The rural areas are populated almost entirely by ethnic Estonians, except for Lake Peipus coast, which has a long history of Old Believers communities.
Under Russian rule, power in the region remained primarily in the hands of the Baltic German nobility, but a limited number of administrative jobs was gradually taken over by Russians, who settled in Reval (Tallinn) and other major towns.
A relatively larger number of ethnic Russian workers settled in Tallinn and Narva during the period of rapid industrial development at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
The authorities carried out repressions against many prominent ethnic Russians activists and White emigres in Estonia.
After Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, the Baltics quickly fell under German control.
In 1217, an allied Ugaunian-Novgorodian army defended the Ugaunian stronghold of Otepää from the German knights.