Mõniste Rural Life Museum is the oldest open-air museum in Estonia. The exposition offers an excellent overview of the local rural life from the Stone Age till the first half of the 20th century, providing a rare opportunity to visit a wooden lavvu, a threshing barn used as a dwelling, several other barns, a granary, etc. Furthermore, visitors can explore and shop at the store of Mõniste Tarwitajate Ühisus (Mõniste Consumers’ Association). It was closed before World War II, however, after its previous ambience and interior design were fully recreated, it continues to serve as a village shop.

We are open
01.05. – 31.09. EVERY DAY 10 a.m – 5 p.m
01.10. – 30.04 Monday – Friday 10 a.m – 2 p.m
Closed on public holidays! 

+372 789 0622 /+372 5804 6692 / +372 5622 8538

Address: Mõniste Talurahvamuuseum, Kuutsi küla 66018, Rõuge vald, Võrumaa

General data about the Mõniste Museum.
The Museum was founded in 1948 and there are twelve
thousand exhibits here. We introduce the life of South Estonian
peasants at the end of 19. and at the beginning of 20. century.
There are farm buildings from the end of the 19th century in the
museum with all the equipment and furniture of that time. It was
very small farm , witch had only 2 hectares of land. The family
earned their living , working their fields. They sold the flax grown
on the farm. The family made everything themselves, only salt
and kerosene (or paraffin) were bought.
The farm buildings are made of logs, the roofs were thatched
with straw (or reed). On bigger farms they used granite stones for
building. At the turn of the centuries they began to use wooden
singles for roofs.
The old farmstead consists of 4 buildings : threshing-barn house, barn,

sauna and summer kitchen. The newer buildings
here were built in the thirties to house a local shop.
The threshing-barn-house was built in 1879 and lived in till
1912. There are 3 rooms in the house. The house had 3
purposes. First- the peasant family lived in it. Second- here the
grain was dried and threshed. Third- farm animals were kept in
the third of the part the house.
In the first room household utensils, horse harnesses, tools
and working clothes were kept. In winter the women wove cloth
in this room , too.
The room in the middle was living- room for the family. There
is a big chimney less stove in the room, which was heated to
warm the room, to cook the food and dry the sheaves of grain in
autumn. The sheaves were placed on wooden poles under the
ceiling and the room was heated hot. After the sheaves were dry,

they were pushed through on opening in the wall, on the third
room- threshing -room.
Wen the stove was heated, the smoke came into the room
and it was let out through the door. At an inspection on how the
peasants lived a hundred years ago somebody has written that
the room was very warm but dark and smoky. Colds were rare,
but eye diseases were usual and often elderly people became
A little about peasants clothing.
Their usual wear were uncolored clothes made of flaxen
cloth. Men a shirt and breeches, women a long shirt, a skirt upon
it and an apron. In cold weather a woolen long jacket or coat was
put on. For footwear they used sandals made of skin and flaxen
wrappings. Married people never went out of house bare-headed.
This was considered a great carelessness .Men wore hats,
women caps or kerchiefs. On the occasion of great holidays and
family celebrations embroidered blouses were worn and the
women had striped skirts on. A wide patterned belt was tied
around the waist. The patterns of the belts differ in different
counties. The patterns of maidens and married women were
different too. Men had their own special patterns for their belts.
In the third room the grain was threshed. The sheaves were
first beaten against a special bench and then laid down on the
floor. Grain was threshed by hand with wooden sticks
connecting to a rod. This was a night-time job and had to be
finished by the morning. In the morning a new layer of grain was
put up to dry. One member of the family stayed up to heat the
stove, the others lay down to rest. The stove was not heated at
night, because the grain might catch fire. It sometimes
happened that some house was burnt down that way. When the
autumn was rainy, flax was also worked in that room.

The sauna was built in 1867. The sauna had five tasks :

first the people washed themselves here, second- the washing was
done here, third- salted meat was smoked here in order that it
kept longer, fourth – people cured themselves with hot vapor in
the sauna, fifth- mothers gave birth to their babies in the sauna.
The barn was built at the end of the 19. century . It consists of
two rooms. The bigger was for keeping foodstuffs in the smaller
clothes were kept. The foodstuffs were kept in wooden barrels.
Bigger ones were for grain, flour, meat and cabbage . smaller
ones were for fat, honey , cream, butter, vodka or spirits. Clothes
and cloth were kept in wooden boxes. In summer bed was put in
the clothes- barn and the daughters of the family who were
planning to marry could sleep there.
The summer kitchen was made of wooden laths and it was
used from spring to autumn for cooking food . Here food was
cooked both for people and animals.
In another barn, were built in thirties , we keep the tools of
the village smiths. There was a blacksmith in every village who
made the necessary iron articles-horseshoes, chains, locks
pitchforks, spades. Our local blacksmith was famous all over the
Võru county for his skill of making the p loughs. He was even able
to cast iron out of the local iron ore found in bogs. Carpenters
were in demand as most of everyday utensils and things were
made of wood. Carpenters had to make vessels and dishes ,
boxes for clothes, sleds and carriages, all kinds of tools.
Every community also needed a tailor and shoemaker.
In shed we keep all kinds of household things- separator,
butter-making machines, a cheese press. There are also horse
harnesses and different means of carriage- a cart, a wagon, a
sledge, a sleigh. In the back room you can see agricultural
implements that were used at the turn of the 19. century and a
flax-working machine built in the thirties. This machine worked on
horse power and it could pull other things too, for example set a
thresher to work.
In the main building we have two rooms with exhibits. Here
you can see furniture made at the beginning of the 20. century,
women handicraft tools and items of handicraft.

Thank you for visiting our museum!


On the History of the Mõniste Region

The oldest traces of human activity in this region date back from 3500 to 4000 years. 1000 years ago, the Mõniste area was in the territory of Ugandi County. Military expeditions were undertaken to the territories of Livonians and Latgalians as well as Russians. The trade route between Riga and Pskov also passed through Mõniste, being very dangerous due to attacks by local Estonians. After the defeat in the Estonian Ancient Fight for Freedom in 1208–1227, the area went under the Bishopric of Tartu. It was the strongest of all the bishoprics of Old Livonia, fighting not only against Russians but also the Teutonic Order in 1396.

The first written records on Mõniste manor date back to 1386, when the manor owners Uexkülls were dividing the manors in the surrounding area among themselves. Uexkülls were one of the largest landowners in the Bishopric of Tartu.

During the Livonian War, Russians also attacked Mõniste in January 1558, but were repulsed. Until the Great Northern War, Mõniste lands were under both the Polish and Swedish rule. During the Great Northern War, a two-day siege took place in Mõniste manor from 5th to 6th of August, 1702, before surrendering to the Russian forces.

Mõniste and Saru manors passed on to the aristocratic families Koskull (1764) and Wulf (1837), who managed the manors until the establishment of the Republic of Estonia in 1918. Before that, local governments had become independent of manors.

During the Estonian War of Independence (1918-20), Mõniste was passed from one hand to the other four times and the battle front was located here from April, 17 to May, 27, 1919. During this battle, the manor’s main building was destroyed in artillery fire. On the 27th of May, one of the largest offensives by Estonia started from here, which ended in Jekabpils in southern Latvia. This campaign has a crucial role in the history of both Estonia and Latvia.

The period between the 1920s and the 1940s was the heyday of Mõniste, seeing the formation of several societies, choirs and wind orchestras. Cultural development of Mõniste was interrupted by the new Soviet occupation. Presently, we, being independent Republic of Estonia, form again the proud border area with Latvia. The Estonian-Latvian border is unique in Europe, as both nations get along very well, sharing almost the same history, though the languages ​​are completely incomprehensible to each other.



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