After the earth fortifications behind Harju Gate were levelled in the early 19th century, the area, which is known today as Vabaduse (Freedom) Square, was just an empty site. By the middle of the century it had become a haymarket (heinaturg in Estonian), a place where hay, straw, firewood, farm animals and birds were sold. The first large building to be built on the edge of the future city square was St John’s Church (Jaanikirik) (1862–1867). There was a public well in the middle of the square and on the southern side a parking place for coachmen.
It was not until 1910 that Haymarket began to develop into a city parade ground when a monument to Peter I was erected to commemorate the bicentenary of the surrender of Tallinn to the Russian forces. The muddy market square was tidied up and paved, and parades and official events were now held there.
The square has been used for parades and public gatherings that were important for Tsarist Russia, the Republic of Estonia, the various occupation forces and other groups. However, not everything that has taken place on the square has been organised or controlled by the authorities. On occasion the citizens have had a chance to have their say. Looking at the photographs on display in the exhibition each person can decide for themselves just how much freedom Vabaduse (Freedom) Square has seen over the decades.
Create your own exhibition:
In conjunction with the exhibition there is a public programme My Vabaduse Square during which everyone can send us, by email or print out and bring, your most eloquent photograph of Vabaduse Square. We also ask that you attach a story about why you selected this photograph. The photographs will be on show during the exhibition on specially designed display pillars.