Russians invade Tartu

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18. July 1558

At the beginning of June, Russian troops invaded Tartu Diocese and started to siege Vastseliina Fortress. It surrendered after about three weeks of siege when the mercenaries and civilians in the fortress required capitulation. During that time, Russians had also captured the Uus and Vana-Kastre Fortresses located on the River Emajõgi, according to the last Russow's chronicle, by getting the defenders drunk by a Russian agent.

At the beginning of July, Russian troops reached Tartu. The Bishop had asked the Order to help, but it deemed the Russian troop too large and was afraid to go and disturb the Russians. So, the bombing of the town started and in ten days after the beginning of the siege, Tartu decided to surrender. At first, Russians were very generous, allowing those who did not want to stay under the Russian rule to leave town and promising to retain all the privileges of the town.

But soon, their attitude changed: at the czar's order, the last Bishop, Hermann II, and several other important people of the Diocese were deported to Russia in 1558. After the falling of Tartu, panic broke out in Livonia, which has the most expressively been recorded in Russow's chronicles that describe how the Livonians did not flee only from Russians, but also from fir trees and bushes.

Thus, the entire Tartu Diocese was taken over by Russians, but also Virumaa and part of the Viljandi Commandery together with Laiuse and Põltsamaa Fortresses. An even larger catastrophe to the Livonian Order was prevented by a young chief of Paide Fortress Caspar von Oldenbockum, who was able to successfully defend the fortress against Russians with a small troop, which is why he has been titled the "last knight of Livonia".

Mati Laur. Eesti ajalugu varasel uusajal 1550-1800. Tallinn: Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, 1999.

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