The Oesel Noble Corporation
The Oesel Noble Corporation is one of the family of Baltic noble corporations. It holds firm to its traditions and to the Association of Baltic Noble Corporations as long as the words of the "Glows der Ritterschop in der Wick vnd vp Osel" will remain in validity:
" The Word of God Remains Eternal"
(Das Wort Gottes Bleibt Ewig)
Oesel's history as part of the West began with the capture of the island of Oesel by German knights between 1205 and 1277. During this period most of the island and the county of Wieck, on the main lands, became episcopal property, while the island Moon and the eastern section of Oesel fell to the Teutonic Order.
The history of Oesel's Noble Corporation began in 1238, when the Seeland Convention recognized its right of co-governance together with the episcopal chapter. The island and its noble corporation experienced different foreign sovereigns over the centuries - the Kings of Denmark from 1560 to 1645, of Sweden from 1645 to 1713, and finally the Zar of Russia between 1713 and 1918.
In 1741-42 was established the roll of member families of the Oesel Noble Corporation (Matrikel). Since then until WW I. the corporation admitted German or germanized families into its roll of nobility if they had acquired estates on the island and were judged to be of good character and reputation. This roll has now been closed by history and admissions are not possible any more. As a result, membership in the Oesel Noble Corporation is restricted to those descended through legitimate birth in the male line from an individual or family registered in the roll of nobility , or to women marrying a male member of the corporation.
The Oesel Noble Corporation experienced many vicissitudes after the Estonian Republic in 1919 liquidated it, abolished the nobility and its privileges and expropriated their estates.
Many members left the island. Those remaining formed a new organization in 1920, the Oesel Social and Charitable Association (Oeselsche Gemeinnützige Verband) in order, as its statutes stated, "to foster its general interests as well as those of its individual and family members".
This organization terminated abruptly with the October 1939 resettlement (Umsiedlung) of the German Balts from Oesel to Germany or German-held territory. The future of the individuals and of the families became uncertain as also a reestablishment of the corporation at a new place.
Once resettled, mostly in the Wartegau region of occupied Poland, members of the former four Baltic noble corporations attempted to put together a new single unifying body. This led in August 1941 to the foundation in Posen of the Association for the Advancement of Genealogical Studies of Members of the former Baltic Noble Corporations (Verband für Sippenkunde und Sippenpflege der Angehörigen der ehemaligen Baltischen Ritterschaften). The four corporations became subgroups of this association and their chairmen sat on its board.
This new association set itself several tasks: to carry on the corporations' family registers and to continue with the publication of the Genealogical Handbook of Baltic Noble Corporations (Genealogisches Handbuch der Baltischen Ritterschaften). The individual noble corporations were not legally or independently reestablished through creation of this new association. Continuity was, however, anchored in the status as subgroups of the Association and in the memory of its members.
Flight from the eastern territories, and the complete collapse of political and administrative institutions at the end of WW II as well as the struggle for survival led to a complete stop of the activities of this association.
Interest in founding a new organization to tie together the members of the noble corporations only reappeared in West Germany once public security and personal survival seemed guaranteed. In February 1949 the Association for the Genealogical Study of Members of the former Baltic Noble Corporations (Verband für Sippenkunde der Angehörigen der ehemaligen Baltischen Ritterschaften) was founded in Hannover. The name was eventually changed to its current one - Association of Baltic Noble Corporations (Verband der Baltischen Ritterschaften).
The individual corporations' continued existence is now guaranteed by the status as branches of the association. Each corporation operates as a separate entity electing its own chairman and executive committee. The four corporations' chairmen are members of the Association's ruling board. The chairmen and deputies of the four corporative executive committees are also members of the council (Rat) and all members of the committees sit in the association's assembly. As a result, elected representatives of the Oesel Noble Corporation and those of the other three corporations sit in the Association's decision-making committees, where they assume responsibilities both as members of their individual corporation as well as Association members. The four noble corporations understand them selves as active groups within the Association, which represents them to the outside.
The Oesel Noble Corporation and its members have followed the reestablishment of the Baltic states' independence with great interest and sympathy. The revival of Estonian independence has led to a revision of the Oesel Noble Corporation's view of itself and of its activities. The corporation and its members have established contacts with individuals, organizations and the administration in Oesel. In the light of the corporation's centuries old history there and its traditional responsibilities for the territory and the population, the corporation and individual members have organized support for Oesel covering cases of personal need or shortages of medicine, of support for education and research into history, and seeing to the retention there of the cultural values developed over time by the corporation and its families.
The Oesel Noble Corporation rejoices that cultural values and objects created by it and its member families have been declared worthy of preservation, and that its history and that of member families has been recognized as an integral part of the common history. It further follows and supports the Baltic states' efforts to join the European Union. The corporation believes that this development will produce the desired external security and internal prosperity for these countries.
In assuming their current responsibilities, the present generation of Oesel Noble Corporation members dedicates its efforts to the memory of their forefathers, who served the community with selflessness and devotion over almost eight hundred years. From this is derived the responsibility by current and coming generations to act in the same way and to hold firm to the corporative motto chosen by the forefathers:
"The Word of God Remains Eternal"
(Das Wort Gottes Bleibet Ewiglich = D W G B E)