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Osmussaar 2001.jpg
Limestone cliff on the east coast of Osmussaar
Eesti Osmussaar.png
Location Baltic Sea
Coordinates 59¬į17‚Ä≤30‚Ä≥N 23¬į23‚Ä≤30‚Ä≥EÔĽŅ / ÔĽŅ59.29167¬įN 23.39167¬įEÔĽŅ / 59.29167; 23.39167Coordinates: 59¬į17‚Ä≤30‚Ä≥N 23¬į23‚Ä≤30‚Ä≥EÔĽŅ / ÔĽŅ59.29167¬įN 23.39167¬įEÔĽŅ / 59.29167; 23.39167
Area 4.8 km2 (1,200 acres)
Length 4.6 km (2.9 mi)
Width 1.3 km (0.81 mi)
Coastline 14 km (8.7 mi)
County Lääne County
Municipality Noarootsi Parish
Population 2 (as of 2009)

Osmussaar (Swedish: Odensholm) is an Estonian island situated in the mouth of the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea, 7.5 km off the Estonian mainland. Administratively the island is part of Noarootsi Parish in L√§√§ne County. Its area is 4.8 km2 (1,200 acres).

Before the Soviet Union occupied Estonia during World War II, around 130 people, mainly Estonian Swedes, lived on the island. The continuous settlement of Swedes on Osmussaar had dated back for centuries. Currently Osmussaar has only two permanent inhabitants[1] and the island is a nature reserve.



The island's Swedish name Odensholm (or Odinsholm) derives from the Vikings' chief god, Odin, who, according to a legend, is buried on the island.[2] The origin of the Estonian name Osmussaar is not clear.


The continuous settlement of Estonian Swedes on Osmussaar, which lasted until World War II, goes back at least to the 14th century, though little is known of the island's history before 18th century.[3] The exact time of colonisation is also unknown and the island was possibly inhabited already in the Viking age.[2] The island's population varied considerably with time, for example the plague epidemic of 1710 left according to popular stories only a few people alive. In the 20th century the island's population continued to rise and was the highest in the beginning of 1930s. During the Estonian census of 1934 131 people lived on Osmussaar, all of them Swedes except for the lighthouse keeper and his family.[4]

In 1765 the first lighthouse was built on the northern coast of Osmussaar. In 1850 it was replaced with a new one, which was demolished in 1941 by the retreating Soviet garrison. Current lighthouse was completed in 1954.

SMS Magdeburg, after having run aground, with the lighthouse of Osmussaar in the background.

In 1914, during World War I, the German light cruiser Magdeburg ran aground and sunk near the northern tip of Osmussaar.

All inhabitants of Osmussaar were forced to leave the island during World War II. On 12 June 1940 the islanders were evacuated to Vormsi as the island was set aside as a Soviet military base.[3] Later the same year Osmussaar was the last foothold in Estonia that was given up by the Red Army to the advancing German army. In 1942, during the German occupation, the islanders could return to their homes, but the approaching Red Army forced them soon to leave permanently. The last 46 people left for Sweden in February 1944.[3]

During the Soviet Era the island was used by the Soviet Navy. Originally there were plans to house on the island a unit consisting of up to 1200 men, but the large unit was probably disbanded already in 1947 and later the island was home to a small navy unit consisting of a maximum of 40 men.[4]

Osmussaar lighthouse.

After Estonia regained independence, the military left in 1993, leaving behind ruins of different fortifications and military buildings. During the property reform the pre-1940 landowners of Osmussaar were not allowed to directly reclaim their land and property, because a cadastral survey had never been conducted on the island and until the Swedes left during World War II, land ownership had been based on old customs.[5] After the departure of Soviet army Osmussaar was uninhabited until 2001, when 2 people moved to the island.

In 1996 the Osmussaar Landscape Protection Area, covering the whole island, was formed for the protection of local geological formations, plant communities and bird fauna.[2]

Geography and geology

Osmussaar is the 14th largest island in Estonia. The island is 4.6 km long and 1.3 km wide, with its longer axis in a northwest‚Äďsoutheast direction. The island is located in the mouth of the Gulf of Finland and the Hanko-Osmussaar line is considered the border of the gulf. The highest elevation of the island is 8 m.[6]

Northeastern coast of Osmussaar.

Osmussaar is the westernmost point before √Ėland where the Baltic Klint emerges from the Baltic Sea. Essentially Osmussaar is a relict island of the klint. The height of the cliff on the island's north and east coast is up to 6 meters, but compared to the surrounding seabed, the height of the island is 60 meters. The island has a relatively thin (up to 2 m) cover of Quaternary marine sediments overlying the Ordovician limestone bedrock. The island arose from the sea 2000-3000 years ago,[7] the uplift continues at a rate of about 3 mm/year. Extensive shingle fields, consisting of limestone pebbles, have developed on the western coast of the island.[2] A number of large erratic boulders can be found scattered on the island. Their diameter reaches 10-20 meters, but more remarkable is their petrological composition - a relatively unique type of breccia, which formed in the course of the impact that created the Neugrund crater.[7]

The most powerful recorded earthquake in Estonia, measuring 4.7 magnitudes in Richter scale, occurred on 25 October 1976 near Osmussaar and is known as the Osmussaar earthquake (Estonian: Osmussaare maavärin).[8][4] The earthquake caused the collapse of some sections of the cliff on the island's northeast coast and damaged some buildings on the island. The focus of the earthquake was 5-7 km northeast of the island at a depth of 10 or 13 km.[8]

Transport and tourism

Osmussaar has no regular connection to the Estonian mainland. The nearest port is Dirhami 9 km to southeast, which is the starting point of most boat trips to the island. Until 2008, when a floating wharf was installed, the island itself had no decent landing facilities.[9]

The popularity of Osmussaar as a tourist destination increased remarkably in 2002, when around 2000 people visited the island.[10] Since then up to 3000 people visit the island every summer.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Population of Noarootsi Parish by village" (XLS). Noarootsi Parish. Retrieved 3 June 2009.  
  2. ^ a b c d "Osmussaar Landscape Protection Area". State Nature Conservation Centre. Retrieved 27 May 2009.  
  3. ^ a b c Peil, Tiina (1999). "Settlement history and cultural landscapes on Osmussaar". Estonia Maritima (4): 5‚Äď38. Retrieved 2009-06-04.  
  4. ^ a b c (in Estonian) Osmussaar : loodus, asustus. Noarootsi: Osmussaare maastikukaitseala. 2002. pp. 48.  
  5. ^ a b Karnau, Andrus (12 January 2006). "Osmussaarlaste j√§rglased tahavad talumaid tagasi" (in Estonian). Postimees. Retrieved 4 June 2009.  
  6. ^ "Northwest Estonian Klint". Estonian Ministry of Environment. Retrieved 4 June 2009.  
  7. ^ a b Suuroja, Kalle; Saadre, T√Ķnis; Kask, J√ľri (1999). "Geology of Osmussaar Island". Estonia Maritima (4): 39‚Äď63.  
  8. ^ a b Raukas, Anto; Teedum√§e, Aada, eds (1997). Geology and Mineral Resources of Estonia. Tallinn: Estonian Academy Publishers. pp. 436. ISBN 9985-50-185-3.  
  9. ^ Ilves, Kaie (18 September 2008). "Vald planeerib Osmussaarele rajada v√§ikesadama ja k√ľla" (in Estonian). L√§√§ne Elu. Retrieved 4 June 2009.  
  10. ^ "Osmussaare maastikukaitseala kaitsekorralduskava 2004-2008 (Protection plan of Osmussaar Landscape Reserve 2004-2008)" (in Estonian). 2003. Retrieved 4 June 2009.  


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:




Proper noun


  1. Island in northwest Estonia, on the southern coast of Gulf of Finland.




Estonian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia et

Proper noun


  1. Osmussaar


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