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Estonia wraps up EEA Grants Manor School Programme


Estonia has been named ‘the land of thousand manors’. Manor-economy was the backbone of the agricultural development of the country until 1919 when the newly born Republic of Estonia expropriated the land and many buildings of the nobility. Soon after the rank system was abolished. The radical actions had the roots in history – the inhuman serfdom existed factually till mid-19th century. Nobility and rank was generally based on nationality. But while the nobility consisted of Germans, Danes, Swedes and Russians, Estonians were left without major rights in their own territory.

After Meeri Manor was expropriated from the Baltic German owners, an orphanage moved into the main house. 1925. Photo Estonian National Museum.

Kohila Manor School, which started out as a branch of St. Michael’s School in 2013, is the newest Estonian manor school. Photo by Martin Siplane

After the Land Act the municipalities were offered to take the former mansions into public use. During the last 100 years, the majority of the manors have existed in public use without traditional arable land attached to it. The most popular use were the schools. Since the Land Act schools have been created in 300 manors. Now there are 69 left, and still every fourth school in rural areas operates in a former manor.

Vääna Manor School is being restored thanks to a grant from the European Economic Area manor schools programme. Photo by Karin Ojaste.

In retrospect the schools have proved to be good users in spite of several alterations of the architecturally valuable buildings.

In 2002 a national programme to restore the ‘manor schools’ was launched and in 2004 the European Economic Area grants for cultural heritage in Estonia were allocated to restoration of the manor schools. In the last 10 years restoration works have been carried out at 14 schools. Another 14 have received grants for development projects to support the existence and sustainability of manor schools in the situation of dramatic urbanisation.

As a part of the programme many different activities were carried out to develop the schools also as the local visiting centres open to local communities and visitors. Please find more information at that opens by the end of April.

Dr Riin Alatalu

EEA Grants programme “Manor Schools- preservation through use” coordinator