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Livonia , also outdated Liefland and Eifland , Latin Livonia , liv. Līvõmō , estn. Liivimaa , lett. Livonija , Russ. Ливония (Liwonija) , Pol. Liwonia , is the name of a historical region in the Baltic States . The name is derived from the name of the Finno-Ugric , closely related to the Estonians and Finns , the Livs .

Livonian flag

"Livonia" in the broader sense comprises the territories of the former Livonian Confederation in the master class Livonia of the Teutonic Order State and thus the entire area of ​​the present-day Estonia and most of the present-day Latvia (excluding Latgale ).

"Livonia" in the narrower sense describes the landscape on the eastern bank of the Gulf of Riga north from Riga to Lake Peipus , which corresponds to the territory of the Latvian region of Vidzeme and the southern half of Estonia and thus corresponds to the historical settlement area of ​​the Livs (minus a small area in Courland on the north west bank of the Gulf of Riga).

Today only Vidzeme is often equated with Livonia, which corresponds to a further narrowing of the meaning.

Remnants of the eponymous Livs existed at the beginning of the 20th century on the north west bank of the Gulf of Riga (in parts of Courland, outside Livonia in the narrower sense). Nowadays they are almost completely absorbed in the Latvians.


Map of Livonia by Joannes Portantius , 1573
Poland-Lithuania (1618) with today's borders
  • Kingdom of Poland
  • Prussia , Polish fiefdom
  • Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • Duchy of Courland , joint fiefdom
  • Duchy of Livonia
  • Swedish and Danish Livonia
  • prehistory

    The first settlements in what is now the Baltic states of Lithuania , Latvia and Estonia probably go back to the time of the first century BC. In addition to the Baltic tribes of the Kurds , Semgallians , Selons , Latgallians and others, the Finno-Ugric Lives were also found adjacent to their tribal areas . Their settlement area included around 1200 a. Z. the mouth of the Dunes around today's Riga and stretched along the Baltic coast in a north and west direction. The populated area extended to the south of what is now Estonia. The number of members of the Liv tribes is estimated at 20,000 at this time.

    Middle Ages and Early Modern Times

    German rule

    In the late Middle Ages, Livonia (then also Eifland ) was the name given to the entire territory of the Order of the Brothers of the Sword , i.e. today's Latvia and Estonia (initially excluding the Danish part in northern Estonia). The area was subjugated in the 13th century by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword under the leadership of the Bishop of Riga Albert I von Buxhöveden , who came from Bremen (and was only created as a territorial structure); the Order of the Brothers of the Swords was merged into the Teutonic Order in 1237 as the Livonian Order . Unlike in Prussia , the Teutonic Order was able to  assert itself in Livonia - even after the Battle of Tannenberg (1410) - as the leading sovereign of Livonia. The order owed this achievement to Landmeister Johann Freytag von Loringhoven (1483–1494) and Wolter von Plettenberg (1494–1535). Under Plettenberg, who himself remained a Catholic as a German master, the Reformation prevailed in Livonia from 1524 onwards , without violence between Catholics and Protestants. After the fall of Altlivland in 1561, it became clear that Protestantism had become the crucial link between Germans, Estonians and Latvians in Altlivland. Protestant pastors made an extraordinary contribution to the increasing rapprochement between their peoples, also culturally. Despite multiple changes of state affiliation - and even during the time of Latvian and Estonian emancipation - this solidarity has never been permanently destroyed.

    Polish, Danish and Swedish rule

    At the Augsburg Diet of 1530 Livonia was declared part of the Holy Roman Empire - without any practical consequences . In 1558 the Livonian War began with the invasion of Russian troops ; some parts of the country remained occupied until 1582. In order to hedge against the Russian threat is assumed Kurland and Livonia, represented by its Knighthood, 1561 Polish sovereignty: From Kurland was - under Polish suzerainty  - the secular Duchy of Courland and Semigallia under the last country masters of the Teutonic Order in Livonia, Gotthard Kettler , while the actual Livonia came directly to Lithuania and in the later state of Poland-Lithuania formed a kind of condominium between the two parts of the state. Estonia and the island of Ösel (Saaremaa) submitted to Danish and Swedish sovereignty for the same reason and also represented by their knighthoods. Due to this division into different domains, the meaning of the name Livonia narrowed to the areas north of the Daugava and southwest of Lake Peipus .

    In 1629 most of Livonia came to Sweden as a province of Swedish Livonia through the conquests of Gustav II Adolf ; only the area around Daugavpils (Daugavpils) remained - like Courland - Polish and was called "Polish Livonia" .

    Russian Baltic Province 1721–1919

    Map of the Baltic States from 1705
    “The Duchies of Curland and Liefland…”, around 1749, copperplate engraving by Johann George Schreiber

    In 1721, the area fell to Russia through the conquests of Peter the Great and, together with what was then Estonia (today's northern part of the Republic of Estonia) and Courland (since 1795), one of the three Baltic Governments , each of which was administered autonomously by the German-Baltic nobility. The imperial Russian governorate of Livonia , which existed from 1721 to 1919, with the capital Riga (which had previously enjoyed a certain autonomy under changing rulers) and the university town of Dorpat (Tartu) roughly encompassed today's southern Estonia (with Dorpat) and north-eastern Latvia as far as the Daugava . The Latvian part of this wooded area is (under the local name Vidzeme ) one of the four historical landscapes of this country. It occupies the area around Valmiera (Wolmar) , Sigulda (Segewold) and Cēsis (Wenden) as well as around the river Gauja (Livonian Aa) .

    The Russian Baltic Governments; in the middle the governorate of Livonia (1721–1919)

    The part of Livonia that remained with Poland only came to the Russian Empire in 1772 in the course of the First Partition of Poland and became part of the Vitebsk Governorate . This area came to Latvia in 1919, where it was given the landscape name Latgale ( Latgale ).

    Large estates and the urban bourgeoisie of Livonia (and thus also the clergy and the educational system) were largely dominated by German-speaking countries.

    After the First World War

    Since Livonia did not have an ethnically uniform population, but was rather inhabited by Estonians and Latvians, it was divided into Estonia and Latvia in 1918. The region that came to Estonia does not have a name of its own there, while the region that has come to Latvia is called Vidzeme (translatable as Central Plateau ) - this has resulted in the further narrowing of meaning in recent times, in which Livonia and Vidzeme are very often equated.

    Medieval cities in the territory of the Livonian Confederation

    The following cities existed around 1561 (year of city law):

    Free City of Riga

    • Riga , Latvian: Rīga (1201) - first and largest city of Livonia, Free Hanseatic City and seat of the archbishop and country master

    Order area

    Archdiocese of Riga

    Principality of Dorpat

    • Dorpat Tartu (1230), one of the three largest cities in Livonia

    Principality of Oesel-Wiek

    Principality of Courland

    Modern cities

    In what is now the Latvian part

    In today's Estonian part

    See also


    in order of appearance

    • Friedrich Konrad Gadebusch : Treatise by Livonian historians . Hartknoch, Riga 1773 (282 pages, ).
    • Johann Bernhard von Fischer: Attempt a natural history of Livonia. 2nd Edition. Friedrich Nicolovius, Königsberg 1791 (appendix contains, among other things, unfolded folded image of the city of Narva; ).
    • Max Toeppen : The Germans in Livonia or history of the introduction of Christianity and the establishment of German rule in Livonia . In: New Prussian Provincial Papers . Volume 5, Königsberg 1848, pp. 161-184 , pp. 360-373 and pp. 408-428.
    • Johann Karl Bähr: The graves of the Livs . Rudolf Kuntze, Dresden 1850 ( ).
    • Kurd von Schlözer : Livonia and the beginnings of German life in the Baltic north . Wilhelm Hertz, Berlin 1850 ( ).
    • Wolfgang Bender: Bernhard II to the lip and the mission in Livonia . In: Jutta Prieur (Ed.): Lippe and Livland. Medieval rulership under the sign of the rose . Publishing house for regional history, Gütersloh 2008, ISBN 978-3-89534-752-8 , pp. 147-168.
    • Sonja Birli:  Livonia, Lives. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 18, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2001, ISBN 3-11-016950-9 , pp. 533-535.

    Web links

    Commons : Maps of Livonia  - collection of images, videos and audio files
    Wiktionary: Livonia  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. ^ Charles Knight : Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. London 1839 ( Google books ).
    2. ^ Ralph Tuchtenhagen: History of the Baltic countries. Beck, Munich 2005.