History of Kuressaare town government in the years 1879 - 1917

Russian law pertaining to the authority of towns from the 16th of June 1870 expanded to include the towns of the Baltic Provinces by the ukase of the Supreme Court of Russia from the 26th of March 1877. Although the enforced town law was conservative, it still brought about some changes to the government of Kuressaare. Instead of the former representatives of the estates, the municipal government was now elected for four years to represent all taxpayers. The earlier magistrate (Rat) was left with the function of the court until the court reform of 1889.

The first election of the Kuressaare town council took place in April 1879 and 30 members were elected. At the first meeting of the town council on April 22, 1879 former Bürgermeister Hugo von der Borg was elected mayor. Besides the mayor, five members and a secretary formed the town government, elected on May 4, 1879.

Court and police officials were also included in the town budget. The responsibilities of the town government was to manage the town´s economy; to govern town properties and capital; to supervise the trade and handicraft industry; to allocate welfare; to ensure the health protection of citizens; to supply the town with foodstuffs; to maintain and supervise town schools, hospital, poorhouse, charitable and other institutions of public use. The town received its revenue from town properties and land, also from taxes assessed on real estate, trade and handicraft enterprises and from drinking establishments.

The new town law from June 11, 1892 considerably restricted the rights of the town government. The power of the governor and the commission of the province´s town life extended to all activities of the municipality. The governor was granted substantial authority. At the same time the activities of the town government became more concrete. To govern the individual branches of the economy, executive commissions reporting to the town government were appointed.

According to census data of 1881, there were 3602 inhabitants in Kuressaare; mostly Estonians - 1785, Germans - 1272, and Russians - 271. There were 27 streets, 403 properties on which stood 452 residences and 330 outbuildings. By the data of the year 1910 the area of the town was 1346 hectares, 83 ha of which was developed. The town grew rapidly during this period: there were now 48 streets and in 1913, 5267 inhabitants.

The industry was not especially developed in Kuressaare. In l892 there were 124 handicraft enterprises in town and only three larger industrial enterprises - Wildenberg´s leather factory, a metallurgical workshop in Marienthal and Schmidt´s steam mill. The town slaughterhouse was opened in 1896. The town government owned and managed the Lõmala estate. In 1905 they began to sell its land to peasants for perpetuity.

Kuressaare was mainly a resort town. By 1883 three mud spas attracted many visitors during the summer season. They were beneficial to both, the town and its inhabitants.

In 1902 Kuressaare´s horse postal station became the town post office. Mail was delivered to Pärnu three times a week. In the navigation period mail delivery between Kuressaare and Riga was handled by the steam ship "Konstantin". In 1907 the first telephones were installed. In 1913 the Riga Regional Direction of Post and Telegraph established the state telephone network in town. In 1909 the town government began to deal with electrification of Kuressaare and by 1915 the townú power plant was finished.

In 1917 the town government had to face the complicated problem of supplying the town with foodstuffs. Under the law of March 20, 1917 the Town Food Gommittee was formed. Simultaneously, under the same law the town police was dismissed and the militia was founded. Finding accomodation for military personnel was a serious issue for the town government and local residents in this period.

On June 9, 1917 the town law, valid from 1892, was replaced by a new law and a new town council and government were elected. The town government of this period practically finished its activities by the beginning of 1918.

TIIU OJA "Yearbook of Saaremaa Museum"