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History

The Pandivere Heights were first populated in the first century AD. The earliest written reference to the surroundings of Väike-Maarja dates from the 13th century. In 1219 Henricus de Lettis mentioned Avispea in his Chronicon Livoniae; Avispea, Aburi, Assamalla, Veadla and Kullenga were mentioned in the Danish Assessment Book (written in 1231-1254).

Väike-Maarja parish was formed in the 14th century and a church was built here. A small settlement of Kassisaba (Cat´s tail) (Katysap, Katesap) in the neighbourhood of the church was mentioned in 1499. It is not known whether any of it was left standing by the end of the Russian-Livonian War, but in the course of the Great Northern War all of it was turned to ashes. The C. Kelch Chronicle says that already after the first years of the war there was not one building, in which to find shelter, standing between Viru-Jaagupi and Tapa. After the Great Northern War life in the neighbourhood of the church was re-established very slowly. A pastor's house was built in 1750. A century later only the buildings of the parsonage, the farm of the parish clerk, the Kaarma and Ärina inns and a few huts were standing here.

The more active building of houses started in 1860 and continued till the turn of the century. After the land reform in the 1920s the building of houses started again. On 29 July 1941 the local communists and Red Army soldiers set fire to Väike-Maarja. The fire destroyed twenty buildings.

After the war some new stone houses, the administration building of Väike-Maarja County and the department store among them, were erected on the site of the burnt houses. A hospital (now an old people´s home and a health centre) was completed in 1974, and a new house for the secondary school (gümnaasium) in 1976. The administration building of Väike-Maarja collective farm which at present houses Väike-Maarja Training Centre (vocational school) and the municipality government was completed in 1990.

Kiltsi started to develop with the building of a railway line between Tapa and Tartu (opened in 1877). At first only the station building stood there, but new facilities, needed for the railway, were added from year to year. Of great importance to the development of the village were the building of a paved road to Väike-Maarja during the First World War and the opening of a post office, a butcher´s shop, a dairy etc. Kiltsi became the commercial and industrial centre for the people living in its neighbourhood. The development of intellectual life was as rapid.

History of Education
Already in the Swedish times, in the middle of the 17th century country people were required to know how to read and to know the Bible. A hundred years later the first village schools were opened on the territory of the parish, but they did not work for long. Schools in villages were reopened in the 1830s. A parish school was first opened in Väike-Maarja in 1723, then reopened in 1750, and it has worked continuously since 1873 when it got its rooms in the confirmation house at 3 Pikk Street. The school became a good one while Peeter Koidu, a good economist and pedagogue, was the headmaster of the school from 1883 to 1892. It was most appreciated at the time of the writer Jakob Tamm from 1893 to 1907. When no more girls were accepted to school because of lack of room, a girls´ school was founded in 1901 (it was united with the parish school in 1907).

In the years of the First Republic of Estonia two schools worked in Väike-Maarja: a 6-year elementary school (with a two-year continuation school) and a gymnasium (secondary school). The elementary school was supported by the state, but the gymnasium was mainly financed by the gymnasium supporters´ society, on whose initiative a wooden house for the gymnasium was erected at 1 Pikk Street. The elementary school got an extension to its building in 1938. During the Soviet times these two schools were united into a secondary school (keskkool). In 1995 the secondary school was renamed gümnaasium, and there are about 650 pupils at the present time.

The former Triigi kindergarten-elementary school was united with Väike-Maarja Gümnaasium on 1 September 2001.

Väike-Maarja Agricultural School was founded in 1962. First electricians, then tractor drivers were trained here. Two schools - State Rescue School and a vocational school - were formed on the basis of this school.

In the surroundings of Kiltsi education has been provided for nearly 140 years. The first school was founded in 1855.

A kindergarten has worked in Väike-Maarja since 1951. There are kindergarten groups also in Triigi and Kiltsi.

Cultural life
National awakening in Väike-Maarja took place in the last quarter of the 19th century. The opening of a parish school in 1873, became a turning point in the local cultural life, because thanks to the school Peeter Koit, a writer, Mihkel Kampmaa, a historian of literature and the author of textbooks, Samuel Lindpere, a musician, Jakob Tamm, a poet, Enn Murdmaa, a schoolman, and Jaan Port, later a professor of botany, came to work here. Johan Elken, a choral music enthusiast, worked at Assamalla village school. In the 1870s a choir was formed from the teachers of the parish and it took part in the second song festival in 1879. Later a mixed choir was also formed here. A library was opened in 1880, in 1882 the first play was staged by Jakob Liiv. At his initiative a literary group, called Parnass, was formed, to which Peeter Jakobson, the first photographer in Väike-Maarja, Kaarel Krimm, a bookshop owner, Mihkel Kampmaa, a teacher and parish clerk, Jakob Tamm and Otto Münther have belonged at different times.

In the last decade of the 19th century the founding of societies started: in 1896 an agricultural society, a brass band and a firemen´s society were founded. Later an insurance company, a savings and loan association, a consumers´ cooperative association and a cooperative association for sharing machinery grew out of the agricultural society. In 1912 Väike-Maarja Agricultural Society built a club house for itself with the help of voluntary work, donations and loans. The loans were paid back in the course of seven years, mainly from the money got from selling tickets.

In 1922 the music society became the organisor of musical life. It organised three local song festivals (the first one in 1910). There were choirs and orchestras working, ball dancing courses organised, even musical comedies staged. At the end of the 1930s there were nearly 20 societies in Väike-Maarja.

The first choir in Kiltsi was founded in 1908 and busy social life continued until 1940s. In addition to choirs there were an educational society, a firemen´s society, string orchestras, folk dance and ball dance groups, a drama society etc. A community centre was built and it is still in use. Two song festivals were organised and albums about them published. Society activities spread also to the neighbouring villages. The village of Nõmme, for example, had its own brass band.

At present Väike-Maarja and Kiltsi community centres and Väike-Maarja, Kiltsi and Triigi libraries are in charge of running the cultural life of the municipality. The Väike-Maarja Museum provides an informative account of the past and the present of the whole district.