History of Bornholm Island: Beginnings of Settlement

Bornholm Island has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with the oldest evidence of human settlement dating back to 9000-8000 BCE. During this period, Bornholm was connected to the lands of present-day Poland and Germany, from which it separated between 6800-4500 BCE.
Around 3500 BCE, a fortified camp existed near present-day Aakirkeby, as evidenced by the surviving earthworks and ramparts. It was during this time that the first traces of agriculture on the island can also be traced.
Numerous rock carvings in Madsebakke and sacred stones known as menhirs, dating from the 13th to the 9th century BCE, are among the remarkable remnants of that era.
Bornholm Island, long considered a treasure of the Baltic, boasts a rich history that extends back to prehistoric times. Evidence of early settlement on Bornholm dates back to 9000-8000 BCE, making it one of the oldest inhabited areas in this part of Europe. During that time, Bornholm was part of a land connection with the territories of present-day Poland and Germany, which separated between 6800-4500 BCE, thereby isolating the island.
One of the most intriguing remnants of settlement on Bornholm is a fortified camp that existed around 3500 BCE in the vicinity of present-day Aakirkeby. To this day, remnants of fortifications and earthworks can be observed, which served a defensive purpose. It is also from this period that the first traces of agriculture on the island date, indicating the inhabitants' ability to cultivate the land and manage natural resources.
During the 13th to 9th centuries BCE, numerous ritual rock carvings were created in Madsebakke, as well as sacred stones known as menhirs. These unique artifacts are significant evidence of the culture and religious practices of the island's ancient inhabitants. Their historical and artistic importance attracts researchers and enthusiasts from around the world.
Bornholm is not only a place with an extraordinary history but also a reflection of the multicultural past of the Baltic region. Influences from different cultures, including Germanic, Scandinavian, and Slavic, have contributed to shaping the island's unique identity and its inhabitants over the centuries.

Today, Bornholm is not only a place of breathtaking landscapes but also a fascinating testament to human history. Its prehistoric heritage, such as archaeological sites, stone artifacts, and monumental structures, holds immeasurable value for researchers and history enthusiasts. Over the centuries, Bornholm has played a significant role as a meeting point for different cultures and trade routes, and today it invites visitors to explore the richness of its past and enjoy the charms of modern life on the island.

History of Bornholm

Medieval Era on the Island of Bornholm

The settlement of Bornholm can be traced back to the 5th and 6th centuries CE when the Germanic tribe of Burgundians inhabited these lands. However, later on, the island also became home to the Vikings, who contributed to further development and shaping of Bornholm's culture. The earliest mentions of Bornholm, then known as Burgundarholm, date back to 890 CE.
The period from the 9th to the 12th century was a tumultuous time on the island. Fierce battles were fought between the Germanic Danes and the Slavic Wends for control over this strategic region. It was during this time that the distinctive round defensive churches, of which four have survived to this day - in Nyker, Olsker, Nylars, and Østerlars - were constructed. These impressive structures bear witness to the dramatic events of those times and form an integral part of Bornholm's cultural heritage.
In 1149, a significant portion of Bornholm came under the control of the archbishopric of Lund, intensifying the rivalry between representatives of the Danish royal authority and the archbishopric. The majestic Hammershus Castle, built around 1250, became the seat of ecclesiastical authorities, located on the northern part of the island. Meanwhile, the fortress of Lilleborg, situated in the central part of the island within the present-day Almindingen Forest, served as a bastion of royal power and played a crucial role in Bornholm's history. Unfortunately, due to numerous conflicts, Lilleborg was eventually destroyed.

The medieval era on Bornholm was a remarkably intriguing period filled with conflicts, the construction of powerful fortifications, and cultural advancement. Today, we can admire the remnants of that era in the form of the round defensive churches, as well as the remnants of castles and fortresses. We invite you to explore this fascinating history and uncover the secrets of medieval Bornholm.


Modern Time

In the 14th and 15th centuries, actual power over the island of Bornholm was held by merchants from Lübeck, who took control in 1525. However, in 1578, Danish King Frederick II regained authority over the island. In 1645, during the battles for control of the Baltic Sea between Denmark and Sweden, Bornholm was temporarily occupied by the Swedes.
However, in the same year, a rebellion erupted on Bornholm against Swedish rule. Leaders of the uprising included Jens Pedersen Kofoed (1628-1691), Paul Anker, and Willum Clausen. The rebels achieved victory, killing, among others, the Swedish commander of the island, Printzensköld (1615-1658), and driving out Swedish forces. The rebellion concluded with a peace treaty in Copenhagen in 1660, resulting in the island being transferred to the Danish Crown and its inhabitants receiving numerous royal privileges. These privileges included the right to produce alcohol and the establishment of the Bornholm Defense Units, which exist to this day and consist solely of the island's residents.
In the 17th century, the extraction of minerals and coal began on Bornholm. Profits from the sale of these goods, as well as from fishing, contributed to the island's economic development, despite being interrupted by epidemics and the Napoleonic Wars. Successive Danish kings fortified Bornholm militarily, as it served as an important naval base for Denmark. In 1684, King Christian V initiated the construction of a sea fortress on a small island located 18 km to the east, named Christiansø in his honor. Christiansø remains under the jurisdiction of the Danish Ministry of Defense to this day.

After the wars concluded, Bornholm resumed its economic growth. In 1866, regular shipping lines were opened between Copenhagen and the nearby Swedish town of Ystad, with daily steamship service. This contributed to the development of tourism on Bornholm, particularly after the establishment of a permanent ferry connection with Sassnitz on the German island of Rügen.

World War II on Bornholm

World War II on Bornholm - Stories and Challenges

On April 10, 1940, Germany landed on the island, initiating the construction of fortifications near Dueodde in the south. They built positions for two large coastal artillery guns. The German occupation was not particularly burdensome for the people of Bornholm, and no major acts of resistance against the occupiers were recorded.
However, it was the extraordinary courage of Bornholm's fishermen that brought a glimmer of hope in those dark days. They took part in the evacuation of Jews from Denmark to neutral Sweden when they faced the threat of deportation to extermination camps. Their heroic actions demonstrate the unwavering determination of the people of Bornholm to defend humanitarian values and solidarity.
In the face of resistance from the German army, in May 1945, the Russians bombed the towns of Rønne and Nexø, destroying around 800 houses. These merciless bombings, along with the presence of approximately 26,000 refugees from Germany and Baltic countries, led the German garrison commander, Gerhard von Kamptz, to surrender to the Red Army on May 9, 1945. The island was subsequently occupied by about 10,000 Soviet soldiers, who remained on Bornholm until April 5, 1946.

Today, in the town of Allinge, there is a cemetery where 36 Soviet soldiers who died during that period from illnesses are laid to rest. This place reminds us of the suffering that affected many people during the war.

After the war, in 1946, Sweden generously donated 300 wooden houses to the residents of Bornholm, which still stand as a testament to the reconstruction of the towns destroyed by the Russians.
Thanks to the kindness of Sweden and the determination of the people of Bornholm, the island could rise from the ruins and become a place full of hope and optimism.

Bornholm today

Bornholm today

After the end of World War II, Bornholm, currently part of Denmark, regained its splendor with the help of American and Scandinavian construction assistance. The damages from the final days of the war were quickly repaired, and the island became a symbol of rejuvenated beauty.
Currently, Bornholm is a province of Denmark, inhabited by around 40,000 people. As part of a Western European country, the island boasts a high gross domestic product and an excellent pension and social system. The residents of Bornholm enjoy a comfortable life and benefit from numerous amenities.
Many islanders make a living from tourism or agriculture. The significance of fishing, which was once an important sector of the economy, has diminished. However, thanks to the island's charm, tourism is rapidly growing, attracting an increasing number of visitors from all over the world. Bornholm offers beautiful beaches, picturesque cliffs, and charming towns that appeal to nature lovers and seekers of tranquility.
However, Bornholm is not just about breathtaking views. The island is also renowned for its high-quality cuisine, which relies on regional products and seasonality. You can savor fresh seafood, local cheeses, and exquisite confectionery. Every bite is a true delight for the palate.

Furthermore, Bornholm places a strong emphasis on renewable energy sources and principles of sustainable development. The island is a leader in harnessing solar and wind energy, contributing to the protection of the natural environment and the creation of a green future. Bornholm is an example of harmony between humans and nature.

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