Naissaar (German: Nargen; Swedish: Nargö) is an island northwest of Tallinn (but belonging to the Viimsi Parish) in Estonia. The island covers an area of 18.6 km². It is 13-14 km long and 6 km wide, and lies about 8.5 km from the mainland. The highest point on the island is Kunilamägi, which is 27 meters above sea-level. The island consists predominantly of coniferous forest and piles of stones and boulders.
Vikings had viseted the island in ancent times. Estonian Swedish fishermen were well-established on the island by the 15th Century, and the Swedes erected a small fortress there in 1705 during the Great Northern War with the Russian Empier.
After the war Estonia became part of the Russian Empire.The Tsar had a new fortress, with five bastions, built in 1720, for the defense of Tallinn and St. Petersburg.The island received a lighthouse in 1788, though the present lighthouse was biult in 1960 and is 47 meters tall. Russia biult a small naval port on the island in Victorian times.
The Russians built a new fort during the First World War.
In December 1917, a group of Russian sailors under the leadership of Stepan Petrichenko took controle of Naissaar Island and proclaimed an independent 'socialist republic' of "Soviet Republic of Soldiers and Fortress-Builders of Nargen". The Russian sailors, who numbered about 80 to 90 men, formed a provisional government and levied taxes upon the local population.
At this point the new Estonian government appealed to the German army for assistance against the rebel island. The "republic" ceased to exist two days later, on February 26, 1918, when German forces occupied the island, causing the Russians to flee. The sailors fled to Kronstadt, where Petrichenko came to play an important role in the later Kronstadt uprising.
After the departure of the occupieing German troops, the Estonian Provisional Government executed 40 Bolshevik prisoners of war,in February 1919. The island then officaly became part of the new Estonian Republic in 1920.Estonia also used Naissaar as a naval base. In 1934 The army of the Republic of Estonia continued to use the railway for military purposes throughout the 1930s.
The Red Army occupied Naissar in 1940, only to have the German Wehrmacht displace it a few months later. Red Army then retook it in 1944.
The Soviet naval base was in use trough out the Cold War and unintentionally damaged the environment. It closed in 1993. The Island became part of Estonia on Estonia's indpendence day in 1991.
450 people lived on the island during 1934, of whom 291 were Estonians, most of whom in turn were part of the Estonian army. The population of Swedish fishermen preferred the Germans, and began to migrate to Sweden, rather than continue under either Russian, Estonian or Soviet rule.
Until the Second World War, the island's population numbered about 450 people of mixed Estonian-Swedish- Viking origin. Most of them fled during the war and Naissaar island the fell under Soviet rule and became top secret military area and totally off-limits to the public and tourists. The Red Army drove out the local Germans and the small German garrison on the island in 1944 and the last of the Swedish-speaking fishermen took refuge in Swedenduring 11945.
As of 2005, the island had a population of ten. Now the island has three dozen or so permanent residents and some summer residents.
One A notable native of the island was Bernhard Schmidt, the Swedish-Estonian optician who invented the Schmidt telescope in 1930.
Naissaar was made into a nature reserve in 1995.
The Soviet naval base was in use trough out the Cold War and unintentionally damaged the environment. It closed in 1993.
A multitude burned out metal casings for Soviet naval mines destroyed by the leaving troops in 1993 are scattered throughout the island. Many of these were scavenged by the Estonians and nearby Russians as scrap iron during the 1990’s, but a field full of former sea mines is still partly visible near the wharf at the settlement of Mädasadam.
A further bad legacy of the Soviet arms industry is that the soil of the island remains contaminated by oil and heavy metals.
The Island can be reached by a boat to the wharf at the settlement of Mädasadam.
A civilian helicopter belonging to the Estonian-Finish airline, Copterline, crashed to the east of the island on August 10th, 2005. The accident resulted in the deaths of all 14 people onboard the helicopter. Both Estonian, UK, Copterline, Russian and Finnish authoraties agreed it was a genuine axident caused by servo-gear faliuer. The USA accused Copterline of lack of due care in it's safty procedures and the Finns had temporaly banned it from there airspace earlyer due to it's relliance on inexsperence crews.