Baltic states

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Baltic states
Estonia-latvia-lithuania-in-northern-europe.png
Countries Estonia
Latvia
Lithuania
Time zones UTC+02:00

The Baltic states (Estonian : Balti riigid, Baltimaad; Latvian : Baltijas valstis; Lithuanian : Baltijos valstybės), also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations, or simply the Baltics, is a geopolitical term, typically used to group the three sovereign states in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The term is not used in the context of cultural areas, national identity, or language, because while the majority of people in Latvia and Lithuania are Baltic people, the majority in Estonia are Finnic. The three countries do not form an official union, but engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation. [1] The most important areas of cooperation between the three countries are foreign and security policy, defence, energy, and transportation. [2]

Contents

All three countries are members of NATO, the eurozone, and the OECD, and are members of the European Union. In 2020 and 2021, Estonia is also a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. All three are classified as high-income economies by the World Bank and maintain a very high Human Development Index. [3]

Etymology

The "Baltic lands" around the Baltic Sea Mediaeval and modern history (1920) (14793687963).jpg
The "Baltic lands" around the Baltic Sea

The term Baltic stems from the name of the Baltic Sea – a hydronym dating back to the 11th century (Adam of Bremen mentioned Mare Balticum in Latin) and earlier. Although there are several theories about its origin, most ultimately trace it to the Indo-European root *bhel [4] meaning 'white, fair'. This meaning is retained in modern Baltic languages, where baltas in Lithuanian and balts in Latvian mean 'white'. [5] However, the modern names of the region and the sea that originate from this root, were not used in either of the two languages prior to the 19th century. [6]

Since the Middle Ages, the Baltic Sea has appeared on maps in Germanic languages as the equivalent of 'East Sea': German: Ostsee, Danish : Østersøen, Dutch : Oostzee, Swedish : Östersjön, etc. Indeed, the Baltic Sea lies mostly to the east of Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The term was also used historically to refer to Baltic Dominions of the Swedish Empire (Swedish : Östersjöprovinserna) and, subsequently, the Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire (Russian: Остзейские губернии, romanized: Ostzejskie gubernii). [6] Terms related to modern name Baltic appear in ancient texts, but had fallen into disuse until reappearing as the adjective Baltisch in German, from which it was adopted in other languages. [7] During the 19th century, Baltic started to supersede Ostsee as the name for the region. Officially, its Russian equivalent Прибалтийский (Pribaltiyskiy) was first used in 1859. [6] This change was a result of the Baltic German elite adopting terms derived from Baltisch to refer to themselves. [7] [8]

The term Baltic states was, until the early 20th century, used in the context of countries neighbouring the Baltic Sea: Sweden and Denmark, sometimes also Germany and the Russian Empire. With the advent of Foreningen Norden (the Nordic Associations), the term was no longer used for Sweden and Denmark. [9] [10] After World War I, the new sovereign states that emerged on the east coast of the Baltic Sea – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and during the Interwar period, Finland – became known as the Baltic states. [7]

History

Summary

Throughout the 18th century to the 20th century, the Baltic states were part of the Russian Empire until the three countries gained independence in 1918 near the end of World War I. They were later occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union and briefly, Nazi Germany during World War II before the Soviets regained control of the Baltic states. Soviet rule ended when the three countries declared the occupation illegal and culminated with the restoration of independence to their pre-war status between 1991 when communism collapsed in Eastern Europe.

Northern Crusades

In the 13th century pagan and Eastern Orthodox Baltic and Finnic peoples in the region became a target of the Northern Crusades. [11] [12] In the aftermath of the Livonian crusade, a crusader state officially named Terra Mariana, but also known as Livonia, was established in the territory of modern Latvia and Southern Estonia. It was divided into four autonomous bishoprics and lands of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. After the Brothers of the Sword suffered defeat at the Battle of Saule to Lithuanians, the remaining Brothers were integrated into the Teutonic Order as the autonomous Livonian Order. Northern Estonia initially became a Danish dominion, but it was purchased by the Teutonic Order in the mid-14th century. The majority of the crusaders and clergy were German, and Baltic Germans remained influential in Estonia and most of Latvia until the first half of the 20th century: they formed the backbone of the local gentry, and German served both as a lingua franca and for record-keeping. [7]

The Lithuanians were also targeted by the crusaders; however, they were able to resist and established the Kingdom of Lithuania in 1251 which later became Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It expanded to the east conquering former principalities of Kiev up to the Black sea. After the Union of Krewo in 1385, Grand Duchy of Lithuania created a dynastic union with Kingdom of Poland, they became ever more closely integrated and finally merged into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569. After victory in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, the Polish–Lithuanian union became a major political and military power in the region.

Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Changes in the territory of Lithuania from the 13th to 15th century. At its peak, Lithuania was the largest state in Europe. Lithuanian state in 13-15th centuries.png
Changes in the territory of Lithuania from the 13th to 15th century. At its peak, Lithuania was the largest state in Europe.

The Lithuanians were also targeted by the crusaders; however, they were able to defend the country from Livonian and Teutonic Orders and established the Kingdom of Lithuania in 1251 which later, after the death of King Mindaugas became Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Mindaugas was the first Lithuanian ruler who accepted Christianity. During the reign of successors of Mindaugas, Gediminas, and later Kęstutis and Algirdas, followed by Vytautas Grand Duchy of Lithuania expanded to the east conquering former principalities of Kiev up to the Black sea. GDL became one of the most influential powers in Northern and Eastern Europe in 14th–16th century. The intensive wars with Teutonic Order and Muscovy forced Grand Duchy of Lithuania to search for allies. Therefore, at the Union of Krewo in 1385, Grand Duchy of Lithuania created a dynastic union with Kingdom of Poland. In 1387 the Christianization of Lithuania occurred [14] - it signified the official adoption of Christianity by Lithuanians, the last pagan nation in Europe. After the victory of joint Polish - Lithuanian forces in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, the Polish–Lithuanian union became a major political and military power in the region. Growing threat of Muscovy and prolonged Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars forced Lithuania into the union of Lublin 1569 in which Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was created. Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth existed up to 1795 and was partitioned in three stages by the neighboring Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy.

Baltic Sea dominions of The Swedish Empire

The Duchies of Estland and Livland within the Swedish Empire Sw BalticProv en.png
The Duchies of Estland and Livland within the Swedish Empire

In 1558 Livonia was attacked by the Tsardom of Russia and the Livonian war broke out, lasting until 1583. The rulers of different regions within Livonia sought to ally with foreign powers, which resulted in Polish–Lithuanian, Swedish and Danish involvement. As a result, by 1561 the Livonian confederation had ceased to exist and its lands in modern Latvia and Southern Estonia became the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia and the Duchy of Livonia, which were vassals to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Osel island came under Danish rule and Northern Estonia became the Swedish Duchy of Estonia. In the aftermath of later conflicts of the 17th century, much of the Duchy of Livonia and Osel also came under Swedish control as Swedish Livonia. These newly acquired Swedish territories, as well as Ingria and Kexholm (now the western part of the Leningrad Oblast of Russia), became known as the Baltic Dominions. Parts of the Duchy of Livonia that remained in the Commonwealth became Inflanty Voivodeship, which contributed to the modern Latgale region of Eastern Latvia becoming culturally distinct from the rest of Latvia as the German nobility lost its influence and the region remained Catholic just like Poland-Lithuania, while the rest of Latvia (and also Estonia) became Lutheran.

Baltic governates of Russian Empire

The Baltic German-controlled Baltic governorates in the Russian Empire - comprising current Northern Estonia, Southern Estonia and Northern Latvia BalticGovernorates1914.png
The Baltic German-controlled Baltic governorates in the Russian Empire - comprising current Northern Estonia, Southern Estonia and Northern Latvia

At the beginning of the 18th century the Swedish Empire was attacked by a coalition of several European powers in the Great Northern War. Among these powers was Russia, seeking to restore its access to the Baltic Sea. During the course of the war it conquered all of the Swedish provinces on the Eastern Baltic coast. This acquisition was legalized by the Treaty of Nystad in which the Baltic Dominions were ceded to Russia. [15] The treaty also granted the Baltic-German nobility within Estonia and Livonia the rights to self-government, maintaining their financial system, existing customs border, Lutheran religion, and the German language; this special position in the Russian Empire was reconfirmed by all Russian Tsars from Peter the Great to Alexander II. [16] Initially these were two governorates named after the largest cities: Riga and Reval (now Tallinn). After the Partitions of Poland which took place in the last quarter of the 18th century, the third Ostsee governorate was created, as the Courland Governorate (presently a part of Latvia). This toponym stems from the Curonians, one of the Baltic [17] indigenous tribes. Following the annexation of Courland the two other governates were renamed to the Governorate of Livland and the Governorate of Estland. Russian replaced German as the language of administration e.g. of the cities of Riga and Tallinn in the 1890s.

In the late 19th century, nationalist sentiment grew in Estonia and in Latvia morphing into an aspiration to national statehood after the 1905 Russian Revolution.

Newly independent countries East of the Baltic Sea

After the First World War the term "Baltic states" came to refer to countries by the Baltic Sea that had gained independence from Russia in its aftermath. As such it included not only former Baltic governorates, but also Latgale, Lithuania and Finland. [18] As World War I came to a close, Lithuania declared independence and Latvia formed a provisional government. Estonia had already obtained autonomy from tsarist Russia in 1917, but was subsequently occupied by the German Empire; they fought an independence war against Soviet Russia and Baltic nobility before gaining true independence from 1920 to 1939. Latvia and Lithuanians followed a similar process, until the Latvian War of Independence and Lithuanian Wars of Independence were extinguished in 1920.

During the interwar period these countries were sometimes referred to as limitrophe states between the two World Wars, from the French, indicating their collectively forming a rim along Bolshevik Russia's, later the Soviet Union's, western border. They were also part of what Clemenceau considered a strategic cordon sanitaire, the entire territory from Finland in the north to Romania in the south, standing between Western Europe and potential Bolshevik territorial ambitions. [19] [20]

Prior to World War II Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania each experienced an authoritarian head of state who had come to power after a bloodless coup: Antanas Smetona in Lithuania (December 1926), Konstantin Päts in Estonia (March 1934), and Kārlis Ulmanis in Latvia (May 1934). Some note that the events in Lithuania differed from its two more northerly neighbors, with Smetona having different motivations as well as securing power 8 years before any such events in Latvia or Estonia took place. Despite considerable political turmoil in Finland no such events took place there. Finland did however get embroiled in a bloody civil war, something that did not happen in the Baltics. [21] Some controversy surrounds the Baltic authoritarian régimes – due to the general stability and rapid economic growth of the period (even if brief), some commenters avoid the label "authoritarian"; others, however, condemn such an "apologetic" attitude, for example in later assessments of Kārlis Ulmanis.

Soviet and German occupations

In accordance with a secret protocol within the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 that divided Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence, the Soviet Army entered eastern Poland in September 1939, and then coerced Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into mutual assistance treaties which granted them the right to establish military bases in these countries. In June 1940, the Red Army occupied all of the territory of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and installed new, pro-Soviet governments in all three countries. Following elections (in which only pro-communist candidates were allowed to run), the newly elected parliaments of the three countries formally applied to join the Soviet Union in August 1940 and were incorporated into it as the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics.

Repressions, executions and mass deportations followed after that in the Baltics. [22] [23] The Soviet Union attempted to Sovietize its occupied territories, by means such as deportations and instituting the Russian language as the only working language. Between 1940 and 1953, the Soviet government deported more than 200,000 people from the Baltic to remote locations in the Soviet Union. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to Gulags. About 10% of the adult Baltic population were deported or sent to labor camps. [24] (See June deportation, Soviet deportations from Estonia, Sovietization of the Baltic states)

The Soviet control of the Baltic states was interrupted by Nazi German invasion of this region in 1941. Initially, many Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians considered the Germans as liberators. The Baltic countries hoped for the restoration of independence, but instead the Germans established a civil administration, known as the Reichskommissariat Ostland . During the occupation the Germans carried out discrimination, mass deportations and mass killings, generating Baltic resistance movements (see German occupation of the Baltic states during World War II). [25] Over 190,000 Lithuanian Jews, nearly 95% of Lithuania's pre-war Jewish community, and 66,000 Latvian Jews were murdered. The German occupation lasted until late 1944 (in Courland, until early 1945), when the countries were reoccupied by the Red Army and Soviet rule was re-established, with the passive agreement of the United States and Britain (see Yalta Conference and Potsdam Agreement).

The forced collectivisation of agriculture began in 1947, and was completed after the mass deportation in March 1949 (see Operation Priboi). Private farms were confiscated, and farmers were made to join the collective farms. In all three countries, Baltic partisans, known colloquially as the Forest Brothers, Latvian national partisans, and Lithuanian partisans, waged unsuccessful guerrilla warfare against the Soviet occupation for the next eight years in a bid to regain their nations' independence. The armed resistance of the anti-Soviet partisans lasted up to 1953. Although the armed resistance was defeated, the population remained anti-Soviet.

The Baltic Way was a mass anti-Soviet demonstration where approx. 25% of the population of the Baltic states participated 1989 08 23 Baltijoskelias14.jpg
The Baltic Way was a mass anti-Soviet demonstration where approx. 25% of the population of the Baltic states participated

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were considered to be under Soviet occupation by the United States, the United Kingdom, [26] Canada, NATO, and many other countries and international organizations. [27] During the Cold War, Lithuania and Latvia maintained legations in Washington DC, while Estonia had a mission in New York. Each was staffed initially by diplomats from the last governments before USSR occupation. [28]

Restoration of independence

In the late 1980s a massive campaign of civil resistance against Soviet rule, known as the Singing revolution, began. On 23 August 1989, the Baltic Way, a two-million-strong human chain, stretched for 600 km from Tallinn to Vilnius. In the wake of this campaign Gorbachev's government had privately concluded that the departure of the Baltic republics had become "inevitable". [29] This process contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, setting a precedent for the other Soviet republics to secede from the USSR. Soviet Union recognized the independence of three Baltic states on 6 September 1991. Troops were withdrawn from the region (starting from Lithuania) from August 1993. The last Russian troops were withdrawn from there in August 1994. [30] Skrunda-1, the last Russian military radar in the Baltics, officially suspended operations in August 1998. [31]

Current position of the Baltic countries

Baltic Assembly session in Seimas Palace, in Vilnius, Lithuania Baltijas Asamblejas 31.sesija Vilna (8169044850).jpg
Baltic Assembly session in Seimas Palace, in Vilnius, Lithuania

The Baltic countries are located in Northern Europe, and because each has access to the sea, they are able to interact with[ clarification needed ] many European countries. All three countries are parliamentary democracies, with unicameral parliaments elected by popular vote for four-year terms: Riigikogu in Estonia, Saeima in Latvia and Seimas in Lithuania. In Latvia and Estonia, the president is elected by parliament, while Lithuania has a semi-presidential system whereby the president is elected by popular vote. All are members of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Each of the three countries has declared itself to be the restoration of the sovereign nation that had existed from 1918 to 1940, emphasizing their contention that Soviet domination over the Baltic nations during the Cold War period had been an illegal occupation and annexation.

The same legal interpretation is shared by the United States, the United Kingdom, and most other Western democracies,[ citation needed ] who held the forcible incorporation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the Soviet Union to be illegal. At least formally, most Western democracies never considered the three Baltic states to be constituent parts of the Soviet Union. Australia was a brief exception to this support of Baltic independence: in 1974, the Labor government of Australia did recognize Soviet dominion, but this decision was reversed by the next Australian Parliament. [32] Other exceptions included Sweden, which was the first Western country, and one of the very few to ever do so, to recognize the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union as lawful. [33]

After the Baltic states had restored their independence, integration with Western Europe became a major strategic goal. In 2002, the Baltic nations applied for membership of NATO and the EU. All three became NATO members on 29 March 2004, and joined the EU on 1 May 2004. The Baltic states are currently the only former Soviet states to have joined either organization.

Regional cooperation

Baltic Defence College serves as a centre of strategic and operational research and provides professional military education to intermediate- and senior-level officers and government officials Baltic Defence College emblem.png
Baltic Defence College serves as a centre of strategic and operational research and provides professional military education to intermediate- and senior-level officers and government officials

During the Baltic struggle for independence 1989–1992, a personal friendship developed between the (at that time unrecognized) Baltic ministers of foreign affairs and the Nordic ministers of foreign affairs. This friendship led to the creation of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in 1992, and the EuroFaculty in 1993. [34]

Between 1994 and 2004, the BAFTA free trade agreement was established to help prepare the countries for their accession to the EU, rather than out of the Baltic states' desire to trade among themselves. The Baltic countries were more interested in gaining access to the rest of the European market.

Currently, the governments of the Baltic states cooperate in multiple ways, including cooperation among presidents, parliament speakers, heads of government, and foreign ministers. On 8 November 1991, the Baltic Assembly, which includes 15 to 20 MPs from each parliament, was established to facilitate inter-parliamentary cooperation. The Baltic Council of Ministers was established on 13 June 1994 to facilitate intergovernmental cooperation. Since 2003, there is coordination between the two organizations. [35]

Compared with other regional groupings in Europe, such as Nordic council or Visegrad Four, Baltic cooperation is rather limited. Possible explanations include the short history of restored sovereignty and fear of losing it again, along with an orientation toward Nordic countries and Baltic-Nordic cooperation in The Nordic-Baltic Eight. Estonia especially has attempted to construct a Nordic identity for itself and denounced Baltic identity, despite still seeking to preserve close relationship with other countries in the region. [36] [37]

All three countries are members of the New Hanseatic League, a group of Northern European countries in the EU formed to advocate a common fiscal position.

Current leaders

Energy security of Baltic states

Usually the concept of energy security is related to the uninterruptible supply, sufficient energy storage, advanced technological development of energy sector and environmental regulations. [38] Other studies add other indicators to this list: diversification of energy suppliers, energy import dependence and vulnerability of political system. [39]

Even now being a part of the European Union, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are still considered as the most vulnerable EU member states in the energy sphere. [40] Due to their Soviet past, Baltic states have several gas pipelines on their territories coming from Russia. Moreover, several routes of oil delivery also have been sustained from Soviet times: These are ports in Ventspils, Butinge and Tallinn. [41] Therefore, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania play a significant role not only in consuming, but also in distribution of Russian energy fuels extracting transaction fees. [41] So, the overall EU dependence on the Russia's energy supplies from the one hand and the need of Baltic states to import energy fuels from their closer hydrocarbon-rich neighbor creates a tension that could jeopardize the energy security of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. [41]

As a part of the EU from 2004, Baltic states must comply with the EU's regulations in energy, environmental and security spheres. One of the most important documents that the EU applied to improve the energy security stance of the Baltic states are European Union climate and energy package, including the Climate and Energy Strategy 2020, that aims to reduce the greenhouse emissions to 20%, increase the energy production from renewables for 20% in overall share and 20% energy efficiency development. [42]

Assessment

The calculations take into account not only economic, but also technological and energy-related factors: Energy and carbon intensity of transport and households, trade balance of total energy, energy import dependency, diversification of energy mix, etc. [38] It was stated that from 2008, Baltic states experiences a positive change in their energy security score. They diversified their oil import suppliers due to shutdown of Druzhba gas pipeline in 2006 and increased the share of renewable sources in total energy production with the help of the EU policies. [38]

Estonia usually was the best performing country in terms of energy security, but new assessment shows that even though Estonia has the highest share of renewables in the energy production, its energy economy has been still characterized by high rates of carbon intensity. Lithuania, in contrast, achieved the best results on carbon intensity of economy but its energy dependence level is still very high. Latvia performed the best according to all indicators. Especially, the high share of renewables were introduced to the energy production of Latvia, that can be explained by the state's geographical location and favorable natural conditions. [38]

Possible threats to energy security

Firstly, there is a major risk of energy supply disruption. Even if there are several electricity interconnectors that connect the area with electricity-rich states (Estonia-Finland interconnector, Lithuania-Poland interconnector, Lithuania-Sweden interconnector), the pipeline supply of natural gas and tanker supply of oil are unreliable without modernization of energy infrastructure. [40]

Secondly, the dependence on single supplier – Russia – is not healthy both for economics and politics. [43] As it was in 2009 during the Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute, when states of Eastern Europe were deprived from access to the natural gas deliveries, the reoccurrence of the situation may again lead to economic, political and social crisis. Therefore, the diversification of suppliers is needed. [40]

Finally, the low technological enhancement results in slow adaptation of new technologies, such as construction and use of renewable sources of energy. This also poses a threat to energy security of the Baltic states, because slows down the renewable energy consumption and lead to low rates of energy efficiency. [40]

Economies

Economically, parallel with the political changes, and the democratic transition, – as a rule of law states – the previous command economies were transformed via the legislation into market economies, and set up or renewed the major macroeconomic factors: budgetary rules, national audit, national currency and central bank. Generally, they shortly encountered the following problems: high inflation, high unemployment, low economic growth and high government debt. The inflation rate, in the examined area, relatively quickly dropped to below 5% by 2000. Meanwhile, these economies were stabilised, and in 2004 all of them joined the European Union. New macroeconomic requirements have arisen for them; the Maastricht criteria became obligatory and later the Stability and Growth Pact set stricter rules through national legislation by implementing the regulations and directives of the Sixpack, because the financial crisis was a shocking milestone. [44]

Downtown Tallinn Tln1.jpg
Downtown Tallinn
Downtown Riga Vistas desde la iglesia de San Pedro, Riga, Letonia, 2012-08-07, DD 04.JPG
Downtown Riga
Downtown Vilnius Europa Tower Vilnius in October 2017.png
Downtown Vilnius
Tallink is the largest passenger shipping company in the Baltic sea region in Northern Europe. Baltic Queen Tallinn 2009-04-23.JPG
Tallink is the largest passenger shipping company in the Baltic sea region in Northern Europe.

All three countries are members of the European Union, and the Eurozone. They are classified as high-income economies by the World Bank and maintain high Human Development Index. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are also members of the OECD. [3]

Estonia adopted the euro in January 2011, Latvia in January 2014, and Lithuania in January 2015.

Culture

St. Olaf's church in Tallinn, Estonia St Olaf's church, Tallinn, July 2008.jpg
St. Olaf's church in Tallinn, Estonia

Ethnic groups

Language branches in Northern Europe
North Germanic (Iceland and Scandinavia)
Finnic (Finland, Estonia)
Baltic (Latvia, Lithuania) Languages in Northern Europe.png
Language branches in Northern Europe
   North Germanic (Iceland and Scandinavia)
   Finnic (Finland, Estonia)
   Baltic (Latvia, Lithuania)

Estonians are Finnic people, together with the neighboring Finns. The Latvians and Lithuanians, linguistically and culturally related to each other, are Baltic and Indo-European people. The peoples in the Baltic states have together inhabited the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea for millennia, although not always peacefully in ancient times, over which period their populations, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian have remained remarkably stable within the approximate territorial boundaries of the current Baltic states. While separate peoples with their own customs and traditions, historical factors have introduced cultural commonalities across and differences within them.

The population of the Baltic countries belong to different Christian denominations, a reflection of historical circumstances. Both Western and Eastern Christianity had been introduced by the end of the first millennium. The current divide between Lutheranism to the north and Catholicism to the south is the remnant of Swedish and Polish hegemony, respectively, with Orthodox Christianity remaining the dominant faith among Russian and other East Slavic minorities.

St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Riga, Latvia St Peters Church Riga.JPG
St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Riga, Latvia

The Baltic states have historically been in many different spheres of influence, from Danish over Swedish and Polish–Lithuanian, to German (Hansa and Holy Roman Empire), and before independence in the Russian sphere of influence.

The Baltic states have a considerable Slavic minority: in Latvia: 33.0% (including 25.4% Russian, 3.3% Belarusian, 2.2% Ukrainian, and 2.1% Polish), [45] in Estonia: 27.6% [46] and in Lithuania: 12.2% (including 5.6% Polish and 4.5% Russian). [47]

The Soviet Union conducted a policy of Russification by encouraging Russians and other Russian-speaking ethnic groups of the Soviet Union to settle in the Baltic Republics. Today, ethnic Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their descendants make up a sizable minority in the Baltic states, particularly in Latvia (about one-quarter of the total population and close to one-half in the capital Riga) and Estonia (one-quarter of the population).

Because the three Baltic states had been occupied by Soviet Union later than other territories (hence, e.g., the higher living standard), there was a strong feeling of national identity (often labeled "bourgeois nationalism" by Soviets) and popular resentment towards the imposed Soviet rule in the three countries, in combination with Soviet cultural policy, which employed superficial multiculturalism (in order for the Soviet Union to appear as a multinational union based on free will of peoples) in limits allowed by the Communist "internationalist" (but in effect pro-Russification) ideology and under tight control of the Communist Party (those of the Baltic nationals who crossed the line were called "bourgeois nationalists" and repressed). This let Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians preserve a high degree of Europe-oriented national identity. [48] In Soviet times this made them appear as the "West" of the Soviet Union in the cultural and political sense, thus as close to emigration a Russian could get without leaving the Soviet Union.

Languages

The languages of Baltic nations belong to two distinct language families. The Latvian and Lithuanian languages belong to the Indo-European language family and are the only extant members of the Baltic language group (or more specifically, Eastern Baltic subgroup of Baltic).

The Estonian language is a Finnic language, together with neighboring Finland's Finnish language.

Catholic Church of St. Johns, Vilnius, Lithuania Vilnius University Great Courtyard 1, Vilnius, Lithuania - Diliff.jpg
Catholic Church of St. Johns, Vilnius, Lithuania

Apart from the indigenous languages, German was the dominant language in Estonia and Latvia in academics, professional life, and upper society from the 13th century until World War I. Polish served a similar function in Lithuania. Numerous Swedish loanwords have made it into the Estonian language; it was under the Swedish rule that schools were established and education propagated in the 17th century. Swedish remains spoken in Estonia, particularly the Estonian Swedish dialect of the Estonian Swedes of northern Estonia and the islands (though many fled to Sweden as the Soviet Union invaded and re-occupied Estonia in 1944). There is also significant proficiency in Finnish in Estonia owing to its closeness to the native Estonian and also the widespread practice of listening to Finnish broadcasts during the Soviet era. Russian also achieved significant usage particularly in commerce.

Russian was the most commonly studied foreign language at all levels of schooling during the Soviet era. Despite schooling available and administration conducted in local languages, Russian settlers were neither encouraged nor motivated to learn the official local languages, so knowledge of Russian became a practical necessity in daily life. Even to this day, the majority of the population of the Baltic states profess to be proficient in Russian, especially those who lived during Soviet rule. Meanwhile, the minority of Russian origin generally do not speak the national language. The question of their assimilation is a major factor in social and diplomatic affairs. [49]

Sports

Basketball is a notable sport across the Baltic states. Teams from the three countries compete in the respective national championships and the Baltic Basketball League. The Lithuanian teams have been the strongest, with the BC Žalgiris winning the 1999 FIBA Euroleague.

The Lithuania men's national basketball team has won the EuroBasket on three occasions and has claimed third place at the 2010 World Cup and three Olympic tournaments. Meanwhile, the Latvia men's national basketball team won the 1935 Eurobasket and finished second in 1939, but has performed poorly since the 1990s. Lithuania hosted the Eurobasket in 1939 and 2011, whereas Latvia was one of the hosts in 2015. The historic Lithuanian basketball team Kauno Žalgiris won the Euroleague in 1999. However, the Latvia women's national basketball team finished fourth at the 2007 Eurobasket.

Ice hockey is also popular in Latvia. Dinamo Riga is the country's strongest hockey club, playing in the Kontinental Hockey League. The 2006 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships were held in Latvia.

Association football is popular in the Baltic states, but the only appearance of a Baltic team in a major international competition was Latvia's qualification for Euro 2004. The national teams of the three states have played in the Baltic Cup since 1928.

Estonian and Soviet chess grandmaster Paul Keres was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s. He narrowly missed a chance at a World Chess Championship match on five occasions.

Estonian Markko Märtin was successful in the World Rally Championship in the early 2000s, where he got five wins and 18 podiums, as well as a third place in the 2004 drivers' championship.

Ott Tänak of Estonia won the 2019 World Rally Championship. [50]

Latvian tennis player Jeļena Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open, another Latvian tennis player Ernests Gulbis was a semi-finalist at the 2010 Rome Masters and 2014 French Open.

Geography

Nature

Statistics

General statistics

All three are Unitary republics, joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, share EET/EEST time zone schedules and euro currency.

Estonia Latvia Lithuania Total
Coat of arms Small coat of arms of Estonia.svg Lesser coat of arms of Latvia (escutcheon).svg Coat of arms of Lithuania.svg N/A
Flag Flag of Estonia.svg Flag of Latvia.svg Flag of Lithuania.svg N/A
Capital Tallinn Riga Vilnius N/A
IndependenceN/A
Political system Parliamentary republic Parliamentary republic Semi-presidential republic N/A
Parliament Riigikogu Saeima Seimas N/A
Current President Kersti Kaljulaid Egils Levits Gitanas Nausėda N/A
Population (2020)Increase2.svg1,328,360 [52] Decrease2.svg1,912,000 [53] Increase2.svg2,794,329 [54] Decrease2.svg6,030,542
Area45,339 km2 = 17,505 sq mi64,589 km2 = 24,938 sq mi65,300 km2 = 25,212 sq mi175,228 km2 = 67,656 sq mi
Density29/km2 = 75/sq mi31/km2 = 79/sq mi44/km2 = 115/sq mi35/km2 = 92/sq mi
Water area %4.56%1.5%1.35%2.23%
GDP (nominal) total (2019) [55] €28.037 billion€30.476 billion€48.339 billion€106.852 billion
GDP (nominal) per capita (2019) [55] €21,200€15,900€17,300€17,700
Military budget (2018)€533 million(€523mil.+additional €10mil.) [56] €576 million [57] €891 million(€873mil.+additional €18mil.) [58] €2.0 billion
Gini Index (2015) [59] 32.734.237.4N/A
HDI (2019) [60] 0.882 (Very High)0.854 (Very High)0.869 (Very High)N/A
Internet TLD .ee .lv .lt N/A
Calling code +372 +371 +370 N/A

Cities

See also

Related Research Articles

Latvia Country on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea

Latvia, officially known as the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate. The Baltic Sea moderates climate, although it has four distinct seasons and snowy winters.

Lithuania Country on the shore of the Baltic Sea

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is one of the Baltic states. The country is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Kaunas and Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, the other being Latvian.

History of Latvia Occurrences and people in Latvia throughout history

The history of Latvia began around 9000 BC with the end of the last glacial period in northern Europe. Ancient Baltic peoples arrived in the area during the second millennium BC, and four distinct tribal realms in Latvia's territory were identifiable towards the end of the first millennium AD. Latvia's principal river Daugava, was at the head of an important trade route from the Baltic region through Russia into southern Europe and the Middle East that was used by the Vikings and later Nordic and German traders.

Livonia historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea

Livonia is a historical region on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It is named after the Livonians, who lived on the shores of present-day Latvia.

Nordic Council geo-political inter-parliamentary forum for co-operation between the Nordic countries

The Nordic Council is the official body for formal inter-parliamentary co-operation among the Nordic countries. Formed in 1952, it has 87 representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden as well as from the autonomous areas of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Åland Islands. The representatives are members of parliament in their respective countries or areas and are elected by those parliaments. The Council holds ordinary sessions each year in October/November and usually one extra session per year with a specific theme. The Council's official languages are Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish, though it uses only Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish as its working languages. These three comprise the first language of around 80% of the region's population and are learned as a second or foreign language by the remaining 20%.

Baltic Germans ethnic Germans inhabitants of the eastern Baltic Sea

The Baltic Germans and остзейцы ostzeitsy 'Balters' in Russian) are a Germanic ethnic group that inhabitated the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia. Since their resettlement in 1939, Baltic Germans have markedly declined as a geographically determined ethnic group. The largest groups of present-day descendants of the Baltic Germans live in Germany and Canada. It is estimated that several thousand still reside in Latvia and Estonia.

Dominions of Sweden

The Dominions of Sweden or Svenska besittningar were territories that historically came under control of the Swedish Crown, but never became fully integrated with Sweden. This generally meant that they were ruled by Governors-General under the Swedish monarch, but within certain limits retained their own established political systems, essentially their diets. Finland was not a dominion, but an integrated part of Sweden. The dominions had no representation in the Swedish Riksdag as stipulated by the 1634 Instrument of Government paragraph 46: "No one, who is not living inside the separate and old borders of Sweden and Finland, have anything to say at Riksdags and other meetings..."

Baltic region Geographic region in Northern Europe

The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and the Baltic Sea countries refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe.

Occupation of the Baltic states period in history of the Baltic States (1940–1991)

The occupation of the Baltic states involved the military occupation of the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—by the Soviet Union under the auspices of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1940. They were then annexed into the Soviet Union as constituent republics in August 1940, though most Western powers and nations never recognised their incorporation. On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and within weeks occupied the Baltic territories. In July 1941, the Third Reich incorporated the Baltic territory into its Reichskommissariat Ostland. As a result of the Red Army's Baltic Offensive of 1944, the Soviet Union recaptured most of the Baltic states and trapped the remaining German forces in the Courland pocket until their formal surrender in May 1945. The Soviet "annexation occupation" or occupation sui generis of the Baltic states lasted until August 1991, when the three countries regained their independence.

Latgale Place in Latvia

Latgale is one of the four historical and cultural regions of Latvia recognised in the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. It is the easternmost region north of the Daugava River. While most of Latvia is historically Lutheran, Latgale is predominantly Roman Catholic: 65.3% according to a 2011 survey. There is also a strong Eastern Orthodox minority (23.8%), of which 13.8% are Russian Orthodox Christians and 10.0% are Old Believers.

Livonians ethnic group

The Livonians, or Livs, are a Balto-Finnic people indigenous to northern Latvia and southwestern Estonia. Livonians historically spoke Livonian, a Uralic language closely related to Estonian and Finnish. The last person to have learned and spoken Livonian as a mother tongue, Grizelda Kristiņa, died in 2013, making Livonian extinct. As of 2010, there were approximately 30 people who had learned it as a second language.

Baltic Assembly international organization

The Baltic Assembly (BA) is a regional organisation that promotes intergovernmental cooperation between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It attempts to find a common position in relation to many international issues, including economic, political and cultural issues. The decisions of the assembly are advisory.

State continuity of the Baltic states

State continuity of the Baltic states describes the continuity of the Baltic states as legal entities under international law while under Soviet rule and German occupation from 1940 to 1991. The prevailing opinion accepts the Baltic thesis of illegal occupation and the actions of the USSR are regarded as contrary to international law in general and to the bilateral treaties between the USSR and the Baltic states in particular.

Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 Military occupation of the Republic of Latvia by the Soviet Union

The Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 refers to the military occupation of the Republic of Latvia by the Soviet Union under the provisions of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany and its Secret Additional Protocol signed in August 1939. The occupation took place according to the European Court of Human Rights, the Government of Latvia, the United States Department of State, and the European Union. In 1989, the USSR also condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Nazi Germany and herself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries, including Latvia.

Estonia–Poland relations

Estonia–Poland relations is the official relationship between Estonia and Poland. Both nations are members of the European Union, NATO and the United Nations.

Baltic–Soviet relations

Relevant events began regarding the Baltic states and the Soviet Union when, following Bolshevist Russia's conflict with the Baltic states—Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—several peace treaties were signed with Russia and its successor, the Soviet Union. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Soviet Union and all three Baltic States further signed non-aggression treaties. The Soviet Union also confirmed that it would adhere to the Kellogg–Briand Pact with regard to its neighbors, including Estonia and Latvia, and entered into a convention defining "aggression" that included all three Baltic countries.

Background of the occupation of the Baltic states

The background of the occupation of the Baltic states covers the period before the first Soviet occupation on 14 June 1940, stretching from independence in 1918 to the Soviet ultimatums in 1939–1940. The Baltic states gained their independence during and after the Russian revolutions of 1917; Lenin's government allowed them to secede. They managed to sign non-aggression treaties in the 1920s and 1930s. Despite the treaties, the Baltic states were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 in the aftermath of the German–Soviet pact of 1939.

Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (1940)

The Soviet occupation of the Baltic states covers the period from the Soviet–Baltic mutual assistance pacts in 1939, to their invasion and annexation in 1940, to the mass deportations of 1941.

Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (1944)

The Soviet Union occupied most of the territory of the Baltic states in its 1944 Baltic Offensive during World War II. The Red Army regained control over the three Baltic capitals and encircled retreating Wehrmacht and Latvian forces in the Courland Pocket where they held out until the final German surrender at the end of the war. The German forces were deported and the leaders of Latvian collaborating forces were executed as traitors. After the war, the Baltic territories were reorganized into constituent republics of the USSR until they declared independence in 1990 amid the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Estonia Baltic country

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the other side, to the west by the Baltic Sea with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland and of 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second-most-spoken Finnic language.

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Further reading

International peer-reviewed media

Official statistics of the Baltic states