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Osmussaar / Vorstellung

Osmussaar is the furthest northwestern point in Estonia and has stunning scenery as well as fascinating past. Osmussaar, in Odensholm Swedish, got its name after the Viking’s chief god Odin, who as the legend goes, is buried on the island. For about 500 years the island was inhabited by coastal Swedes. Fifty years as a Soviet military base has left the island desolate and uninhabited.
Osmussaar is situated in the Noarootsi commune, in Lääne County. The area of the island is 4.7 km2; the nearest distance from Põõsaspea on the mainland is 7.5 km. The island is about 5 km long and 1.6 km wide. The highest elevation is 8 meters above sea level. The island’s land in the northwest rises by about 2-3 millimeters a year; which means that, Osmussaar may have emerged from the sea only about 2000-3000 years ago.
Junipers and steep limestone banks mark the dramatic landscape. The rising of the surface has created small pools of water that are cut away from the sea. There are around ten such tiny freshwater lakes on the island, some of them have turned into bogs or meadows. There are lot of rare and scientifically valuable geological sights - denuded rocks of the bedground, beach ridges, erratic boulders and many others. Osmussaar's Landscape Reserve was established in 1996 to help protect the landscape and the natural associations of the island.
Before World War II 120 people, mainly Swedes, lived on the island. All the inhabitants were forced to leave the island in 1940, when Estonia entered into the treaty with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Army took over the island and created fortifications. During the battle of 1941 more than 1000 men defended the island. In spite of the efforts of the Germans the Russians resisted for nearly 3 months, maintaining control over the entrance into the Gulf of Finland. Osmussaar was the last foothold in Estonia that was given up to the Germans.
When the Soviet Army left the island after 50 years of using the island as a base, it left the buildings in a good state. As the last Swedish occupants lived as a community without any private property no land was returned to private owners. For now the houses are devastated and destroyed, and the Swedish population is remembered only in the names of the places.
It takes about 4-8 hours to get a quick overview of the island; 2-3 days are required for deeper insight. The island can be reached from the Dirhami harbor; the boat ride takes an hour.
The sights include the stone Chapel of Jesus, now in ruins, and the cemetery with memorials to the historical inhabitants. In August of 1914 the German battleship "Magdeburg" ran ashore nearby Osmussaar. The memorial to the perished seamen was erected near the lighthouse on the coast. Its’ stone fence is still noticeable.
The first lighthouse on the island was built in 1766. From 1804-1941 there was a stone lighthouse on the island, but it was destroyed during the war. The present reinforced concrete lighthouse was built in 1954.

Osmussaar / Gallery

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