Post-classical history


Votia (Ger. Watland, Russ. Vodskaya zemlya) was the land situated between the river Narva, the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, and the Izhorian plateau. The native population, related to the northeastern Estonians, were the Votians (Russ. Vod’ or Vozhane). The authentic native names are Vad’jalaizet or Vatjalane. The Votians are first mentioned in written sources from the second half of the eleventh century, when their land was incorporated into the Novgorodian state. The first invasion via Votia into Nov- gorodian territory by Estonians subject to the Order of the Sword Brethren occurred in the winter of 1221-1222.

In the first half of the thirteenth century, the Votians were mostly pagans. Their nobles resented the growing power of the Novgorodian rulers; by the end of the 1230s Roman Catholic preaching among the Votians and other Finnic peoples of the Novgorodian state resulted in a number of Votian noblemen promising to embrace the Latin faith, hoping that the Livonians would help free them from Novgorodian rule. In the winter of 1240-1241, the Teutonic Knights from Livonia and the Estonian vassals of the Danish crown occupied Votia and built a fortress at Kopor’e in concert with the Votian social elite. According to an agreement between the order and the bishop of Osel (13 April 1241), the bishop was to have ecclesiastical authority over any newly conquered lands, while temporal power would belong to the Livonian order. Late in 1241 the order and its allies were expelled from Novgorodian territory by Prince Alexander Yaroslavich, who destroyed the fortress and hanged the Votian traitors.

Archaeological evidence suggests that after these events the Russian Orthodox church made a more active attempt to convert the Finnic peoples to Christianity. At the same time, Roman Catholic attempts at conversion continued. Around 1257 Frederick of Gaseldorf was ordained as bishop of Kopor’e (or Karelia). The new bishopric, which was to depend on the archbishopric of Riga, was meant to be established during a new offensive that was planned for the end of the 1260s. These plans failed and were not renewed after the signing of the Russian-Livonian treaty of 1270.

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