Baltic states

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Location of the Baltic States in Northeastern Europe (from north to south: Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania ).EstoniaEstonia LatviaLatvia LithuaniaLithuania 

The Baltic States ( Latin Balticum ) is an area in Europe that today includes the states of Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania . These Baltic states have a total population of around six million people in an area of ​​around 175,000 km². The Baltic region borders Russia and Belarus to the east, Poland and the Russian exclave of the Kaliningrad region to the south, and the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland to the west and north .

The geographical allocation of the Baltic region within Europe is controversial and is influenced not only by geographical factors but also by historical, cultural and political aspects. The Baltic states are assigned to Northern Europe , Central Europe , Eastern Europe and Northeastern Europe .

The geographical concept of landscape, the Baltic States, found its way into German-language specialist literature in the 19th century. It was previously used in the Latin-language university literature of the Middle Ages (e.g. the University of Wittenberg ).


The term Baltic appears for the first time in the final phase of the First World War as a collective term for the German occupation area in the territories of the Baltic Sea Governments of the Russian Empire and the governorate of Kovno . It is derived from the self-designation "Balten" of the German-Balten , from which the ruling class in the Baltic Sea Governments of the Russian Empire consisted. Today, the inhabitants of the three states often call themselves the Balts together.

New map of Livonia ( Livoniae ) with part of the Baltic Sea ( Pars Maris Baltici )
map by Johannes Janssonius , 1642

The Baltic region is named after the Middle Latin name for the Baltic Sea as mare balticum , the "Baltic Sea". This term had been in use since the 11th century and first appeared on Adam von Bremen . The use of mare balticum can be traced back to the name of a large island with rich amber deposits in northern Europe, which the ancient Roman scholar Pliny the Elder mentioned as Baltia or Balcia, actually probably Abalcia , and which was identified with the Prussian coast in the Middle Ages . Elsewhere Pliny notes that Balcia is identical to the island of Basilia discovered by Pytheas of Massilia and just another name for the North Sea island of Abalus , which could be Heligoland . Another thesis localizes Baltia as the Danish Baltic Sea islands Fyn or Zealand (one or both).

The etymological origin of the word Baltia , however, is unclear. On the one hand one is related to the Danish Bælt ( "belt") as the original term for the Straits Skagerrak and Kattegat assumed the other hand, the Balts , ie the "whites", referred to as a description of the non-Slavic the Baltic Sea countries. In his book The Germans and Neighboring Tribes, Johann Kaspar Zeuss takes the view that the name of the island of Baltia means "white" for Pliny and comes from the language of the Aesti (an old name for the Baltic). The word “white” is similar in all Baltic languages : Curonian balt , Prussian baltan , Latvian balts , Lithuanian baltas . Among the speakers of these languages ​​were the Kurds and the Prussians who originally lived on the Baltic Sea. In their languages, mar / mare / marri means the word for Haff .



The largest minority in Estonia and Latvia are the Russians with over 25% , followed by small proportions of Belarusians and Ukrainians . In Lithuania, on the other hand, at over 6%, the Polish minority is slightly larger than the Russian.


In Lithuania and Latvia, Lithuanian and Latvian, two Indo-European languages, are spoken, which are grouped together as Baltic languages because of their close relationship . In contrast, Estonian in Estonia, together with closely related Finnish, belongs to the Baltic Sea Finnish subgroup of the Finno-Ugric languages .

Russians have been a minority in the eastern part of the Baltic region since the 9th century. As a result of the fact that the Baltic States belonged to the Russian Empire from the beginning of the 18th century to the First World War and to the Soviet Union from the Second World War to 1990, around 25 percent of the population in Estonia, 28 percent in Latvia and 6 percent in Lithuania are Russian-speaking. There is also a Polish-speaking minority in south-east Lithuania.


In predominantly Roman Catholic Lithuania, the Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai is of great spiritual importance. The population of Latvia, on the other hand, is more likely to be Evangelical-Lutheran , while Estonia's residents, for the most part, do not confess to any or to the Evangelical or Orthodox confession.



In the Proterozoic , the Baltic was part of the original continent Baltica (also known as Ur-Europe) . It emerged as an independent continent as a result of the ocean floor spreading and consisted of three regions: Fennoscandia , Volgo-Uralia and Fennosarmatia , which roughly corresponds to today's Baltic with its western part.

Baltica drifted from the South Pole to the equator and collided by subduction in the Lower Silurian with Avalonia and in the Middle Silurian with Laurentia , creating the continent Laurussia .


The Baltic States belong to the cool, temperate climate zone . There is a wooded, of dunes and moraines embossed Öd before -Landscape, for example in the Curonian Spit . The highest point is the Suur Munamägi in Estonia at 318 meters . The largest lake is the Peipussee . Longest current is 1020 kilometers, the Düna and the second longest Memel . There are a total of 14  national parks in the Baltic States .

After the capitals Tallinn , Riga and Vilnius , Kaunas , Klaipėda , Liepāja and Tartu are also important centers in the Baltic States . Outside the urban agglomerations, the countries are only sparsely populated.



The first traces of resettlement after the receding glaciation are around 11,000 BC. The references to the western Hamburg culture , Ahrensburg culture , Bromme-Lyngby culture or the Swidru culture ( Polish: Kultura świderska ), the northern Carpathian branch of the penknife groups, has not yet been adequately researched. From around 3100 BC BC groups that speak northwest Indo-European could have penetrated and laid the origins of the later Baltic languages. Around 500 BC There were raids by the Scythians and influence of the Latène culture .

Between 200 BC BC and AD 500, East Germanic tribes settled in the Vistula area in the south. There was amber trade with Rome and Greece. At the time of the Great Migration between 500 and 800 AD, Slavs increasingly invaded the Baltic States. Vikings also came from Sweden to Samland and Memelland . After initial hostilities, a lively trade developed. In the village of Ruß in the Memel Delta, the Vikings found a safe harbor from which they advanced eastward along the river routes. The names of the Vikings who invaded there and later the Russians could have got their name from the name of this place.

High Middle Ages

Old map of Livonia
Joannes Portantius, 1573

In the High Middle Ages , the Christianization and subjugation of Livonia began by the German knights who, from the beginning of the 13th century, first penetrated the Baltic from Riga ( Brothers of the Sword Order ) and were able to bring large areas under their rule by 1300. Only Lithuania and Samogitia remained independent.

Late Middle Ages

Within the rule of the order, the trading cities were able to secure extensive freedoms and achieved great wealth, especially in the 15th century, when they dominated the Baltic Sea trade as members of the Hanseatic League . The Baltic port cities were therefore culturally strongly influenced by Germany, Denmark and Sweden and have preserved this heritage in many aspects to this day. The order's rule over what is now Estonia and Latvia (Old Livonia) ended in the middle of the 16th century during the Reformation .

In the Livonian War , Russia failed to conquer Livonia, but the contested territory came under the rule of opponents whom Livonia had called for help. Livonia and Courland came under Polish suzerainty , Estonia became Swedish and the island of Saaremaa / Øsel Danish.

Lithuania remained independent because it agreed a first alliance and treaty union with Poland in 1385 , the Union of Krewo , which others followed and led to the establishment of the aristocratic republic of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1569 .

18th and 19th centuries

In the 18th century, the Great Northern War and the partition of Poland caused the Baltic States to come under the rule of the Russian Empire . This rule lasted until the First World War , two Polish-Lithuanian uprisings ( November uprising 1830/31 and January uprising 1863/64) were brutally suppressed.

20th century


As a result of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty , the independent republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were created in 1918. However, they immediately had to defend themselves against the claims to power of the communists (Russian Red Army ), the monarchists (Russian White Army in association with the German Freikorps supported by parts of the German nobility ) and the Poles. With the end of this civil war phase until 1920, part of Lithuania (so-called Litwa Środkowa ) remained under Polish sovereignty.

Second World War

In the German-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939 , Latvia and Estonia were designated as Soviet spheres of interest . In the German-Soviet border and friendship treaty of September 28, 1939, it was also assigned to Lithuania, for which the Soviet Union granted an enlargement of the German occupation area in Poland . In autumn 1939 the Red Army occupied bases in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, secured by assistance agreements that were quickly concluded ; Finland refused to sign an appropriate treaty and as a result was attacked by the Soviet Union on November 30, 1939. The so-called winter war ended almost in a draw with a peace agreement on March 13, 1940; Finland had to cede parts of its territory, but remained independent. In 1940/41 Germany caused the almost complete resettlement of the German-Baltic population to occupied Poland ( Warthegau , West Prussia ). In view of the Soviet occupation, the newly elected parliaments of the Baltic states in the summer of 1940 were forced to agree to their incorporation into the Soviet Union. The annexations of the Baltic states were therefore related to the great western expansion of the Soviet Union in the first year of the Second World War.

  • Lithuania , invasion June 15, 1940, forced integration into the Soviet Union August 3, 1940
  • Latvia , invasion June 17, 1940, forced integration into the Soviet Union August 5, 1940
  • Estonia , invasion June 17, 1940, forced integration into the Soviet Union August 6, 1940

In 1941 the area was occupied by German armed forces. There were thousands of volunteers who signed up for service in the 15th , 19th or 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS . Another part of the population fought on the side of the Red Army against the German occupation.

In July and October 1944, the Baltic republics were finally reoccupied by the Soviet army and incorporated into the Soviet Union as Soviet Socialist Republics . After the occupation by Germany and the German retreat in 1944 and 1945 ( Kurland-Kessel ), many Balts fled to the west before the arrival of the Red Army and some later to overseas. Most of the remaining people of German origin were expelled from 1944 to 1946, some were murdered or taken to GULAG Soviet camps .

After the war, Baltic communists were put in power from the Soviet Union. Collaborators with the Germans and opponents of the Soviet occupation were punished by liquidation, resettlement and imprisonment or camp detention . Years after the end of the war, a massive Baltic resistance movement of partisans tried to destabilize the occupying power. They sought protection in the forests, which is why they called themselves forest brothers , but were ultimately infiltrated and eliminated by the NKVD .

Within a few years from 1940, the Baltic populations experienced three successive waves of liquidation and deportation:

  • 1940–1941: through the Soviet Union (ruling class, military, bourgeoisie , clergy and others)
  • 1941–1944: by National Socialist Germany (Jews)
  • 1944–1950: again through the Soviet Union (collaborators, resistance fighters, opposition, kulaks and others)

post war period

In the 1950s around 10% of the adult male population in the Baltic were either in the GULAG camps or in exile in the Soviet Union.

From 1944 to 1990, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania belonged to the Soviet Union. During this time, these countries were integrated into the Soviet system, largely against the will of the people. This time was marked by the Soviet settlement policy of Russians , whereby the indigenous populations should be made into minorities in their own country.

During this period, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian had the status of official languages alongside Russian . There were kindergartens and schools in the local languages. Print media, radio and later television were also offered in native languages.

Regaining independence

On August 23, 1989, two million people formed the Baltic Way , a 600-kilometer human chain from Tallinn via Riga to Vilnius , to demonstrate for the independence of the Baltic states.

In Estonia in particular, the Singing Revolution made a strong contribution to independence. In the spring of 1990, the Baltic states declared their independence and announced the renewal of the pre-war constitutions. On January 13, 1991, the pro-Moscow and pro-communist political forces launched the attack. Brute force was used to try to overthrow the rightly elected power. The execution of the Moscow plans was thwarted by popularly organized nonviolent resistance, which has gone down in history as "Barricade Days". On Bloody Sunday in Vilnius, 14 unarmed and non-violent Lithuanians were murdered and over 1,000 injured in the storm of the Lithuanian television tower in Vilnius.

After regaining independence until the mid-1990s, the governments in Estonia and Latvia pursued a restrictive policy towards the country's ethnic minorities, which was heavily criticized by various non-governmental organizations. The predominant goal of the two countries after the 50 years of occupation was to protect their own culture and language. The situation was different in Lithuania, where the proportion of the titular nation was higher and more stable and there was no actual or “perceived” threat to the nation. The government there followed an inclusive approach to integration policy from the start.

In Estonia, the transition to a comprehensive strategy against ethnic minorities began in the late 1990s. In 2000, the Tallinn government approved the State Integration Program. The Latvian government changed its policy a few months later. In contrast to Estonia, their concept is not specifically geared towards other nationalities, but includes all members of society in order to compensate for social and regional differences.

The Baltic States were the only former Soviet territories that never belonged to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).


On May 1, 2004, the Baltic states joined NATO and the EU . Special regulations are being discussed for the Kaliningrad region and the Jantar special economic zone in formerly northern East Prussia , which is included on land by areas belonging to the EU.


The economy (measured in terms of GNP ) in the Baltic countries grew significantly faster than the economy in Western Europe until 2007. They were therefore also known as the Baltic tigers . In the course of the financial crisis from 2007 onwards , there was a sharp correction. But after the crisis years the economic situation eased again and so Latvia introduced the euro in 2014, after Estonia in 2011, as the second Baltic state . After Lithuania met the EU convergence criteria, on January 1, 2015, the euro replaced the litas as legal tender.

Key figures

Country Residents GDP / capita in USD Inflation
Corruption index CO₂ emissions / head Alcohol
/ head in liters
Roads -
EstoniaEstonia Estonia 1,323,824
(Jan 2019)
19,032 3.5% 11 10.9% 68 14.44 t 15.57 17.9% 0.861
LatviaLatvia Latvia 1,934,379
(Jan 2019)
15.205 0.0% 32 9.8% 53 3.38 t 12.50 20.3% 0.819
LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania 2,794,000
(Jan 2019)
16.003 1.2% 39 12.4% 57 4.08 t 15.03 85.9% 0.839

Research institutes in Germany with a focus on the Baltic States


Web links

Commons : Baltic States  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Baltic countries  - learning and teaching materials
  • Northeast Institute Institute for Culture and History of Germans in Northeast Europe V. ( IKGN ) in Lüneburg
  • vifanord Virtual Library for Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea Region

Individual evidence

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  2. Standing Committee for Geographical Names (StAGN): P. Jordan: Large structure of Europe according to cultural-spatial criteria. Europa Regional 13 (2005), Volume 4, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig
  3. Federal Agency for Political Education : Europalexikon
  4. ^ The new Fischer World Almanac 2017. P. 278. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2016.
  5. ^ C. Grewingk: On the archeology of the Balticum and Russia. In: Archives for Anthropology, Ethnology and Colonial Cultural Change. Volumes 7–8. Verlag Friedrich Vieweg and Son, Braunschweig 1874, p. 59 ff.
  6. ^ "Epistolarum (collection of letters) Philippi Melanthonis" . Editus Witenbergæ. Wittenberg, 1570, p. 342.
  7. For all three pieces of information: Garleff (see literature), p. 14.
  8. Wolf D. Gruner, Wichard Woyke (Ed.): Europa-Lexikon. Countries, politics, institutions. Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-49425-0 , p. 81.
  9. a b Baltia. (PDF 2.60 kB), accessed on October 13, 2011 .
  10. ^ Brockhaus' Kleines Konversations-Lexikon . In two volumes. 5th edition. First volume A – K. F. A. Brockhaus , Leipzig 1908, p. 145 .
  11. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. William Smith, 1854, accessed October 13, 2011 .
  12. ^ Hugo Kastner: From Aachen to Cyprus . Geographical names and their origins. Humboldt Verlag, Baden-Baden 2007, ISBN 978-3-89994-124-1 , p. 45 .
  13. Dietmar Urmes: Handbook of geographical names . Their origin, development and meaning. Fourier Verlag, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 3-932412-32-X , p. 478 .
  14. The stormed Baltenland., accessed October 13, 2011 .
  15. Johann Kaspar Zeuss: The Germans and the neighboring tribes . Carl Winter, Heidelberg 1925, p. 270 .
  16. ^ O. Adrian Pfiffner: Geology of the Alps. (= UTB band. 8416). Haupt Verlag, Bern 2015, ISBN 978-3-8252-8610-1 , p. 17.
  17. ^ Giovanni Pinna, Dieter Meischner (Ed.): European fossil deposits. Springer Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-642-62975-X , p. 17 ff.
  18. Wolfgang Oschmann: Evolution of the earth. (= UTB band. 4401). Haupt Verlag, Bern 2016, ISBN 978-3-8252-4401-9 , pp. 139 ff.
  19. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 1140.
  20. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, pp. 1141-1143.
  21. Nicolas Werth : A state against its people. In: Stéphane Courtois et al .: The Black Book of Communism. 4th edition, p. 262, Munich 1998. - See also the website of the Lithuanian memorial foundation : .
  22. List of countries according to gross domestic product per capita , 2013.
  23. 2013 inflation rate 2013 inflation rate 2013 inflation rate
  24. List of countries by national debt ratio , 2013.
  25. ^ CIA World Fact Book, 2012
  26. Transparency International - Corruption 2013 , accessed on January 1, 2015.
  27. List of countries according to CO₂ emissions, 2010
  28. [List of countries according to alcohol consumption], accessed on January 1, 2015.
  29. CIA World Factbook , accessed January 1, 2015.
  30. United Nations Development Program (UNDP): Human Development Report 2015 . Ed .: German Society for the United Nations e. V. Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin ( [PDF; 9.3 MB ; accessed on November 1, 2016]). Page 246.
  31. ^ Estonia Statistics Office, database request, June 21, 2018
  32. ^ Population, population change, and key vital statistics , Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, accessed February 16, 2019.
  33. Lietuvoje 2.8 mln. ( Verslo žinios )

Coordinates: 57 °  N , 25 °  E