Tallinn (/ˈtɑːlɪn/ or /ˈtælɪn/, Estonian pronunciation: [ˈtɑlʲˑinˑ]) is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of 159.2 km2 (61.5 sq mi) with a population of 416,536. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, 80 km (50 mi) south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. The city was a European Capital of Culture for 2011, along with Turku, Finland.
Tallinn is the oldest capital city in Northern Europe. The city was known as Reval from the 13th century until the 1920s.
The lesser coat of arms of Tallinn is also the coat of arms of Harju County and depicts the Dannebrog cross.
In 1154 a town called Qlwn or Qalaven (possible derivations of Kalevan or Kolyvan) was put on the world map of the Almoravid by the Muslim cartographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, who described it as a small town like a large castle among the towns of Astlanda. It has been suggested that the Quwri in Astlanda may have denoted the predecessor town of today's Tallinn.
The earliest names of Tallinn include Kolyvan (Russian: Колывань) known from East Slavic chronicles, the name possibly deriving from the Estonian mythical hero Kalev.
Up to the 13th century the Scandinavians and Henry of Livonia in his chronicle called the town Lindanisa: Lyndanisse in Danish, Lindanäs in Swedish, also mentioned as Ledenets in Old East Slavic. According to some theories the name derived from mythical Linda, the wife of Kalev and the mother of Kalevipoeg. who in an Estonian legend carried rocks to her husband's grave that formed the Toompea hill.
It has been also suggested that in the context the meaning of linda in the archaic Estonian language, that is similar to lidna in Votic, had the same meaning as linna or linn later on meaning a castle or town in English. According to the suggestion nisa would have had the same meaning as niemi (meaning peninsula in English) in an old Finnish form of the name Kesoniemi.
Other than Kesoniemi known ancient historical names of Tallinn in Finnish include Rääveli. The Icelandic Njálssaga mentions Tallinn and calls it Rafala, which is a variant of the name Raphael.
After the Danish conquest in 1219 the town became known in the German, Swedish and Danish languages as Reval (Latin: Revalia). The name originated from (Latin) Revelia (Estonian) Revala or Rävala, the adjacent ancient name of the surrounding Estonian county.
The origin of the name "Tallinn(a)" is certain to be Estonian, although the original meaning of the name is debated. It is usually thought to be derived from "Taani-linn(a)" (meaning "Danish-castle/town"; Latin: Castrum Danorum) after the Danes built the castle in place of the Estonian stronghold at Lindanisse. However, it could also have come from "tali-linna" ("winter-castle/town"), or "talu-linna" ("house/farmstead-castle/town"). The element -linna, like Germanic -burg and Slavic -grad / -gorod, originally meant "fortress" but is used as a suffix in the formation of town names.
The previously used official German name Reval (help·info) (Ревель) was replaced after Estonia became independent in 1918–1920. At first both forms Tallinna and Tallinn were used. The United States Board on Geographic Names adopted the form Tallinn between June 1923 and June 1927. The form Tallinna appearing in modern times in Estonian denotes the genitive case of the name, as in Tallinna Reisisadam (Port of Tallinn).
Other variations of modern spellings include Tallinna in Finnish and Та́ллин in Russian.
A form Tallin deriving from the Romanization of Russian spelling of the name Та́ллин was also used internationally during the era Estonia was annexed to the Soviet Union.
The first traces of human settlement found in Tallinn's city center by archeologists are about 5000 years old. The comb ceramic pottery found on the site dates to about 3000 BC and corded ware pottery c. 2500 BC.
In 1050 the first fortress was built on Tallinn Toompea.
As an important port for trade between Russia and Scandinavia, it became a target for the expansion of the Teutonic Knights and the Kingdom of Denmark during the period of Northern Crusades in the beginning of the 13th century when Christianity was forcibly imposed on the local population. Danish rule of Tallinn and Northern Estonia started in 1219.
In 1285 the city became the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League – a mercantile and military alliance of German-dominated cities in Northern Europe. The Danes sold Tallinn along with their other land possessions in northern Estonia to the Teutonic Knights in 1346. Medieval Tallinn enjoyed a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between Western and Northern Europe and Russia. The city, with a population of 8,000, was very well fortified with city walls and 66 defence towers.
A weather vane, the figure of an old warrior called Old Thomas, was put on top of the spire of the Tallinn Town Hall in 1530 that became the symbol for the city.
With the start of the Protestant Reformation the German influence became even stronger as the city was converted to Lutheranism. In 1561 Tallinn politically became a dominion of Sweden.
During the Great Northern War, Tallinn along with Swedish Estonia and Livonia capitulated to Imperial Russia in 1710, but the local self-government institutions (Magistracy of Reval and Chivalry of Estonia) retained their cultural and economical autonomy within Imperial Russia as the Duchy of Estonia. The Magistracy of Reval was abolished in 1889. The 19th century brought industrialization of the city and the port kept its importance. During the last decades of the century Russification measures became stronger.
On 24 February 1918, the Independence Manifesto was proclaimed in Tallinn, followed by Imperial German occupation and a war of independence with Russia. On 2 February 1920, the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed with Soviet Russia, wherein Russia acknowledged the independence of the Estonian Republic. Tallinn became the capital of an independent Estonia. After World War II started, Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1940, and later occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 44. After the Nazi retreat in 1944, it was again occupied by the USSR. After annexation into the Soviet Union, Tallinn became the capital of the Estonian SSR.
During the 1980 Summer Olympics, the sailing (then known as yachting) events were held at Pirita, north-east of central Tallinn. Many buildings, such as the "Olümpia" hotel, the new Main Post Office building, and the Regatta Center, were built for the Olympics.
In August 1991 an independent democratic Estonian state was re-established and a period of quick development to a modern European capital ensued. Tallinn became the capital of a de facto independent country once again on 20 August 1991.
Tallinn has historically consisted of three parts:
The Toompea (Domberg) or "Cathedral Hill", which was the seat of the central authority: first the Danish captains, then the komturs of the Teutonic Order, and Swedish and Russian governors. It was until 1877 a separate town (Dom zu Reval), the residence of the aristocracy; it is today the seat of the Estonian parliament, government and some embassies and residencies.
The Old Town, which is the old Hanseatic town, the "city of the citizens", was not administratively united with Cathedral Hill until the late 19th century. It was the centre of the medieval trade on which it grew prosperous.
The Estonian town forms a crescent to the south of the Old Town, where the Estonians came to settle. It was not until the mid-19th century that ethnic Estonians replaced the local Baltic Germans as the majority amongst the residents of Tallinn.
Historically, the city has been attacked, sacked, razed and pillaged on numerous occasions. Although extensively bombed by Soviet air forces during the latter stages of World War II, much of the medieval Old Town still retains its charm. The Tallinn Old Town (including Toompea) became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1997.
At the end of the 15th century a new 159 m (521.65 ft) high Gothic spire was built for St. Olaf's Church. Between 1549 and 1625 it was the tallest church in the world. After several fires and following rebuilding, its overall height is now 123 m (403.54 ft).