Welcome to Märjamaa municipality

3.01.17

Märjamaa municipality is located on the low plain of Western Estonia reaching from the border of Pärnumaa and Läänemaa to the Harjumaa. Area of the municipality is 872 km². The municipality is divided by the tributaries of Western Estonia's water-richest river Kasari and it is covered with forests, woodlands, bogs and fields alternated with scattered villages hidden between the gardens and primeval trees. The center of the municipality is Märjamaa country town located at the road from Tallinn to Pärnu, the distance to either city is a little over 60 kilometers.

     
River Kasari in Russalu                            Märjamaa country town

The local nature is influenced by the Silurian and Ordovician limestone bedrock denuded as Raikküla stratum which layers reach the dictyonema slate at a depth of more than 200 m. Low water lakes that appear in spring and sometimes in fall on the woodlands near Märjamaa town are quite unusual and called järtad by the locals. They can disappear overnight as the water drains through the cracks in the limestone. The layers of soil filter it to the ground water or it will ooze to the surface as a spring. The layer of soil above the limestone is very thin and sensitive to the drought but very fertile as an arable land and is beneficial for different kind of orchids, the most well-known are the lady's slippers and the butterfly orchids what the locals call "the violins of the night".

     
Märjamaa järtad                                         Lady's slippers

The alvar is a rare surface form in Northern Europe and it is found only in Åland Islands, Gotland and Öland. In Estonia there are alvars in surroundings of Kostivere and Jõelähtme (Harjumaa) and in Sõtke near Märjamaa. It is an open area without any soil where the limestone ground is flat like a floor covered with lichen, golden clumps of stonecrop and pink patches of thyme, with some tufts of fescue mixed in. Estonian name for alvar is loopealne. It is quite remarkable that the word is used as a geographic name in Märjamaa: the area of denuded limestone between the fields is called Sõtke Loopealne.

The history of Märjamaa goes back to the early Stone Age. The higher limestone grounds and river banks have been inhabited for almost ten thousand years. Archaeological finds include primitive hewn stone axes found near Vigala River and the circular mound in Sõtke date back to a very distant period. Konuvere hill-fort, which stronghold was burned down in the first millennium of our era and the archaeological findings from Haimre and the burial sites in Moka and Maidla bear witness to an ancient settlement. The Estonians had cultivated fertile fields and large herds in ancient time according to the chronicles, the goods and money were exchanged with the neighbors and other counties. The ancient pilgrimages and later trade and connecting routes starting in the North from Paldiski, Rävala and Harjumaa, in the West from Haapsalu, Ridala and Lihula heading inland all crossed this region near Läänemaa for centuries.

The Estonians lost the fight for freedom and the uprising against the usurpers in the XIII-XIV centuries after fighting until not even one boy taller than küünar (an ancient unit of length close to 0,5 meters) remained as the edlers of the Estonians had sworn. The Estonians lost the ancient freedom and were enslaved for centuries. The foreigners built a fortified church at the crossroads of ancient routes to defend their property and maintain their control and power. The church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was first mentioned in written chronicles in 1364 and presumably gave the name to the parish and the church hamlet.

     
Märjamaa St. Mary's Lutheran Church

In the middle of the XIX century the village began to evolve into a small town. The transport of goods and mail was increasing, the pubs were built by several manors, a school, a telegraph, a hospital and a drugstore were founded. There was a parish house and several stores in the small town with the post office and other public offices opened later. The condition of the roads was improving and the stone bridges were built in Konuvere and Sipa. The first is pictured on the coat of arms of Märjamaa municipality.

     
Mail office (before 1930)                                 Fire station in 1934

The decade of the 1930's  could be considered the golden age of Märjamaa when Tallinn- Rapla-Virtsu railroad was opened in 1931. Lääne-Eesti Ühispank located in Märjamaa was the largest bank in the country. The farms were becoming richer and the demand for agricultural produce was increasing. The connection with Tallinn was better and traveling easier. The cultural life was very active throughout the municipality – there were education societies, volunteer fire departments and the Defense League in the region. The up to date building of the elementary school was constructed in 1940.

The still growing development of culture and the economy in the Estonian Republic was constrained by the invasion of the Red Army. That was followed by the enforced proclamation of Estonian SSR and the war a year later when German occupation occurred and then the return of the Red Army.

The violent soviet regime lasted in Estonia for 50 years. The rebuilding of the Estonian Republic what was made possible by the victory in the the War of Independence by our grandfathers 95 years ago, has been going on during the 20 years following the liberation in the year 1991. The rebuilding now is in the hands of our young generation and they will determine how the task established back then will be achieved at the 100thanniversary of our Republic and later.

In 2014 Märjamaa - the center of our municipality - celebrated its 650th anniversary.

 

Writer and honorable citizen of Märjamaa Harri Jõgisalu (1922-2014)

Toimetaja: TIINA GILL