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The hill of Crosses

Location: N59° 0` 36.16", E22° 39` 12.7"

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Ristimägi (The Hill of Crosses) is a sandy rough area covered with crosses near Kõrgessaare road and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hiiumaa. Despite of its name there is no big mountain or even hill. 

There are two explanations how the hill of crosses came into being, but its connection to the deportation of the Swedes of Reigi parish in August 1781 has historical proofs. Despite of the fact that Swedish peasants in Hiiumaa were free people and protected by rights, they ended up stripped of their land by Jacob Stenbock who was the landowner and didn't want to pay for the farm work, because Estonian peasants were serfs at that time and had to work without any pay. Catherine the Great of Russia signed a decree allowing the Swedes to resettle in a new area in southern Ukraine where vast fertile areas we abandoned because of Russian – Turkish war. 967 Swedes, who lived on the land of Stenbock's left the island. Think, how far the Ukraine is from Estonia – around 45, 000 km. People moved on foot, the carriages were for their personal belongings. There were no proper roads and places to stay overnight. A lot of people left the island in winter when the sea was covered by ice. The last leavers gathered together for a final church service at the border of Reigi parish what is now Ristimägi on August 20, 1781. They made a farewell cross to to say good-bye to the place which had been home for Swedes for almost five hundred years. By May 1782 only 535 persons had survived the journey and arrived in Ukraine. At first, the hill of crosses was a place where anyone leaving the island went to make and place their cross. Nowadays things have changed: it is newcomers and first-time visitors to the island who make and leave crosses. 

As it wasn't appropriate to speak about deportation in Soviet times and Swedish people living in Hiiumaa in general, people made up a new explanation for the crosses. Th legend about two wedding parties. Once two wedding parties met on the way back from church. The road was narrow and so a fight broke out. During the fight, the groom from one wedding party and the bride from the other were killed. The surviving groom and bride then married each other and lived happily ever after. People started to put crosses there in memory of the dead couple. It is considered appropriate to make a cross out of local material: stones, cones, branches- at this place to remember people, or just for good luck. If you wish something then in your mind, it will become true during your lifetime.  

An interesting memorial has been erected at Ristimägi, made of two millstones by the people of Hiiumaa and the descendants of Hiiumaa Swedes on the 210th anniversary of the deportation of the Swedes - August 20, 1991. The date has added significance, Estonia declared independence on that day after 50 years of Soviet occupation.