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Pärnu (pär´nōō), Ger. Pernau, Rus. Pyarnu, city (1994 pop. 51,963), SW Estonia, on the Gulf of Riga. A seaport, it exports timber and flax and is also a beach and health resort. It was founded c.1250 by the Livonian Knights and became a city of the Hanseatic League. After the dissolution (1561) of the Livonian Order it was contested by Sweden, Russia, and Poland. Peter I of Russia took it from the Swedes in 1710, and its cession was confirmed by Sweden in 1721. Pärnu was incorporated into newly independent Estonia in 1918.