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Despite being a captive nation under the rule of the officially atheistic Soviet regime for nearly half of the 20th century, the Baltic country of Estonia (population 1.34 million) has historically been a Christian nation. Its first encounters with Christianity date to the 11th century, when Orthodox missionaries first appeared in the eastern areas closest to the present-day Russian state. However, it was the northern crusade of the 13th century, with the twin goals of territorial conquest and the conversion of Europe's last pagans, that brought Roman Catholicism to the Estonian lands. While German knights conquered the northeastern tribes, German priests baptized them and administered the faith during the later Middle Ages. In the 16th century, however, the region's rulers broke with the Church and ...

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