Open search
« Tuna 1 / 2018

“This Fine City will become Deserted and Destitute“: Tallinn’s Economic Situation in the 1620s – 1630s II

The second part of this article examines the use of the monies received from Tallinn’s customs duty rental in 1623–1629 (Table 2). According to the customs duty rental conditions, the rental income transferable to the state was composed of two parts: the rental amount itself, which amounted to 12,000 Swedish dalers annually, and the customs duties that had been received in excess of that amount, which the state split evenly with Tallinn. The latter was not a fixed amount, rather it depended on the customs duty income of each specific year. The state received a total of about 15,000 Swedish dalers, or more than 8,000 riksdalers, annually from Tallinn’s customs. Considering the customs duty income that Tallinn received, it is clear that the city’s own fiscal profit from the rental was not substantial. The Swedish state used the customs duty rental income it received mostly for financing the army and officials stationed in Estland, Livland and Ingria. Large sums went to Narva during the first years of customs duty rental. Later the monies received were for the most part placed at the disposal of Tallinn’s garrison, but they were also forwarded to Riga. The wages of local royal officials, like for instance Tallinn’s Vicegerent Evert Bremen, were also paid using customs duty rental money. It was also used to pay the skippers and crew members of ships chartered in the interests of the state for voyages to Narva and Riga. Grain purchases made on the king’s account were paid using customs duty income starting in 1627 (Table 3).

The king used two measures for acquiring additional money from the provinces in the 1620s: first the extraordinary tax known as the contribution, which the state announced and for which it set the payment deadline. The money received was not paid back to the taxpayers. The second means was to take out loans from private individuals, which were paid back over the course of a certain period of time either in cash or in goods. Gustav II Adolf already demanded extraordinary taxes from Tallinn in 1612 and subsequent years, but as a rule these went unpaid or were paid only partially. Starting in 1625, the king imposed an annual contribution tax on the city — 10,000 Swedish dalers. Contributions were required from Tallinn until 1628 but the city did not pay that money in full in any one of those years (Table 4). On the one hand, the town council referred to the city’s historical privileges, which did not make provision for extraordinary taxes to the state, but on the other hand, the poverty of Tallinners and their inability to come up with the required amounts were pointed out. In this situation, Gustav II Adolf decided in the summer of 1628 to start collecting a new sea toll in the roads of Tallinn — the licent toll — which in total yielded more than twice as much money to the state treasury than was hoped to receive from the contribution tax. In addition to the contribution tax, the state sought financial support through loans taken from private individuals, which grew to large amounts in the 1620s. Yet if we compare the amounts received from Tallinn and Estland to the financial resources sent from Sweden and Finland to Estland and Livland, then it turns out the contribution from Tallinn and the entire province to Sweden’s military budget was modest, minimally in the range of 5–6% (Table 5).