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, also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations or simply the Baltics (Estonian : Balti riigid, Baltimaad, Latvian : Baltijas valstis, Lithuanian : Baltijos valstybės), 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]

Estonian language Finno-Ugric language spoken in Estonia

The Estonian language is the official language of Estonia, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people: 922,000 people in Estonia and 160,000 outside Estonia. It is a Southern Finnic language and is the second most spoken language among all the Finnic languages.

Latvian language Baltic language, official in Latvia and the European Union

Latvian or Lettish is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Latvians and the official language of Latvia as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 1.3 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, speak Latvian. Of those, 1.16 million or 56% use it as their primary language at home. The use of the Latvian language in various areas of social life in Latvia is increasing.

Lithuanian language Language spoken in Lithuania

Lithuanian is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Lithuanians and the official language of Lithuania as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.8 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 200 thousand abroad.

Contents

All three countries are members of the European Union, NATO, the eurozone and the OECD. From 2020, Estonia will also be a 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]

European Union Economic and political union of European states

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

NATO Intergovernmental military alliance of Western states

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949. NATO constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. NATO's Headquarters are located in Haren, Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.

Eurozone Area in which the euro is the official currency

The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 of the 28 European Union (EU) member states which have adopted the euro (€) as their common currency and sole legal tender. The monetary authority of the eurozone is the Eurosystem. The other nine members of the European Union continue to use their own national currencies, although most of them are obliged to adopt the euro in the future.

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 Latin : Mare Balticum) and earlier. Although there are several theories about its origin, most ultimately trace it to 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]

Baltic Sea A sea in Northern Europe bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands

The Baltic Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, northeast Germany, Poland, Russia and the North and Central European Plain.

A hydronym is a proper name of a body of water. Hydronymy, a subset of toponymy, the taxonomic study of place-names, is the study of the names of bodies of water, the origins of those names, and how they are transmitted through history. Hydronyms may include the names of rivers (potamonyms), lakes, and even oceanic elements.

Adam of Bremen German medieval chronicler

Adam of Bremen was a German medieval chronicler. He lived and worked in the second half of the eleventh century. Adamus is most famous for his chronicle Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum.

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 mostly lies to the east of Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The term was historically also used 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] The terms related to modern name "Baltic" appear in ancient texts, but had fallen in 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 the stem "Baltic" to refer to themselves. [7] [8]

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Germanic languages Sub-branch Indo-European language

The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about 515 million people mainly in Europe, North America, Oceania, and Southern Africa.

Danish language North Germanic language spoken in Denmark

Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in Denmark and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germany, where it has minority language status. Also, minor Danish-speaking communities are found in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. Due to immigration and language shift in urban areas, around 15–20% of the population of Greenland speak Danish as their first language.

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]

Foreningen Norden, Föreningen Norden (Swedish), Norræna félagið (Icelandic), Norrøna Felagið (Faroese), Peqatigiiffik Nunat Avannarliit (Greenlandic) and Pohjola-Norden (Finnish), The Nordic Associations, sometimes referred to as The Norden Associations are non-governmental organisations in the Nordic countries promoting civil cooperation between the Nordic countries. Established since 1919, there are Nordic Associations in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland. Since 1965 these national branches are grouped in an umbrella organisation Foreningene Nordens Forbund (FNF), The Confederation of Nordic Associations. The co-operation between the Nordic countries include projects such as Nordjobb, Nordic Library Week and Norden at the Cinema.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Interwar period Period between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II

In the context of the history of the 20th century, the interwar period was the period between the end of the First World War in November 1918 and the beginning of the Second World War in September 1939. This period is also colloquially referred to as Between the Wars.

History

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]

Paganism non-Abrahamic religion, or modern religious movement such as nature worship

Paganism is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christians for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism. This was either because they were increasingly rural and provincial relative to the Christian population, or because they were not milites Christi. Alternate terms in Christian texts for the same group were hellene, gentile, and heathen. Ritual sacrifice was an integral part of ancient Graeco-Roman religion and was regarded as an indication of whether a person was pagan or Christian.

The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were religious wars undertaken by Catholic Christian military orders and kingdoms, primarily against the pagan Baltic, Finnic and West Slavic peoples around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and to a lesser extent also against Orthodox Christian Slavs. The crusades took place mostly in the 12th and 13th centuries and resulted in the mass extermination, subjugation and forced baptism of indigenous peoples.

Crusader states feudal state founded by the Crusaders

The Crusader states were a number of mostly 12th- and 13th-century feudal Christian states created by Western European crusaders in Asia Minor, Greece and the Holy Land, and during the Northern Crusades in the eastern Baltic area. The name also refers to other territorial gains made by medieval Christendom against Muslim and pagan adversaries.

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

Map of present-day Baltic states Baltic states regions map.svg
Map of present-day Baltic states

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 rigged 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, inhospitable 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] [25] (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). [26] 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, [27] Canada, NATO, and many other countries and international organizations. [28] 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. [29]

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". [30] 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. [31] Skrunda-1, the last Russian military radar in the Baltics, officially suspended operations in August 1998. [32]

Current position of the Baltic countries

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. [33] 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. [34]

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

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. [35]

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. [36]

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. [37] [38]

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. [39] Other studies add other indicators to this list: diversification of energy suppliers, energy import dependence and vulnerability of political system. [40]

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. [41] 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. [42] Therefore, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania play a significant role not only in consuming, but also in distribution of Russian energy fuels extracting transaction fees. [42] 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. [42]

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. [43]

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. [39] 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. [39]

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. [39]

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. [41]

Secondly, the dependence on single supplier – Russia – is not healthy both for economics and politics. [44] 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. [41]

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. [41]

Economies

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.

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 (2019)Increase2.svg1,324,820 [50] Decrease2.svg1,925,800 [51] Increase2.svg2,791,133 [52] Increase2.svg6,041,853
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 (2018) [53] €25.657 billion€29.524 billion€45.133 billion€100.314 billion
GDP (nominal) per capita (2018) [53] €19,500€15,300€16,100€16,600
Military budget (2018)€533 million(€523mil.+additional €10mil.) [54] €576 million [55] €891 million(€873mil.+additional €18mil.) [56] €2.000 billion
Gini Index (2015) [57] 32.734.237.4N/A
HDI (2018) [58] 0.871 (Very High)0.847 (Very High)0.858 (Very High)N/A
Internet TLD .ee .lv .lt N/A
Calling code +372 +371 +370 N/A

Cities

See also

Related Research Articles

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 history of Estonia forms a part of the history of Europe. Humans settled in the region of Estonia near the end of the last glacial era, beginning from around 8500 BC. Before German crusaders invaded in the early 13th century, proto-Estonians of ancient Estonia worshipped spirits of nature. Starting with the Northern Crusades in the Middle Ages, Estonia became a battleground for centuries where Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland fought their many wars over controlling the important geographical position of the country as a gateway between East and West.

Baltic region geographic region

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 incorporated into the Soviet Union as constituent republics in August 1940, though most Western powers 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.

Livonians ethnic group

The Livonians, or Livs, are a Finnic ethnic group 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.

Duchy of Livonia was territory of Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, 1561-1621

The Duchy of Livonia was a territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania—and later the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth—that existed from 1561 to 1621. It corresponds to the present-day areas of northern Latvia and southern Estonia.

Post-Soviet states States established following the disestablishment of the Soviet Union

The post-Soviet states, also collectively known as the former Soviet Union (FSU) or former Soviet Republics, and in Russian as the "near abroad" are the sovereign states that emerged and re-emerged from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in its breakup in 1991, with Russia internationally recognised as the successor state to the Soviet Union after the Cold War. The three Baltic states were the first to declare their independence, between March and May 1990, claiming continuity from the original states that existed prior to their annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940. The remaining 12 republics all subsequently seceded. 12 of the 15 states, excluding the Baltic states, initially formed the CIS and most joined CSTO, while the Baltic states focused on European Union and NATO membership.

Russians in the Baltic states

Russians in the Baltic states describes self-identifying ethnic Russians and other primary Russian-speaking communities in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, commonly referred to collectively as the Baltic states. In 2017, there were 0.9 million ethnic Russians in the Baltic States, having declined from 1.7 million in 1989, the year of the last census during the Soviet era.

Vidzeme Place in Latvia

Vidzeme is one of the historical and cultural regions of Latvia. Literally meaning "the Middle Land", it is situated in north-central Latvia north of the Daugava River. Sometimes in German, it is also known as Livland, the German form from Latin Livonia, though it comprises only a small part of Medieval Livonia and about half of Swedish Livonia.

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.

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.

The Sovietization of the Baltic states refers to the sovietization of all spheres of life in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania when they were under control of the Soviet Union. The first period deals with the occupation from June 1940 to July 1941 when the German occupation began. The second period covers 1944 when the Soviet forces pushed the German out, until 1991 when independence was declared.

Soviet annexation of the Baltic states (1940)

The Soviet annexation 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.

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Further reading

International peer-reviewed media

Official statistics of the Baltic states