Mahtra Peasant Museum/Estonia
(Location: 60 km south of Tallinn)
In the year 1858, a wave of peasantry disorders rolled over Northern Estonia. They were caused by the new law on peasantry that did not unburden the corvee. The peasants of Mahtra Estate were so brave that they not only did not let the Russian soldiers’ punitive troops beat them and make them work again, but even called the peasants of the neighbourhood for help. The gathered forces of 700-800 men, armed with poles and pitchforks, made the soldiers escape…
The Mahtra War became the symbol of the Estonians’ love of freedom in these days already. It grew even more significant in the period of National Awakening and especially when the novel “The Mahtra War” by Eduard Vilde came out.
The Mahtra Museum today is not merely the museum of the Mahtra War. It is the central museum of Rapla County, the preserver and co-operational partner of the historical and cultural heritage.
The first room of the museum’s permanent exposition gives us an imagination of the Estonian peasant’s life in the 19th century through old tools, necessaries of life and photographic enlargements. A herd child with a rod driving cows for the afternoon milking time into the wooden fence; a peasant doing his corvee, ploughing with a pair of oxen, a case of salted Baltic herrings and a hunk of bread in his birch-bark wallet; women cutting rye with sickles; female agricultural labourers doing their corvee in the dusty drying barn of the estate, threshing grain with flails; bread with chaff on the table of a barn house – that was the workday of an Estonian village in the days of corvee.
Through the low door of a farmhouse we step into a corner of the estate, equipped with stylish furniture. The Keyserlings, the Krusensterns, the Stahls – they were the most distinguished families of the landlords of the South of Harju County. Whose coats of arms and family trees are exposed to learn.
The left of the room gives a survey of the Mahtra War, its antecedents and epilogue – a law book from 1856, through the events of the war to handcuffs, gauntlet, and the life of the participants in Siberia.
The most valuable part of the museum is Atla-Eeru Inn – the only preserved building of a peasant inn in whole Estonia (built in 1811). Architectural, it is a typical barn house of North Estonia, which is furnished according to the age. Nowadays, Atla-Eeru Inn is a good for organising children’s activities. You can learn to bake bread in the large barn kiln, you can measure your strength against the Christmas Goat on the straw on the chamber floor, you can listen to fairy tales in the twilight of “ghosts’ visiting time”…
At three kilometres from the museum is The Mahtra Batttlefield. Nearby is the Bloodfield, where the tragic drop scene of the Mahtra War was taking place.