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Estonia - Subdivisions (Overview)

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
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by Antonio Broto, 31 July 2001

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Estonia Subdivisions

My knowledge of Estonian is close to nil, but I did do some checking with a dictionary and with a colleague teaching political science at the University of Tartu. 'Linn' in Estonian means 'castle' and also 'city', 'town' (as in Tallinn -City of the Danes), 'linnad' is plural. 'Vallad' is plural of 'vald', which as far as I could gather from the dictionary, originally means parish. From what I was told about Estonian administrative structure, the 'vallad' are rural municipalities while the 'linnad' are urban municipalities. 'Maakond' means county or province, 'maakonnad' is plural. IIRC I have seen the term 'district' is used for 'maakon' in vexillological literature, though 'county' was the translation offered from Tartu today. The 1993 local government act changed the relationship between the various layers and subdivisions. The counties, maakonad, are no longer a part of the local government structure, instead they have been transformed into regional departments of the central government.
Jan Oscar Engene, 13 June 1997

According to estonian site some linguistic comments. There are 4 sections for estonian state symbols. 1st one (Eesti vabariigi) is for state symbols . 2nd (Eesti maakonnad) for 1st level administrative divisions (maakond) . 3rd (Eesti vallad ja alevid) for 2nd level rural municipalities (valla & alev) . 4th (Eesti linnad) for cities (linn)
Gvido Pētersons, 10 January 1999

Estonia (like in Latvia too) have 2 level administrative divisions. Administrative means with selfgovernment. 1st one is district (maakond). There are 15 districts. 2nd order administrative units are cities (linn) and rural parishes (valla). There are also boroughs (alev), former soviet time townships (alevik). Boroughs have some limited selfgoverning rules inside of parishes (valla).
Gvido Pētersons, 12 January 1999

History of County (Maakonnad) Flags

A word about the flags of the counties (maakoad). These are all based on the same model: Horizontal bicolour of white over green with the county arms in the centre of the white stripe. The book _EEsti vapid ja lipud: 16 sajand-1940_ by Tiiu Oja and Eero Medijainen (Tallinn, 1993) says the county flags were confirmed in 1939. Many Estonian civic flags existed before the Soviet occupation, including most of the county flags.
Jan Oscar Engene, 13 June 1997

I have dug into the Flag Bulletin archives and found an article by Arnold Rabbow that was published in FB Vol. III, No. 2 [10], Winter 1963-64, entitled "The Last 365 Days of Freedom: District Flags of Estonia" which is about the 'maakonnad' flags of white over green with the arms centered on the white stripe. Although much of the information is the same as that posted on the Estonian web site at <>, there are some significant differences, particularly in the number of maakonnad there are. According to Rabbow, there were 11 maakonnad; the ee website says 15. Rabbow lists one not on that site and that site lists 5 not in the Rabbow article. Rabbow gives the arms of the two maakonnad which are listed on the site without illustrations ("POLE VEEL OLEMAS ... ...ON TULEMAS" whatever that means), Harjumaa and Valgamaa. Here is a chart listing the maakonnad from each source and the differences in or the additional arms listed in the FB.

web site

Differences in Arms/flag in FB

1. Harjumaa

1. Harjumaa White Latin Cross on red
2. Hiiumaa NOT LISTED
3. Ida-Virumaa NOT LISTED
4. Jõgevamaa NOT LISTED
5. Järvamaa 2. Järvamaa Waves do not touch edge of shield
6. Läänemaa 3. Läänemaa
7. Lääne-Virumaa 4. Virumaa
8. Põlvamaa NOT LISTED
9. Pärnumaa 5. Pärnumaa
NOT LISTED 6. Petserimaa Yellow harp on blue
10. Raplamaa NOT LISTED
11. Saaremaa 7. Saaremaa Waves do not touch edge of shield
12. Tartumaa 8. Tartumaa
13. Valgamaa 9. Valgamaa Div. diag. from canton, 4 W 5-pointed stars/B over W
14. Viljandimaa 10. Viljandimaa
15. Võrumaa 11. Võrumaa

According to Rabbow, the arms were granted to the 11 maakonnad on 5 February 1937 by decisions No. 50-60 of the Head of State (President Konstantin Päts) and published in the "Estonian State Gazette" ("Riigi Teataja") of 31 March, 1937, No. 26, Arts. 224-234. He also says the see "EESTI, Teatmeteos, IV Osa, Kultuur, ERS-i ja EükS-i väljaanne" (Geislingen/St.: 1949), plate IV. Eight of the 11 district arms weredepicted on two Estonian welfare stamp issues of 1939 and 1940. The flags were granted to the 11 maakonnad on 7 August 1939 by President Päts; the decree was published in the "State Gazette" of 15 August 1939, No. 68, Art. 554. It was signed by President Päts, Prime Minister Charles Eenpalu, and the Minister of Justice A. Assor (acting for the Minister of the Interior). The Soviet union annexed Estonia on 6 August 1940; the 11 maakonnad were abolished formally in October 1950 when 39 rayony (administrative units) were established. I'm not sure what happened after 1989. Rabbow says the flags were all specified by the 1939 decree to be 110 x 220 cm (1:2) with the arms to be 42 cm in height.
Dave Martucci, 20 June 1997

Estonian Subdivisions During the Soviet Era (1944-1991)

At the end of the Second World War there were 11 counties (maakonnad, singular - maakond). 1945 Petserimaa is divided between Pskov Region in Russia SFSR and Võrumaa and Tartumaa in Estonian SSR (10 counties). 1946 new county of Hiiumaa is added (11 counties). 1949 new counties of Jõgevamaa and Jõhvimaa are added (13 counties).
On 26 September, 1950 all counties are divided between 39 districts (rajoonid, singular - rajoon). This were Abja, Antsla, Elva, Haapsalu, Harju, Hiiumaa, Jõgeva, Jõhvi, Kallaste, Keila, Kilingi-Nõmme, Kingissepa (1950-1952 Kuressaare), Kiviõli, Kose, Lihula, Loksa, Mustvee, Märjamaa, Orissaare, Otepää, Paide, Põltsamaa, Põlva, Pärnu, Pärnu-Jaagupi, Rakvere, Rapla, Räpina, Suure-Jaani, Tapa, Tartu, Tõrva, Türi, Valga, Vastseliina, Viljandi, Väike-Maarja, Vändra, Võru.
From 1952 to 1953 there were also 3 regions (oblastid, singular - oblast) - Pärnu, Tallinn, Tartu. All 39 districts were then subdivisions of regions.
1957 Loksa and Pärnu were abolished (37 districts).
1959 Antsla, Jõhvi, Kallaste, Kilingi-Nõmme, Kiviõli, Kose, Mustvee, Orissaare, Otepää, Pärnu-Jaagupi, Suure-Jaani, Tõrva, Türi, Vastseliina were abolished (23 districts).
1961 Lihula, Räpina abolished (21 districts).
1962 Abja, Elva, Keila, Märjamaa, Põltsamaa, Tapa, Väike-Maarja, Vändra were abolished. Pärnu was added. (14 districts)
1964 Kohtla-Järve was added. (15 districts)
The districts were divided to urban settlements (towns (linnad, singular - linn) and boroughs (alevid, singular - alev)) and to rural municipalities (külanõukogud, singular - külanõukogu). The number of these changed also over the period. 1986 there were 33 towns, 24 boroughs, 189 rural municipalities.
In addition to the districts there were 6 towns under direct government administration. Kohtla-Järve, Narva, Pärnu, Sillamäe, Tallinn, Tartu. These were not part of the districts even the four of these were sites for the district administration. Tallinn was divided to 4 subdivisions (linnarajoonid, singular - linnarajoon). Mererajoon, Kalinini, Lenini, Oktoobri.
On 1 January, 1990 all districts were renamed to counties. You have to note that the borders of  current counties and municipalities don't match with the borders during the first Estonian Republic even if the names are same.
Source: Estonian Encyclopedia.
Erki Kurrikoff, 8 April 2001