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The Grand Duchy of Saaremaa, Saaremaa, Duchy of Osel, is a constitutional monarchy on the Baltic Sea. It lies to the North of Livonia and to the West of Estonia. It is the smallest of the independent states of the Baltic with a population of only around 154,000. Its capital is Kuressaare.
Its current head of state is Grand Duke Jaan IV.
Saaremaa uses the Estonian Kroon (EKK).
Its official language is Estonian. Livonian, Finnish (all closely related) and Danish are also used widely.
Saaremaa was originally under Kievian influence. After the division of Kievian lands Novgorod exercised nominal control during the 11th century.
A dukedom was established by Cnut VI of Denmark on the island of Osel (Saaremaa) in 1197 as a base for further crusades in Estonia. Danish conquest of Northern Estonia was complete by 1217 following the Battle of Lyndanisse.
In 1222 Denmark handed the duchy over to the Bishop of Osel-Wiek and moved their capital Eastwards to Reval (Tallinn) as pressure from the Livonian Order of crusaders increased. The Bishop, Konrad, however was not well liked and Saaremaa island rebelled in September that year. The leader of the rebellion, Ylle styled himself Duke. Denmark and the papacy agreed to send Osel a new bishop and Ylle, his family and most local lords were baptised. Konrad meanwhile called for assistance to reclaim his bishopric. Valdemar of Viken, the regent of Svealand, answered his call, hastily arranging an army. However the attack failed and the force was driven into the sea at the Battle of Leisi.
The Duchy fought several small wars with Livonia, whose rulers regarded the duchy and its dukes as pagan and therefore a fair target for crusade. This threat lessened after the Order's defeat by Novgorod at Lake Peipus in 1242. Subsequently the dukes of Saaremaa followed a close policy with that of Denmark, who allowed Saaremaa's continued independence in return for naval assistance in the Gulfs of Finland and Riga. They were eventually rewarded for the loyalty with the Bishopric of Osel's remaining lands on the mainland in 1302.
As Svealand descended into a long and bitter civil war Saaremaa took over a large part of the trade of the Eastern Baltic. This, coupled with the increasing divisions within Livonia, allowed the duchy much more freedom and a healthy income to maintain a small army and a well-provisioned navy. The duchy was relatively untouched by the Black Death.
Being virtually contiguous with the Bishopric of Osel-Wiek and therefore low on non-trade taxes and manpower the ducal court never reached the wealth or splendor of many of its contemporaries, however as the dukes regularly married into the German families of the Livonian Order it was left with a scattered but profitable landholding throughout the region. This careful practice of marriage ensured many prominent Livonian families were well disposed to the Duchy and this contributed towards maintaining its independence.
The reformation was largely peaceful, the duchy having been flooded with Lutheran texts, and preachers from Finland and Danish Estonia converting much of the small population. Duke Konstanin converted to Lutheranism in 1546 and the Bishopric of Osel's lands were dissolved two years later.
Duchess Loviisa attempted to keep Saaremaa out of the Great Baltic War but was invaded and conquered by a resurgent Svealand in 1765 after refusing to hand over its formidable navy. It then suffered repeated invasions from Novgorod before finally a united Kalmar Union liberated the duchy and restored the dynasty. After the Treaty of Lubeck the Duchy was raised to Grand Duchy and it was awarded various small tracts of land in Northern Livonia. A major protest in 1821 concerning spiraling food prices led to the lessening of monarchical powers and the full empowerment of the parliament.
Saaremaa was crucial in the War of Finnish Independence of 1801, its navy preventing Helsinki harbour from falling to Novgorodian warships and threatened lines of communication to the point where Novgorod was forced into accepting a ceasefire.
Saaremaa is a constitutional monarchy. Its current head of state is Duke Jaan IV and although the position is little more than ceremonial the Grand Duke and his family are popular and well trusted. The Prime Minister is August Eenpalu.
The Grand Duchy is divided into 4 regions, their governors are appointed by the Saaremaa parliament.
The vote for women is currently being discussed and is quite likely to be approved.
Saaremaa is a signatory to the 4th Kalmar Union and as such is protected by its partners. However under special terms it is not bound to participate in any operations outside of the Baltic Sea. Therefore it does not participate in the current Portuguese campaign.
Saaremaa conscripts its male youth for a period of 2 years on their 18th birthday. They are either conscripted into the navy or the small but well trained army.
The navy is smaller than it once was and has no top-of-the-line vessels, these being prohibitively expensive. However, it does still lead Europe in naval technology. The Kalmar Union's naval research academy is located just outside Kuressaare. The Tyr battleship was designed and built in Saaremaa, and Saaremese engineers are currently experimenting with submarine technology.