Baltic states

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For other uses, see Baltic (disambiguation).
Baltic states
Location of the  Baltic states  (dark green)in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of the  Baltic states  (dark green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Capitals
Official languages
Membership
Area
 -  Total 175,015 km2 (91st)
67,523 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 2.23% (3,909 km²)
Population
 -  2014 census 6,206,329
 -  Density 35.5/km2 (176th)
102.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $143.355 billion[1] (61st)
 -  Per capita $23,098 (47th)
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $104.632 billion[1] (60th)
 -  Per capita $16,328 (45th)
Currency Euro
Litas (Lithuania only) (until 2015)

The Baltic states (also known as the Baltics, Baltic nations or Baltic countries; Estonian: Balti riigid, Baltimaad, Latvian: Baltijas valstis, Lithuanian: Baltijos valstybės) are three northern European countries east of the Baltic SeaEstonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I.

While the indigenous populations of Latvia and Lithuania are known as Baltic peoples, those of Estonia are Finnic peoples. Another Baltic identity, Baltic German, began to develop during the Middle Ages after the Livonian Crusade.

Linguistic and historical considerations intersect in defining the concept of "Baltic states": for example, while Latvian is phylogenetically related to Lithuanian (both belonging to the Baltic group of the Indo-European language family) Estonian belongs to a completely different family – the Uralic languages. At the same time, despite considerable linguistic proximity, politically Latvia and Lithuania have gone different ways for most of their history, Lithuania at one point forming a commonwealth with Poland, giving rise to one of the largest countries in Europe at the time; while Latvia has shared most of its history with Estonia, both being governed by a Baltic German élite for almost 1000 years. The Livonians (a nearly extinct ethnic group closely related to Estonians) have also participated in the ethnogenesis of Latvians: according to some accounts, the assimilation of (Uralic) Vidzeme Livonians by ancient (Indo-European) Latgallians formed the basis of what are today known as the Latvian language and Latvians.[n 1]

Some commentators identify Latvia as the most "Baltic" (in a geopolitical sense) of the Baltic states, noting Estonia's close linguistic affinity with Finland as well as its bid to be considered a Nordic country, and identifying Lithuania as "the most Central European" of the Baltic states by virtue of its close historical ties with Poland.[2]

Features shared by the Baltic states[edit]

As discussed above the term "Baltic" can have differing meanings – linguistic, geographical, geopolitical, depending on the context. Below are some characteristics that any two of the three Baltic states might share (but the third might not) and events shared by all three of them.

Estonia and Latvia[edit]

Terra Mariana in 1260
  • From the 13th century (see: Terra Mariana) up until becoming occupied by the USSR in the 1940s (and a call for repatriation by Germany) both Latvia and Estonia had a very prominent Baltic German community. They were, in fact, the first to use the term "Balts" to refer to themselves before it was ever used in linguistics.[3][4]
  • Both are predominantly Lutheran, while Lithuania is mostly Catholic (with the exception of Eastern Latvia, which is also predominantly Catholic and multi-religious, in general having had a strong presence of the Eastern Orthodox Church throughout history as well as a prominent Jewish community until the outbreak of World War II.)
  • As a consequence of Baltic German rule, both had an important role in the Hanseatic League.
  • Both have rather long coastlines and a well established seafaring tradition. The modern Lithuanian Baltic Sea coastline is the longest it has ever been historically (see: Klaipėda Revolt), at one point in history Lithuania had expanded eastward to such an extent that, despite its then shorter coastline on the Baltic Sea it had, in fact, gained a coastline on the Black Sea (see: Grand Duchy of Lithuania.)
  • The southern half of Estonia and Vidzeme (including Riga) came under the Swedish Crown (see: Swedish Livonia) albeit just for slightly less than a century. This period is still remembered in Estonian as vana hea rootsi aeg ("good old Swedish times") and in Latvian as zviedru laiki ("Swedish times"), a euphemistic expression used to refer to a period of general stability and prosperity. Northern parts of Estonia and its islands had been part of the Swedish Empire even longer.
  • Within the administrative divisions of the Russian Empire only the governorates of Courland, Livonia and Estonia were considered as Baltic governorates; these territories now form modern Estonia and Latvia (except for Eastern Latvia, which had been part of the Vitebsk Governorate).
  • As a more recent development, after the fall of the USSR both Estonia and Latvia have a rather large Russian speaking population – slightly less than 30% of the total population, the Russian speaking population of Lithuania (according to some, owing to Antanas Sniečkus' skillfully executed "nationalist" policies) is less than 5% (see: Russians in the Baltic states.)

Estonia and Lithuania[edit]

  • Although historically the most diverging, parallel developments in recent decades have taken place in the northernmost and the southernmost of the three Baltic states, not evidenced in Latvia. As a somewhat symbolic gesture both Estonia and Lithuania have opened their KGB archives,[5] revealing among other things individuals with "close ties to the party" during Soviet times. Besides what some might view as simply "treasonous" activities, another argument in favor of making such information public is that such connections could at that time provide these individuals with critical information on lucrative, backhanded privatization deals in the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union allowing them to quickly amass huge amounts of wealth and get a kick-start in politics. As of early 2014 Latvian KGB archives (colloquially known as "Cheka sacks") were still sealed.
  • Latvian political commentators have remarked on both Estonia and Lithuania forging closer contacts with regional, pro-Western strategic partners (e.g., Finland and Poland), Latvia remaining without such a partner, flirting with the idea of being a "bridge" between Russia and the West, which in their opinion leaves Latvia in a vulnerable position.[6]

Latvia and Lithuania[edit]

Main Baltic tribes c. 1200.
  • The state languages in both countries, Latvian and Lithuanian respectively, are the only extant members of the Baltic language group (or more specifically, Eastern Baltic subgroup of Baltic) of the Indo-European languages. (The Finnic Livonians however have had an important role in the development of Latvian. For example, the fixed first syllable stress in Latvian owes its existence to Livonian influence. Lithuanian, in turn, has retained the archaic mobile stress system, among other examples.)
  • At one point in history whole of the territory of modern day Latvia (and southern half of Estonia) were either fiefs or direct subjects of Poland-Lithuania. In most of the territory this didn't challenge the German status quo (for example, there was no conversion to Catholicism) Eastern Latvia (now called Latgale,) however, was an exception and now is predominantly Catholic (see: Inflanty Voivodeship.)
  • Some time after partition of Poland-Lithuania and subsuming its territories in the Russian Empire a policy of Russification was adopted. In most of modern day Latvia and Estonia the measures were nowhere near as harsh[7] (perhaps due to Baltic German élite being seen as generally loyal to the tsar.)[8] Poland and Lithuania, however, experienced not only a requirement to switch to Cyrillic but even a ban on print publications in the local languages and corporal punishment if students were caught speaking the local languages at school[9] (see: Lithuanian book smugglers.) Latgale (former Inflanty Voivodeship) at the time part of Vitebsk Governorate (with parts of modern day Belarus) shared this experience with the rest of Poland and Lithuania.

All three – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania[edit]

  • Occupation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union, informally grouped in a region called Pribaltika in Russian. President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves in his somewhat infamous "Yule-land speech" argues that in his opinion the only thing "Baltic states" (all three of them, as discussed in this article) have in common are tragic historical events in the form of USSR occupation and repressions.[10]
  • After establishing as sovereign republics for the first time in the late 1910s, before being annexed by USSR in the early 1940s all three Baltics at one point saw a bloodless coup and an authoritarian régime. By Konstantin Päts, Kārlis Ulmanis and Antanas Smetona in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, respectively. 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.[11] Some controversy surrounds the Baltic authoritarian régimes – due to the general stability and rapid economic growth of the period (even if brief) some avoid the label "authoritarian"; others, however, condemn such "apologetic" attitude (see, for example: Later assessments in Kārlis Ulmanis.)

Etymology and toponymic history[edit]

Baltics in the 13th century (German map)

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.

The Latvian and Lithuanian term Baltija most likely originates from the Indo-European root *bhel meaning white, fair. This meaning is retained in modern Baltic languages, where baltas (in Lithuanian) and balts (in Latvian) means "white".[12]

Beginning in the Middle Ages and through the present day, the Baltic Sea appears on the maps described in Germanic languages as German: Ostsee, Danish: Østersøen, Dutch: Oostzee, Swedish: Östersjön, etc. In English "Ost" is "East", and in fact, the Baltic Sea mostly lies to the east for Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Territorial changes in 1700–1709

In the 17th century, the Kingdom of Sweden grew to be one of the great powers of Northern Europe.[13] However, at the beginning of the 18th century "the Great Power Era" (Swedish: Stormaktstiden) of the Swedish Empire was challenged by the Russian Empire which was seeking to restore its access to the Varangians Sea — as the Baltic Sea was called in the Land of Novgorod. De facto in 1700 - 09, and de jure beginning in 1721, Swedish Livonia (today the northern parts of Latvia and Estonia, and the western part of the Leningrad Oblast) which had been acquired by Sweden in accordance with Treaty of Oliva of 1660, came under the rule of the Russian Empire. Legalizing this acquisition by the Treaty of Nystad, instead of taking an indemnity from the defeated Swedes, the Russian Empire paid Sweden two million jefimoks, or about 980 kilograms of silver.[14] The first collective name for two administrative units established here in 1713 was Ostsee Governorates (Russian: Остзейские губернии). 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 set, the one of Courland (presently a part of Latvia). This toponym stems from Curonians, one of Finnic[15] or Baltic[16] indigenous tribes. Accordingly, two others were renamed to the Governorate of Livland and the Governorate of Estland.

The presence of the Germanic morphemes "Ost" and "see" within the Russian collective name of those provinces is not limited to the personal inclination to the Western lexics which was shown by Peter the Great who conquered these lands from the Swedes. In fact, since the Livonian Crusade (religious colonization) at the turn of the 12th to 13th century "Terra Mariana", Livland and Estland were under the German influence. These were Germans who formed the backbone of the local gentry, and for centuries German was the language of international communication and record keeping there.[17]

By coincidence, it was German philologist Georg Nesselmann living at the Baltics (in East Prussia) who in the middle of the 19th century substantiated the concept of Baltic languages[18] using the name of one of the local pagan tribes, the Balts. Endre Bojtár (1999) argues that it was around the 1840s when the German gentry of the Governorate of Livonia devised the term "Balts" to mean themselves, the German upper classes of Livonia, excluding the Latvian and Estonian lower classes. They spoke an exclusive dialect, baltisch-deutsch, legally spoken by them alone.[17] Thus the usage of "Baltic" and similar terms to denote this region dates back not earlier than 1840s.

Simultaneously, in the 1840s the usage "Ostsee" was superseded by "Baltic" in Russian. The article "Прибалтийский край" ("Baltic Krai") in the Brockhaus encyclopedia[19] and other sources notes that 1840s mark a shift of the local population towards Russian language and, to a certain extent, to orthodoxy.[20] A lot of the local Baltic Germans became loyal subjects of the Russian Empire.

Lithuania occupies a specific place within the scope of the region named "Baltic states". Through many centuries of its history Lithuania was more than a state at a Baltic seacoast. Born at a turn of the 12th to 13th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania encompassed most part of Kievan Rus' and by the middle of 16th century stretched to the Black Sea.[21] From 1569 it has been a backbone element of such large and strong geo-political power as Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, so it is not incidental that up to 1920s Lithuania was treated separately from the Baltic states. Only after Lietuvos Taryba proclaimed its independence in 1918, Lithuania began to be mentioned in the same list with her two northern neighbours.

After the incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia into the Soviet Union as Soviet republics, they were informally grouped as "Baltic republics" (прибалтийские республики).

The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names defines a Baltic Division.[22]

Histories[edit]

Ancylus Lake around 7500 years BC.

At 8000–5000 BC mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities of the Kunda culture at the southern shores of the Mastogloia Sea may have witnessed its transfiguration into Littorina Sea and finally to what is the Baltic Sea now.[23] Traces of Comb Ceramic Culture found on these territories date back to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, and of the Corded Ware culture (pottery with corded decoration and well-polished boat-shape stone axes) to the beginning of the Late Neolithic Period. Fossils of the Bronze Age show the separation between the Finnic peoples and the Balts.

Europe in the 9th century
Outline of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1618, superimposed on present-day national borders. At the time, the Commonwealth incorporated most of the territory of the modern Baltic states.
  Duchy of Prussia, Polish fief
  Duchy of Courland, Lithuanian fief

In the 1st century, AD the people living in the area were first denoted by Tacitus as a form of Aestii.

In the 13th century, Christianity and feudalism were effectively forced upon modern Estonia and Latvia by the invasion of the crusaders from the west (German Sword Brethren, Denmark) and the conversion of Lithuania's rulers from Paganism to Christianity. While in Latvia and most of Estonia Livonian Confederation was established, Lithuania established its own state as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania some time before 1252. It later was a major political power of the region.

After the Livonian War in the 16th century, the Confederation ceased to exist, and its lands were incorporated into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1621 most of the Duchy of Livonia was incorporated into the Swedish empire. During the Great Northern War the Dominions of Sweden of Swedish Estonia and Swedish Livonia were conquered by Russia and then ceded by Sweden in the Treaty of Nystad in 1721.

The Russian Empire gained control of most of the present-day Baltic states in the 18th century when the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned in three stages by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy, while western parts of Lithuania were incorporated into Prussia.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became sovereign nations in the aftermath of World War I. They declared independence in 1918, fought independence wars against German Freikorps and Bolshevist Russia, and were recognized as independent countries in 1920.

After independence, the Baltic States were sometimes referred to as limitrophe states[24] between the two World Wars, from the French, indicating their collectively forming a rim[25] 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. In accordance with a secret protocol within the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 that divided Europe into Germand and Soviet spheres of influence, the Soviet Army entered eastern Poland in September 1939, and then coerced the Baltic states into mutual assistance treaties which granted the URR military bases in the Baltic states. In June 1940, the Red Army occupied all of the territory of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and the Red Army 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 Soviet Socialist Republic, the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Repressions, executions and mass deportations followed after that in the Baltics.[26][27] Deportations were used as a part of the Soviet Union's attempts, along with instituting the Russian Language as the only working language and other such tactics, at sovietization of its occupied territories. More than 200,000 people were deported by the Soviet government from the Baltic in 1940-1953 to remote, inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to Gulag. 10% of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to labor camps.[28][29] (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 from the Soviet Union. The Balts hoped for the restoration of independence, but instead the Germans established civil administration, known as the Reichskommissariat Ostland. During the occupation the Germans carried out discrimination, mass deportations and mass killings generating Baltic resistance movements. 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. Although the armed resistance was defeated, the population remained anti-Soviet.

In the late 1980s a massive campaign of civil resistance against Soviet rule, known as the Singing Revolution, began. Baltic Way was one of the most spectacular events when a two-million-strong human chain stretched for 600 km from Tallinn to Vilnius on August 23, 1989. 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 September 6, 1991. There was a subsequent withdrawal of troops from the region (starting from Lithuania) in 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]

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were considered to be under Soviet occupation by the United States, the United Kingdom,[33] Canada, NATO, and many other countries and international organizations.[34]

Politics[edit]

Baltic countries are located in Northern Europe and have a seaside; thanks to that they are able to interact with many European countries. All three countries are parliamentary democracies, which have unicameral parliaments that are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms – Riigikogu of Estonia, Saeima of Latvia and Seimas of Lithuania. In Latvia and Estonia, the president is elected by parliament while Lithuania has a semi-presidential system and the president is elected by popular vote. All are parts of the EU and the NATO.

Each of the three countries has declared itself to be the restoration of the sovereign nations 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 all other Western democracies, who always considered the forcible incorporation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the Soviet Union to be illegal. At least formally, the 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 freedom: in 1974, the Labor government of Australia did recognize Soviet dominion, but this decision was reversed by the next Australian Parliament.[35]

After the Baltic states had restored independence, integration with Western Europe was chosen as the main strategic goal. In 2002 the Baltic nations applied to become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Membership of NATO was duly achieved on 29 March 2004, and accession to the EU took place on 1 May 2004. The Baltic States have been the only former-Soviet states to join either NATO or the EU at that time.

Regional cooperation[edit]

During the Baltic fight 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.[36]

Between 1994 and 2004 existed BAFTA free trade agreement, which was established to help prepare the countries for their accession to the EU. It was created more as an initiative of the EU than out of a desire Baltic states to trade between themselves: they were more interested in gaining access to the rest of the European markets.

Currently governments of Baltic states cooperate in multiple ways. There is active cooperation among Presidents, parliament speakers, heads of government, and foreign ministers. On 8 November 1991, the Baltic Assembly was established for cooperation among parliaments. 15 to 20 MPs from each parliament represent their countries in the Assembly. For cooperation among governments Baltic Council of Ministers was established on 13 June 1994. Since 2003 Baltic Assembly is coordinated with the Baltic Council of Ministers.[37]

In comparison with other regional organisations, such as Nordic council or Visegrad Four, Baltic cooperation is rather limited. One possible explanation for lack of cooperation between Baltic states could be short history of their sovereignty and fear of losing it again. A second explanation is orientation toward Nordic countries and a Baltic-Nordic cooperation in NB8.

As paradoxical as it might seem, the Baltic States have always been perceived as a united entity, or as a region, more by the outside world than by the Balts themselves. They are like “three sisters” whom you do not choose and whom you are destined to live with, whether you like it or not.

Current leaders[edit]

Economies[edit]

Main article: Baltic Tiger
Tornimäe business area in Tallinn
Tallink, one of the biggest passenger shipping companies in the Baltic sea region in Tallinn.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have been members of both the EU and NATO since 2004. Today the three countries are liberal democracies and their market economies in recent years have undergone rapid expansion in the early 2000s. However, the economies were hard-hit by the financial crisis of 2007–2010. According to projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the GDP based on purchasing power parity decreased by 13% to 17% from 2008 to 2009.[38]

The Baltic states had the highest growth rates in Europe between 2000 and 2006, and this continued in 2007. In 2006 the economy in Estonia grew by 11.2% in GDP, while the Latvian economy grew by 11.9% and Lithuania by 7.5%. All three countries saw their rates of unemployment fall below the EU average by February 2006. Currently, all three Baltic States are classified as "high income" economies by the World Bank.[39] Estonia adopted the euro in January 2011 and Latvia in January 2014, whilst Lithuania aims for Euro adoption in 2015.

However, due to the global economic crisis, the Baltic economies in 2008 were fragile and the previous fast growth had switched to recession in Estonia and Latvia by the end of 2008, followed by Lithuania in 2009. In 2009, unemployment rate rose to 13.7% in Lithuania, 17.3% in Latvia and 13.8% in Estonia, as compared to a "Advanced Europe" level of 8.8% (the 2009 unemployment rate in so called "Emerging Europe" countries was higher but still below that found in the Baltic states). Over the course of 2011, the unemployment rates were expected to rise even further, despite an expected recovery in output.[40] In 2009, real aggregate GDP fell by 14.8% in Lithuania, by 18% in Latvia and 13.9% in Estonia, compared to an overall fall of 3.7% among all countries in the "Emerging Europe" group. Output was expected to recover somewhat in Lithuania and Estonia, with projected growth rates of 1.3% and 1.8% respectively, while in Latvia GDP was expected to fall by further 1%.[40] Although Estonia had so far succeeded on keeping its debt levels one of the lowest in the European Union, the southern Baltic states were in a more difficult situation. Rather defaulting on debt in the lead-up to the sub-prime mortgage crash, the Latvian government had responded to EU and IMF pressure by taking on private debt. Latvia accepted a 7.5 billion euro EU–IMF loan.

Cultures and languages[edit]

Estonians and the small-numbered Livonian people in Latvia are descended from the Baltic Finns, sharing closely related languages and a common cultural ancestry. The Latvians and Lithuanians, linguistically and culturally related to each other, are descended from the Balts, an Indo-European people and culture. The peoples comprising 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 Slavic minorities.

The languages of Baltic nations belong to two distinct language families. The Latvian and Lithuanian languages make up the group of Baltic languages which belongs to the Indo-European language family. The Estonian and Livonian language, on the other hand, are not Indo-European languages and instead they belong to the Balto-Finnic branch of the Uralic languages, being closely related to the Finnish language.

The Baltic states have historically been in the Swedish (or, in Lithuania's case, Polish), German (historically: The Holy Roman Empire and Saxony), Danish, and Russian spheres of influence.

Catholic Church of All Saints, 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. 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. As they were neither encouraged nor motivated to learn the official local languages, knowledge of Russian became a practical necessity in daily life despite schooling available and administration conducted in local languages. 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).

Currently, the Baltic states have considerable Slavic populations: Latvia is 34.5% Slavic (including 26.7% Russian, 3.3% Belarusian, 2.2% Ukrainian, and 2.2% Polish), 28.8% of Estonia is Slavic (mostly Russian), and 13.8% of Lithuania is Slavic (including 6.5% Polish and 5.3% Russian).

Statistics[edit]

General statistics[edit]

All three are Parliamentary republics and joined EU on 1 May 2004 and share EET time zone and EEST schedules.

Flag Estonia Latvia Lithuania -
Country Estonia Latvia Lithuania Baltic States
Capital Tallinn Riga Vilnius -
Independence -Until 13th century
-24 February 1918
-restored 20 August 1991
-Until 13th century
-18 November 1918
- restored 21 August 1991
-Until 18th century
-16 February 1918
- restored 11 March 1990
-
Current President Toomas Hendrik Ilves Andris Bērziņš Dalia Grybauskaitė -
Population (2011) 1 294 455 2 067 900 3 043 800 6 406 155
Density 29/km² = 75/sq mi 32/km² = 93/sq mi 46/km² = 134/sq mi 36.6/km² = 94.9/sq mi
Area 45,227 km² = 17,413 sq mi 64,589 km² = 24,937 sq mi 65,300 km² = 25,173 sq mi 175,116 km² = 67,523 sq mi
Water area % 4.56% 1.5% 1.35% 2.23%
GDP (PPP) total (2014) $29.944 billion $44.368 billion $70.840 billion $145.202 billion
GDP (PPP) per capita (2014) $23,213 $22,150 $23,850 $22,666
GDP (nominal) total (2014) $24.284 billion $32.324 billion $49.308 billion $105.916 billion
GDP (nominal) per capita (2014) $20,179 $16,138 $16,600 $16,553
Gini Index 31.9 (2011) 35.9 (2012) 32.9 (2011) -
HDI 0.846 (Very High) 0.814 (Very High) 0.818 (Very High) -
Internet TLD .ee .lv .lt -
Calling code +372 +371 +370 -
Currency EUR EUR LTL -

Cities[edit]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ As summarized by Marta Rudzīte (as reprinted in Kersti Boiko's compilation Lībieši: rakstu krājums, pages 289 and 298) at one extreme there are theories, such as that of German linguist Hermann Hirt, that the Latvian language is a "mixture of Lithuanian and Livonian". The well-known Finnish linguist Lauri Kettunen was of somewhat similar opinion, considering (modern) Latvians "a mixture of Latvians and Livonians, a Mischvolk". The renowned Latvian linguist Jānis Endzelīns is arguably in the opposite camp, for example, on the subject of phonetics offering a theory that Latvians themselves decided to shift to fixed first-syllable stress because they were "inconvenienced by having to consecutively pronounce words with stress falling on different syllables". According to him Livonian only helped promote this initially "all-Latvian" innovation. It should be borne in mind that these theories are from the early 20th century, a time when linguistics was a highly politicized subject.
  1. ^ a b "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". Imf.org. 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  2. ^ Galbreath, David. "A Baltic Star Catches Western Eyes: The Latvian Guide to "Making Friends and Influencing People"". Retrieved 17 December 2013. Latvia has long been the most Baltic of the Baltic states. Estonia not only shares a socio-cultural space with Finland, but has even declared itself to be a 'Nordic' state rather than 'Baltic', as the late President Lennart Meri did in 1999. On the other hand, Lithuania shares a long history with Poland and has appeared the most 'Central European' of the Baltic states. Yet, largely due to its geographical location, Latvia does not have the opportunity to claim either of these labels. Latvia is a self-confessed 'Baltic' state. 
  3. ^ Bojtár, Endre (1999). Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-963-9116-42-9. 
  4. ^ Butler, Ralph (1919). The New Eastern Europe. London: Longmans, Green and Co. pp. 3, 21, 22, 23, 24. 
  5. ^ Dzērve, Annika (July 19, 2013). "Aicinājums par Čekas maisu atvēršanu". Retrieved July 13, 2014. Lietuvā un Igaunijā šis jautājums jau ir atrisināts un arhīvi ir atvērti. 
  6. ^ Alehins, Dimitrijs (April 1, 2014). "Latvia to end up all alone against Mr Putin?". Retrieved July 13, 2014. policy should be all about (..) earning allies (..) Estonia seems to be learning it as we speak. Lithuania is on its way to it. (..) Countries like Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and unfortunately, Latvia—to a certain extent, definitely more so than Estonia or Lithuania—have been wasting decades now trying to friend Moscow 
  7. ^ Martyn Housden. Forgotten Pages in Baltic History: Diversity and Inclusion. p. 54. ISBN 9789042033160. The imperial Russification policy began in Latgale in 1867. (..) among western Latvians no such prohibition had ever existed, and the print culture was thriving. 
  8. ^ Anders Henriksson. The Tsar's Loyal Germans. ISBN 9780880330206. 
  9. ^ Porter, Brian (2001). When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-515187-9. 
  10. ^ Ilves, Toomas (December 14, 1999). "Estonia as a Nordic Country". (..) since what the three Baltic States have in common almost completely derives from shared unhappy experiences imposed upon us from outside: occupations, deportations, annexation, sovietization, collecitivization, russification. What these countries do not share is a common identity. 
  11. ^ "Why did Finland remain a democracy between the two World Wars, whereas the Baltic States developed authoritarian regimes?". January 2004. as [Lithuania] is a distinct case from the other two Baltic countries. Not only was an authoritarian regime set up in 1926, eight years before those of Estonia and Latvia, but it was also formed not to counter a threat from the right, but through a military coup d'etat against a leftist government. (..) The hostility between socialists and non-socialists in Finland had been amplified by a bloody civil war 
  12. ^ Dini, Pierto Umberto (2000) [1997]. Baltu valodas (in Latvian). Translated from Italian by Dace Meiere. Riga: Jānis Roze. ISBN 9984-623-96-3. 
  13. ^ Frost 2000, pp. 133–134
  14. ^ "Ништадтский мир" [Treaty of Nystad]. Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 30: Николаев – Олонки (2nd ed.). М.: Сов. энциклопедия. 1954. 
  15. ^ Saks, Edgar V. (2005). Eesti viikingid. Tallinn. p. 31. ISBN 978-9985-66-411-7. 
  16. ^ Matthews, W. K. "Nationality and Language in the East Baltic Area", American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 6, No. 1/2 (May 1947), pp. 62–78
  17. ^ a b Bojtár, Endre (1999). Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-963-9116-42-9. 
  18. ^ Moritz Cantor, "Nesselmann: Georg Heinrich Ferdinand". In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Vol. 23, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1886, p. 445.
  19. ^ "Прибалтийский край" (Энциклопедический словарь Брокгауза и Ефрона ed.). 
  20. ^ Ср.: Сборник материалов по истории Прибалтийского края. Рига. 1894. ; Форстен. (1894). Балтийский вопрос. СПб. ; Пассир Г. (1892). Из истории православия в Прибалтийском крае. Рига. ; Краткая история Прибалтийского края (2-е изд. ed.). Рига. 1894.  и др.
  21. ^ T. Baranauskas. Lietuvos valstybės ištakos. Vilnius, 2000
  22. ^ United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, UNGEGN Divisions
  23. ^ Niskanen, Markku (2002). "The Origin of the Baltic-Finns". The Mankind Quarterly. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  24. ^ Smele, John (1996). Civil war in Siberia: the anti-Bolshevik government of Admiral Kolchak, 1918–1920. London: Cambridge University Press. p. 305. 
  25. ^ Calvo, Carlos (2009). Dictionnaire Manuel de Diplomatie et de Droit International Public et Privé. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 246. 
  26. ^ These Names Accuse—Nominal List of Latvians Deported to Soviet Russia
  27. ^ The White Book - Losses Inflicted On The Estonian Nation By The Occupation Regimes 1940-1991
  28. ^ The Baltic States
  29. ^ Communism and Crimes against Humanity in the Baltic states
  30. ^ Beissinger, Mark R. (2009). "The intersection of Ethnic Nationalism and People Power Tactics in the Baltic States". In Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.). Civil resistance and power politics: the experience of non-violent action from Gandhi to the present. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 231–246. ISBN 978-0-19-955201-6. 
  31. ^ Baltic Military District globalsecurity.org
  32. ^ SKRUNDA SHUTS DOWN. The Jamestown Foundation. 1 September 1998. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  33. ^ Country Profiles: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania at UK Foreign Office
  34. ^ U.S.-Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship at state.gov
  35. ^ 'The Latvians in Sydney' (2008)
  36. ^ Kristensen, Gustav N. 2010. Born into a Dream. EuroFaculty and the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Berliner Wissentshafts-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8305-1769-6.
  37. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia: Co-operation among the Baltic States
  38. ^ World Economic Outlook Database, October 2009
  39. ^ Country and Lending Groups, July 2013
  40. ^ a b International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook

Further reading[edit]

International peer-reviewed journals, media and book series dedicated to the Baltic region include:

External links[edit]

Official statistics of the Baltic states: