WHEN THE LAND AND LAKES WERE FORMED AND ANIMALS AND HUMANS ARRIVED
The landscape of Tsiistrenukk began to form 13,000 years ago, when the last chunks of continental ice sheets and melt water spread a layer of glacial till 20-30 metres thick over previously deposited limestone and sandstone sediments. Many small lakes and pools were left, the lower ones started turning into marsh as plants colonized them. One lake was quite large, with a number of arms, and its remnants today are Kisõjärv, Luikjärv, Pahijärv, Antjärv, Kurgjärv, Vuuhjärv, Sõdaluse Lake, Kõrbjärv, Mägialusõ Lake, Immaku Lake, Saarjärv and Pulli Lake. After fish had swum up and down streams to the lakes, and animals migrated over the rolling landscape and birds flew into the bushes, people, too, settled by the lakeshores. As far as we know, the oldest sign of human activity in these parts is shards of flint dating back 8,600 years. They were found from a stone barrow located along the road leading from the current Tsiistre village centre toward Vastseliina, a couple hundred metres east of Mära Lake. The people who left these traces were probably Finno-Ugric hunters and gatherer tribes who migrated from the east to the Baltic Sea waters. Over the centuries they were influenced by neighbours and conquerors from near and far. They built their farms, survived collectivization of agriculture under the Soviets and today Nopri dairy and Siberi farm are the most prominent local farms.
WHEN THE GERMANS CAME, SETOS AND LATVIANS BECAME THEIR NEIGHNOURS
A couple thousand years ago, the Roman traveller Tacitus called the people living on the eastern shores of the Baltic the Aestii, which is where the Estonian name for Estonia, Eesti, comes from. During major displacements of people several hundred years later, a trade and military route was trodden through Tsiistrenukk. Two cultures met along this road: läänelikule kivikalmele lisandusid ida poolt kääpad. According to historical records from 862 CE, when they had arrived on the other side of the Peipsi and Pskov Lakes and the Velikaya River, Scandinavian Vikings established Irboska fortress - the closest one to Tsiistrenukk. Luhte, an Estonian fortress, stood on the northern edge of Tsiistrenukk. At the same time, Slavic tribes from central Europe had reached the Russian principalities and in 1030, the Prince of Kievan Russia Yaroslav the Wise conquered Tartu, naming it Yuryev. As agriculture had been practiced for a number of centuries in Adsele county and its north-western fringe, Tsiistrenukk, and the people had become affluent, the Russians often conducted raids in the area. Russian chroniclers called one such incursion in 1178–1180 to the vicinity of Aluliina (Alūksne) a military strike against Otšela tšuudid (Tšudskoje being the Russian name for the great lake, Peipsi). As the Latgales – who were a Baltic tribe – had become an obstacle on the Slavs and Russians, they had to migrate northward toward Adsele. Part of the Finno-Ugrians also were in the same situation with regard to the Germans who founded Riga in 1201 and were forced to migrate to the vicinity of Adsele. And thus, the Latvian people – southern neighbours of Adsele county as well as of Tsiistrenukk - took shape gradually from Latgallic, Liv and Estonian stock. The Finno-Ugrians to the east of the border fortress of Neuhausen (Vastseliina) and Marienburg (Alūksne) built by German order and bishops, became, over the centuries, Tsiistrenukk’s eastern neighbours, the Setos.
FROM FREEHOLDINGS TO ABANDONED FARMS AWAITING NEW LIFE
Whether the Germans, Poles, Swedes or Russians ruled the land, Tsiistrenukk was always governed by Vastseliina manor. A school operated in Tsiistre from 1857 to the 1970s and the education of the people allowed 29 farms to be bought by their former serfs. The manor lord was paid an instalment up until the First World War and only then did the true era of peasant landowners begin from some, others remained landless and a third contingent became scattered. Mihkel Kommer, who lived in Hürsi village, finished a windmill on his farm and wanted to build a town there as well. Karl Taaber, an influential man in the same village, made many spinning wheels and also turned out 13 children. The father of Peeter Udras of Põnni village, also named Peeter, had talked the manor lord out of the idea of a cattle farming manor in Tsiistrenukk. Jaan Nagel, who had bought a farm in Kärinä, and Tsiistre local Mihkel Hummal’s son Peeter built shops in Tsiistre. The Soviets turned the farms into three kolkhozes – Metsa, Tsiistre and Darwin, and ultimately merged them into the Tsiistre department of the Misso sovkhoz. When Estonia restored independence, land was once again surveyed for new farms adn to the rightful owners. The great-grandson of Põnni village’s Mihkel Niilo, Tiit, build Nopri farm and the dairy and Peeter Umbleja’s great-grandson Arvi established the pig farm. The rest of the farmsteads are more modest in scope right now or lie dormant, waiting for new life. The community in Tsiistrenukk is smaller than it used to be, as the land with its clay, sand, gravel and stone composition, was not able to meet contemporary needs as effectively as in the old days. The average age of the community has fallen in the last few decades, however: