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Vidzeme LocMap.png
Coordinates: 57°20′N25°37′E / 57.333°N 25.617°E / 57.333; 25.617 Coordinates: 57°20′N25°37′E / 57.333°N 25.617°E / 57.333; 25.617
Country Latvia
  Total1.3 million (2,020)
HDI (2017)0.824 [1]
very high · 4th

Vidzeme (pronounced  [ˈvid̪͡z̪eme] ; Lithuanian : Vidžemė; Livonian : Vidūmō, Russian : Видземе, Polish : Liwonia) [2] is one of the historical and cultural regions of Latvia. The capital of Latvia, Riga, is situated in the southwestern part of the region. Population: around 1.3 million (year?). 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 (the Latvian part) of Swedish Livonia.


Vidzemes guberņa – Livland Governorate is also bigger than Vidzeme, since it corresponds roughly to Swedish Livonia.


In ancient times the territory of Vidzeme was inhabited by Latgalians and Livs (near the coast of the Gulf of Riga and along the lower reaches of the Daugava and Gauja rivers). Until the German conquest in the 13th century the Daugava, which now forms the south-east border of Vidzeme, was the boundary between the lands of the Livs and Latgalians on the right bank and those of the Semigallians and Selonians on the left bank of the river. The most notable Latgalian region in today’s Vidzeme was Tālava.

After the Livonian War part of the Livonian Confederation on the right bank of the Daugava river and the Patrimony of Riga was ceded to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Duchy of Livonia (the left bank forming the Duchy of Courland and Semigalia).

After the Polish-Swedish War concluded by the Truce of Altmark in 1629 Sweden acquired the western part of the Duchy of Livonia roughly as far as the Aiviekste River, since then forming Vidzeme's eastern border.

During the course of the Great Northern War Swedish Livonia was conquered by the Russian Empire and ceded to Russia at the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. In place of Livonia the Russians created the Riga Governorate, but in 1796 the Riga Governorate was renamed the Governorate of Livonia (Latvian : Vidzemes guberņa, German : Livländisches Gouvernement, Russian: Лифляндская губерния / Liflyandskaya guberniya, Estonian : Liivimaa kubermang), administered autonomously by the local German Baltic nobility through a feudal Landtag . After the end of World War I it was split between the newly independent countries of Latvia and Estonia.

Historical regions of Latvia, together with Latvian cultural groups. Latvian regions and latvians.png
Historical regions of Latvia, together with Latvian cultural groups.

See also

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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

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Riga Capital of Latvia

Riga is the capital of Latvia and is home to 632,614 inhabitants (2019), which is a third of Latvia's population. Being significantly larger than other cities of Latvia, Riga is the country's primate city. It is also the largest city in the three Baltic states and is home to one tenth of the three Baltic states' combined population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga at the mouth of the Daugava river where it meets the Baltic Sea. Riga's territory covers 307.17 km2 (118.60 sq mi) and lies 1–10 m above sea level, on a flat and sandy plain.

Swedish Livonia

Swedish Livonia was a dominion of the Swedish Empire from 1629 until 1721. The territory, which constituted the southern part of modern Estonia and the northern part of modern Latvia, represented the conquest of the major part of the Polish-Lithuanian Duchy of Livonia during the 1600–1629 Polish-Swedish War. Parts of Livonia and the city of Riga were under Swedish control as early as 1621 and the situation was formalized in Truce of Altmark 1629, but the whole territory was not ceded formally until the Treaty of Oliva in 1660. The minority part of the Wenden Voivodeship retained by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was renamed the Inflanty Voivodeship, which today corresponds to the Latgale region of Latvia.

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 governorates Läänemereprovintsid

The Baltic governorates, originally the Ostsee governorates, was a collective name for the administrative units of the Russian Empire set up in the territories of Swedish Estonia, Swedish Livonia (1721) and, afterwards, of Duchy of Courland and Semigallia (1795).

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

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Cultural regions of Latvia

Cultural regions of Latvia are several areas within Latvia formally recognised as distinct from the rest of the country. While some of these regions are seen purely as culturally distinct, others have historically been parts of different countries and have been used to divide the country for administrative and other purposes. The Constitution of Latvia recognises four distinct regions: Kurzeme, Zemgale, Latgale and Vidzeme.

Coat of arms of Latvia coat of arms

Coat of arms of Republic of Latvia was officially adopted by the Constitutional Assembly of Latvia on July 15, 1921, and was in official use from August 19, 1921. It was created using new national symbols and elements of coats of arms of Polish and Swedish Livonia and of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. Thus the coat of arms combines symbols of Latvian national statehood, as well as symbols of its historical regions. The Latvian national coat of arms was designed by the Latvian artist Rihards Zariņš.

Semigallia Place in Latvia

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Governorate of Livonia governorate of the Russian Empire

The Governorate of Livonia was one of the Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire, now divided between Latvia and Estonia.

Alūksne Town in Alūksne municipality, Latvia

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Cesvaine Town in Latvia

Cesvaine is a town in Cesvaine Municipality, Vidzeme Region, Latvia. It is home to the Cesvaine Palace, built in 1896 near the ruins of previous medieval castles.

Livonian Crusade German and Danish conquest of medieval Livonia

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Mõtsa Pūol or Metsepole was an ancient Livonian county inhabited by the Finnic Livonians, on the east coast of the Gulf of Riga, at the northwest of what is now the Vidzeme region of Latvia. Metsepole was bordered by the ancient Estonian Sakala County to the north, Latgalian Tālava to the east and Livonian county of Turaida to the south.

The Treaty of Vilnius or Vilna was concluded on 28 November 1561, during the Livonian War, between the Livonian Confederation and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Vilnius. With the treaty, the non-Danish and non-Swedish part of Livonia, with the exception of the Free imperial city of Riga, subjected itself to Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sigismund II Augustus with the Pacta subiectionis . In turn, Sigismund granted protection from the Tsardom of Russia and confirmed the Livonian estates' traditional privileges, laid out in the Privilegium Sigismundi Augusti.

Terra Mariana

Terra Mariana was the official name for Medieval Livonia or Old Livonia. It was formed in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade, and its territories were composed of present day Estonia and Latvia. It was established on 2 February 1207, as a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, but lost this status in 1215 when Pope Innocent III proclaimed it as directly subject to the Holy See.

Rīgas apriņķis

Rīgas apriņķis was a historic county of the Duchy of Livonia, the Governorate of Livonia, and the Republic of Latvia dissolved during the administrative territorial reform of the Latvian SSR in 1949.

Coat of arms of Vidzeme

Coat of arms of Vidzeme, a region in central Latvia, depicts a white griffin in a red field. It is a version of the earlier Coat of arms of Livonia granted in the 16th century.


  1. "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  2. Līvõkīel-ēstikīel-lețkīel sõnārōntõz: Vidzeme