The County Council and Government of Saaremaa in the years 1917 - 1940

Democratically elected local authorities - county councils and governments - were formed in Estonia at the time of the Temporary Russian Government in June and July of 1917. The Temporary County Council (up to 1927 officially - Soviet) of Saaremaa was elected on August 3, 1917. The county government, headed by its chairman Kirill Kaasik set up offices in the building of the Estonian Society of Kuressaare on August 15. The activities of the local authorities of the Russian period were discontinued because of the German oocupation in October 1917.

On November 18, 1918 the delegation of the county council took over the administration of the county from the occupying power. At the time of Estonian independence, the first meeting of the county council convened on November 20, with Timotheus Grünthal elected as the new chairman of the county government. From this time on began the real building of the local authorities of the county. The county government found rooms in the former building of the police administration in Kubermangu Street (from 1920 in the former building of the Knighthood in Lossi Str. 1); schools, welfare centres, the hospital and other municipal services were absorbed, the departments of the government were involved. The situation in Saaremaa was intensified by the delay of solving questions about land, unemployment, scarcity of food, mobilizations and requisitions of food and consumer goods for the army. That led to the peasant´s uprising in February of 1919.

The two - level local political authority existed in Estonia up to 1934. In the course of the time five terms of the county council were elected. The most influential political forces in Saaremaa were the Estonian Socialist Workers´ Party and the right - wing Farmers´ Party, which dominated both, the county council and government. The work of the council was conciderably more active in the first half of the 1920s, when on average five meetings a year were held. Later they gathered only twice a year - at the spring meeting they accepted the budget, at the fall meeting they confirmed the financial report from the previous year.

The status of county governments stabilized beginning with the third term of the county council (1923 - 1927). During the authority of the first county council (1917 - 1921) three governments were formed and during the time of the second council (1921 - 1923), four governments had been formed, but later they remained in power from one election to the next. In this period the most outstanding chairman of the county council was socialist Mihkel Neps (1890 - 1937) who held office from 1923 to 1935.

In 1934 a long - term reform of local administration began. Beginning from April 1 county councils were liquidated and their rights, duties and properties were conveyed to the county government formed by the last council. On April 19, 1938 the State Council passed a new county law, forming the one-level local government. The county government was essentially changed to a state institution in the county.

The 11 - member county council consisting of municipal heads was preserved, but it functioned under the leadership of the county governor, appointed by the president for six years. Hendrik Otstavel, who had held the position of county governor since 1935, occupied the post.

The Soviet occupation put an end to the activities of the county councils and governments. On July 25, 1940 the municipality, town and county councils were all dismissed. Since January 1941 the name of county government also disappeared, replaced by executive committee.

ENDEL PÜÜA "Yearbook of Saaremaa Museum"