The Moravian movement

The Herrnhut movement eventually had a role in the national and cultural development of Estonia since it encouraged literacy and other cultural pursuits, such as brass bands and choir singing which were popular elsewhere in Europe at the time.

As pioneers of the later awakening movements, the Herrnhuts fought new vices, such as smoking, and after the distillation of alcohol, excessive drinking. Pious Christian life became the norm, which meant an austere life style and a rejection of the pre-Christian cultural heritage which was deemed to be pagan. Thus old customs and beliefs started to fade.

The popularity of the Herrnhut movement lay in its emphasis on simple ‘faith of the heart’ and the fact that indigenous people could for the first time organise their own religious life. An important aspect of the movement was communal prayer, and the peasant farmers who organised prayer meetings could become group leaders (reading brothers). This weakened the control of landlords over the peasants’ religious life, and when religious awakening became associated with peasant rebellions, the Herrnhut movement was frequently banned.

Although Estonia had been officially Christianised by the 13th century, pre-Christian customs and beliefs survived until the first half of the 18th century when the first larger awakening to the Christian faith occurred among the peasantry in the form of the Moravian Brotherhood Congregational Movement (the Herrnhut Movement). The Herrnhuts were also the first missionary movement.

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