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Tallinn (Harjumaa, Estonia)


Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: tallinn | estonia | harjumaa | revel | reval | port of tallinn |
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image by Zachary Harden, 13 August 2021

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The official present Estonian name of the city is "Tallinn" (with double L and stress on first syllable). The city was founded by the Danes in 1219 after a great battle against the Estonians in the place of an ancient Estonian fortification which used to be called "Lindanise" (Estonian), "Lindanäs" (Swedish) or "Kolyvan" / "Ledenets" (Russian). It was during this Danish- Estonian battle that, according to legend, the Dannebrog fell from the sky in the hands of king Valdemar II and led the Danes to victory. The lesser Coat of Arms of Tallinn still shows a white cross on red shield, the greater Coat of Arms resembles the Danish Coat of Arms with the three leopards.
After having founded their city and fortress, the Danes started to call it "Reval" because of the surrounding ancient province of Rävala. The name "Reval" was then taken over by the Germans and the Swedes and most of the world. The Russians changed it to "Revel", probably being easier to pronounce. About the Poles I have no idea; maybe they used "Revel", too.
The Estonians have called the place "Tallinn" right from the beginning. The name is derived from the words "Taani linn" which means castle/town of the Danes. Sometimes you can even see the form "Tallin" - used by Russians at least during the Soviet occupation - and "Tallinna" which is the modern Finnish form (previously "Rääveli" was used in Finnish) and the form used by Estonians in the interwar period. Nowadays (since 1918/1945) in foreign languages, even German and Danish, the historical name "Reval" is rarely used and "Tallinn" is the most common form.
Marco Pribilla, 27 November 2001

Tallinn is the Estonian name. It means "the town of the Danes", since the town was founded when Estonia belonged to Denmark for a time in the Middle Ages. Reval is the German name, used by the Teutonic Order when they ruled Estonia, and also used by the German speaking population in Estonia which left the country in the 1930s and 1940s. I think the Danes used a similar name. When Estonia belonged to Sweden, the name Reval was used, but there were also some Swedified forms, like Räffle. I think the Russian name is Tallin.
Elias Granqvist, 27 November 2001

Russian name was "Revel'".
Source: Geography of the USSR, by Theodore Shabad, 1954
Jarig Bakker, 27 November 2001

I think the name in Russian is Tallin and base what I say on the following soviet sources:
- Malyi Atlas SSSR, ed. Glavnoe Upravlenie Geodesii i Kartografii pri Sovyete Ministrov SSSR, 1981
- Atlas Mira, ed. Glavnoe Upravlenie Geodesii i Kartografii pri Sovyete Ministrov SSSR, 1985
- Dicionário Prático Português-Russo, ed. Russkiy Yazyk, 1986
- Dicionário Português-Russo, ed. Russkiy Yazyk, 1982
Jorge Candeias, 28 November 2001

Both are correct. The name "Reval" with its derivations like the Russian "Revel" was widely used before the first Estonian independence ~1219-1918 when the country was under Danish / German / Swedish / Russian domination. When Estonia gained independence, the Estonian form "Tallinn" or "Tallinna" became the official one and was gradually taken over to foreign languages as well. In Russian one "N" was dropped and the name became "Tallin".
Marco Pribilla, 28 November 2001

The phrase "The city was founded by the Danes in 1219" is incorrect.
The city was first mentioned in 1154, which is the universally accepted date. In 1154 what is now Tallinn was first marked on a map by an Arab cartographer Avicenna. The first reliable account of Tallinn's history comes from The Chronicle of Latvian Henrik, wherein Henrik describes the landing of the Danish fleet, led by King Valdemar II, under the city (then called Lindanise or Lindanäs) in June of 1219. The Danes made a battle against what was already a functioning city-fortress, and after it fell to the Danes, the locals began calling it “The Danish Town”. It must have been a rather important and difficult battle, since otherwise the arrival of the Dannebrog from the heavens would have lost its emotional impact. Ergo, Tallinn (Lindanäs) was a town so strong, that the Danes needed the Divine intervention in order to conquer it.
Mart Sander, 27 February 2010

The Flag

The image of the flag of Tallinn was fixed for the first time in a Heraldics Atlas, published in the middle of the XVIII century in Nuremburg. In the middle-ages it was the flag of the commercial fleet of the Hansatown. Ratio: 1:2 (also used at 1:3).
Toomas Mölder, 12 June 1995

At J.W Norie - J.S. Hobbs: Flaggen aller seefahrenden Nationen, 1971[ nor71] (original print 1848):
98 Revel - Six stripes blue over white.
[beL56] has six stripes white over blue for "Pavillon de Revel. en Livonie".
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 12 and 27 November 2001

The flag of Tallin emerged from the oldest coat of arms of medieval Danish clan Hvide. Besides visual sameness (for example ), there is also strong historical connection - one of the Danish leaders of Estonian crusade and first administrator of newly conquered Danish Estonia was archbishop Anders Sunsen from clan of Hvide.
Oscar, 19 August 2011

According to Tallinn Statutes (ยง 9 and 10), the flag of Tallinn has a ratio of 1x2 and the blue shade used on the flag is Pantone 285 (the same shade used on the national flag). (Source)
Zachary Harden, 13 August 2021

Coat of Arms

The Executive Committee of the Council of People's Deputies in 1988 and the new City Council of Tallinn on May 23rd, 1991 confirmed the regulations for the usage of the two historical coats of arms and the flag of the town.
Toomas Mölder

Big Coat of Arms

[Tallin Big Coat of Arms]
image by Toomas Mölder

The history of the big coat of arms of Tallinn begins in the XIII century. The three crowned blue lions Passant guardant descend from the coat of arms of Danish king Waldemar II [1202-1241], the first landlord of the town. In 1788 Russian empress Catherine II corroborated the big coat of arms together with its mantling and crest. During the years 1940-1988 it was not in use. Nowadays it is used on the City Government's seal, official forms, honour certificates etc. without mantling and crest, being the official coat of arms of Tallinn.
Toomas Mölder

Another Coat of Arms appears at: <>.

Dov Gutterman, 1 July 1999

Small Coats of Arms

[Tallin small Coat of Arms with silver crest]
With Silver Crest
[Tallin small Coat of Arms with white crest]
With White Crest

In the XV-XVI centuries the small coat of arms of Tallinn was established after the coat of arms of the Great Guild, which by a wellknown story derived from the Danish flag Danebrog. During the years of the Estonian Republic (1918-1940) the small coat of arms was also used as the coat of arms of the Harju County. Now it is used on souvenirs and on town decorations.
Toomas Mölder

Flags According to Steenbergen Book (1862)

image by Jaume Ollé, 11 May 2003

No. 566b - Reval.
Source: [stb62]
Jaume Ollé, 11 May 2003

image by Jaume Ollé, 14 August 2003

No. 842a - Reval.
Source: [stb62]
Jaume Ollé, 14 August 2003

Port of Tallinn

I just came across a photo of the flag of the Port of Tallinn (Estonia) at :<>, but there is no any explanation
.The official website of the Port of Tallinn gives more information, but nothing about the flag.
"Port of Tallinn is Estonian biggest cargo and passenger harbour complex playing an important role in Estonian transport system and economy on the whole. Port of Tallinn consists of five harbours:
Old City Harbour
Muuga Harbour
Paljassaare Harbour
Paldiski South Harbour
Saaremaa Harbour
All the harbours are navigable round the year, well accessible and with sufficient depth, ready to receive all vessels passing through the Danish Straits.".
Valentin Poposki, 27 February 2007