History of Mulgimaa

Historical Mulgimaa

The five historical parishes of Halliste, Paistu, Karksi, Helme and Tarvastu are today divided among 10 local governments and, within the current context of Estonia, share a relatively common economic and social background. 

Today, Mulgimaa is divided among 10 municipalities: Abja, Halliste, Tarvastu, Karksi, Helme, Põdrala, Hummuli and Viljandi parishes, as well as Tõrva and Mõisaküla towns.

The five historical parishes of Halliste, Paistu, Karksi, Helme and Tarvastu are today divided among 10 local governments and, within the current context of Estonia, share a relatively common economic and social background.

Until the end of the 19th century, the region was a clearly distinguishable ethnographic and linguistic area within southern Estonia based on the Mulgi language and constitutes a descendent of the ancient county of Sakala.

Mulgimaa stimulates the senses with beautiful alternating landscapes and an equally varied local cultural heritage. Mulgimaa has always been a wealthy place. "Mulgimaal seal on hea elada. Kõikjal ilus loodus, viljakandev maa. Sääl on uhked metsasalud, suured jõukad Eesti talud..." (“It is good to live in Mulgimaa. Beautiful nature and fertile ground everywhere. There are great woods, large wealthy Estonian farms…”) - all the values of Mulgimaa are transcribed into song verse. The Mulgi people were the first farmers in Estonia who in the 19th century started to buy out their farms. The second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries can be considered the golden era of Mulgimaa. But many of the sights and discoveries can still be found today.

The core of historical Mulgimaa, the region where people speak Mulgi dialect, comprises of Halliste, Paistu, Karksi, Helme and Tarvastu parishes as well as parts of Viljandi and Saarde parishes. Mulgimaa was considered the area south of Raudna and Tänassilm rivers – named Viljandimaa or Viljandi county. The area of Mulgimaa coincides with the region the population of which used to speak, and a small part of it still speaks, Mulgi dialect. 
It is commonly thought that Mulgimaa covers the entire Viljandimaa / Viljandi county – Paistu, Kõpu, Viljandi, Tarvastu, Kolga-Jaani, Suure-Jaani, Pilistvere, Põltsamaa parishes; Helme parish in Valgamaa, Halliste and Karksi parishes in former Pärnumaa / Pärnu county. This is called Suur-Mulgimaa / Great Mulgimaa.  
Mulgi dialect, i.e. the South Estonian western dialect is historically much older than the standard Estonian language. Mulgi dialect was distinctive from other ancient South Estonian dialects already at the end of the first millennium, the main rules of the standard Estonian language were established just a little more than a hundred years ago.
Mulks became more widely known at the second half of the 19th century, when wealthy farmers from Mulgimaa and their sons started to buy farms in the neighbouring areas of Tartu County and North Estonia.

In Mulgimaa, there were not enough good farmlands or farm places for sale and therefore, the second and third born sons of Mulgi families started buying farms in other regions in Estonia. For this, they had to desperately save money. This is how “Mulk” became an epitome of a wealthy and stingy man. The name „Mulk“ was used for the first time in the dictionary by F.J Wiedemann (published in 1869).

Eesti Postimees or Näddalaleht of 14 March 1873 writes that "I have not wanted to show anything else but that Mulks are of more enterprising spirit than Tartu people because otherwise Mulks would never have made it into Tartu county!“. 
In Tartu county, buy-out of farms began in 1863, mainly by resettlers who had come from Mulgimaa. By 1895, more than 95% of the farms in Mulgimaa had been bought out for freeholds. This was by far the best result among Estonian counties, and it started in the regions around Halliste and Abja. At the time, there was a saying in Tartu county: „When a Mulk drowns when trying swimming across Emajõgi then it’s an accident but when a Mulk swims out of the river to the other side then it’s a catastrophe!“… because the Mulk will come and buy all the land.

The articles of association of Mulkide Selts (Mulks Association), founded in 1934, states: as of the Mulk origin shall be deemed those ethnic Estonian citizens of the Estonian Republic, whose forefathers had been at the time of villeinage, i.e. around the 1860s, entered into the registers of  Tarvastu or Paistu parishes in Viljandi county or Helme parish in Valga county or in Halliste or Karksi parishes in Pärnu county.
Mulgi origin by mother’s line shall be considered only by one generation back. Children of resettlers or other ethnic Estonian citizens of the Estonian Republic are considered Mulks only when they were born and raised in Mulgimaa and own property in Mulgimaa. Without the latter requirement, the grandchildren of resettler shall be considered Mulks only if they had been born and raised in Mulgimaa.