of the oldest such weapons found in Europe. Mäesalu loaded the gun the old fashioned way to demonstrate that good arms were used there already in the Middle Ages.

Kalev Laul, municipal mayor of Otepää, said that the high point of the celebrations will be a retro festival on July 1-2, which will feature various Estonian and foreign musical acts from the 1980s and 90s.

Events in Otepää celebrating the 900th anniversary of the historical mention will continue through the coming winter. A list of commemorative events can be found on Otepää's homepage (link in Estonian).

Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik

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