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The Baltic states, et, Balti riigid or the Baltic countries is a geopolitical term, which currently is used to group three countries:
Estonia Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia, is a country by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, an ...
, Latvia, and Lithuania. All three countries are members of
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states – 28 European and two N ...
, the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
, the
Eurozone The euro area, commonly called eurozone (EZ), is a currency union of 19 member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro (€) as their primary currency and sole legal tender, and have thus fully implemented EMU pol ...
, and the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate ...
. The three
sovereign state A sovereign state or sovereign country, is a political entity represented by one central government that has supreme legitimate authority over territory. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined ter ...
s on the eastern coast of the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from ...
are sometimes referred to as the "Baltic nations", less often and in historical circumstances also as the "Baltic republics", the "Baltic lands", or simply the Baltics. All three Baltic countries are classified as
high-income economies A high-income economy is defined by the World Bank as a nation with a gross national income per capita of US$12,696 or more in 2020, calculated using the Atlas method. While the term "high-income" is often used interchangeably with "First World" ...
by the
World Bank The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of low- and middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. The World Bank is the collective name for the Inte ...
and maintain a very high
Human Development Index The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (mean years of schooling completed and expected years of schooling upon entering the education system), and per capita income indicators, w ...
. The three governments engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation. There is also frequent cooperation in foreign and security policy, defence, energy, and transportation. The term "Baltic states" ("countries", "nations", or similar) cannot be used unambiguously in the context of cultural areas, national identity, or
language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of ...
. While the majority of the population both in Latvia and Lithuania are indeed Baltic peoples (
Latvians Latvians ( lv, latvieši) are a Baltic ethnic group and nation native to Latvia and the immediate geographical region, the Baltics. They are occasionally also referred to as Letts, especially in older bibliography. Latvians share a common L ...
and Lithuanians), the majority in
Estonia Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia, is a country by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, an ...
(
Estonians Estonians or Estonian people ( et, eestlased) are a Finnic ethnic group native to Estonia who speak the Estonian language. The Estonian language is spoken as the first language by the vast majority of Estonians; it is closely related to othe ...
) are culturally and linguistically Finnic.


History


Summary

After the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
the term "Baltic states" came to refer to countries by the Baltic Sea that had gained independence from the Russian Empire. The term includes
Estonia Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia, is a country by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, an ...
, Latvia and Lithuania, and originally also included
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, and Russia to the east, with the Gulf of Bot ...
, which later became grouped among the Nordic countries. The areas of what are now the independent Baltic countries have seen different regional and imperial affiliations during their existence. The greater part of the three modern states' territory was for the first time included in the same political entity when the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire was an empire and the final period of the Russian monarchy from 1721 to 1917, ruling across large parts of Eurasia. It succeeded the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad, which ended the Great Northern War ...
expanded in the 18th century. Estonia and northern part of Latvia were ceded by
Sweden Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden,The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names states that the country's formal name is the Kingdom of SwedenUNGEGN World Geographical Names, Sweden./ref> is a Nordic countries, Nordic c ...
, and incorporated into the Russian Empire at the end of the
Great Northern War The Great Northern War (1700–1721) was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swe ...
in 1721, while most of the territory of what is now Lithuania came under the Russian rule after the Third Partition of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795. Large parts of the Baltic countries were controlled by the Russian Empire until the final stages of
World War I World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
in 1918, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gained their sovereignty. The three countries were independent until the outbreak of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
. In 1940, all three countries were invaded, occupied and annexed by the Stalinist
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, it was nominally a federal union of fifteen nationa ...
. In 1941 followed the invasion and occupation of Lithuania, Latvia and
Estonia Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia, is a country by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, an ...
by
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") (officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945) was ...
, before the
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Russian language, Russian: Рабо́че-крестья́нская Кра́сная армия),) often shortened to the Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist R ...
reinvaded in 1944–1945 and the Soviet Union was able to regain control over the three countries until 1991. Soviet rule ended in the Baltic countries in 1989–1991 as the newly elected parliaments of the three nations declared the Soviet occupation illegal, culminating with the full restoration of the independence of the three countries in August 1991.


The first period of independence, 1918–1940

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, and declared independence in February 1918, but was subsequently occupied by the
German Empire The German Empire (),Herbert Tuttle wrote in September 1881 that the term "Reich" does not literally connote an empire as has been commonly assumed by English-speaking people. The term literally denotes an empire – particularly a hereditary ...
until November 1918. Estonia fought a successful
war of independence This is a list of wars of independence (also called liberation wars). These wars may or may not have been successful in achieving a goal of independence. List See also * Lists of active separatist movements * List of civil wars * List of ...
against Soviet Russia in 1918–1920. Latvia and Lithuania followed a similar process, until the completion of the Latvian War of Independence and Lithuanian Wars of Independence in 1920. During the interwar period these countries were sometimes referred to as ''
limitrophe states Limitrophe states are territories situated on a border or frontier. In a broad sense, it means border countries, any group of neighbors of a given nation which border each other thus forming a rim around that country. The English term derives from ...
'' 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 Georges 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. All three Baltic countries experienced a period of authoritarian rule by a head of state who had come to power after a bloodless coup:
Antanas Smetona Antanas Smetona (; 10 August 1874 – 9 January 1944) was a Lithuanian intellectual and journalist and the first President of Lithuania from 1919 to 1920 and again from 1926 to 1940, before its occupation by the Soviet Union. He was one of the ...
in Lithuania ( 1926–1940), Kārlis Ulmanis in Latvia ( 1934–1940), and Konstantin Päts during the " era of silence" (1934–1938) in Estonia, respectively. Some note that the events in Lithuania differed from the other two countries, 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. 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, 1940–1991

In accordance with a secret protocol within the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact , long_name = Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , image = Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H27337, Moskau, Stalin und Ribbentrop im Kreml.jpg , image_width = 200 , caption = Stalin and Ribbentrop shaking ...
of 1939 that divided Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence, the
Soviet Army uk, Радянська армія , image = File:Communist star with golden border and red rims.svg , alt = , caption = Emblem of the Soviet Army , start_date ...
invaded eastern Poland in September 1939, and the Stalinist Soviet government coerced Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into "mutual assistance treaties" which granted USSR 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 puppet governments. In all three countries simultaneously, rigged elections (in which only pro-Stalinist candidates were allowed to run) were staged in July 1940, the newly assembled "parliaments" in each of the three countries then unanimously applied to join the Soviet Union, and in August 1940 were incorporated into the USSR as the Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR. Repressions, executions and mass deportations followed after that in the Baltics. 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 Baltics to remote locations in the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, it was nominally a federal union of fifteen nationa ...
. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to
Gulag The Gulag, an acronym for , , "chief administration of the camps". The original name given to the system of camps controlled by the State Political Directorate, GPU was the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps (, )., name=, group= ...
s. About 10% of the adult Baltic population were deported or sent to labor camps. (See June deportation, Soviet deportations from Estonia, Sovietization of the Baltic states) The Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries was interrupted by Nazi German invasion of the region in 1941. Initially, many Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians considered the German army as liberators, while having hoped for the restoration of each of the three countries' independence, but instead the Nazi German invaders established a civil administration, known as the '' Reichskommissariat Ostland''. During the occupation the Nazi authorities carried out
ghettoisation A ghetto, often called ''the'' ghetto, is a part of a city in which members of a minority group live, especially as a result of political, social, legal, environmental or economic pressure. Ghettos are often known for being more impoverished ...
s and mass killings of the Jewish populations in Lithuania and Latvia. 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 The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
and Britain (see
Yalta Conference The Yalta Conference (codenamed Argonaut), also known as the Crimea Conference, held 4–11 February 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union to discuss the post ...
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 Latvian national partisans were Latvian pro-independence partisans who waged guerrilla warfare against Soviet rule during and after the Second World War. Aftermath of World War I The decisions of the 1917 congresses and the declaration of ind ...
, 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. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were considered to be under Soviet occupation by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada,
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states – 28 European and two N ...
, and many other countries and international organizations. During the Cold War, Lithuania and Latvia maintained legations in Washington DC, while Estonia had a mission in New York City. Each was staffed initially by diplomats from the last governments before USSR occupation.


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". This process contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, setting a precedent for the other Soviet republics to secede from the USSR. The 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. Skrunda-1, the last Russian military radar in the Baltics, officially suspended operations in August 1998.


21st century

All three are today
liberal democracies Liberal democracy is the combination of a liberal political ideology that operates under an indirect democratic form of government. It is characterized by elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into ...
, with unicameral parliaments elected by popular vote for four-year terms: Riigikogu in Estonia, Saeima in Latvia and
Seimas The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas), or simply the Seimas (), is the unicameral parliament of Lithuania. The Seimas constitutes the legislative branch of government in Lithuania, enacting laws and amendm ...
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 part of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
(EU) and members of 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 states during the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term '' cold war'' is used because t ...
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, 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. 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. After the Baltic states had restored their independence, integration with Western Europe became a major strategic goal. In 2002, the Baltic governments applied to join the European Union and become members of NATO. All three became NATO members on 29 March 2004, and joined the EU on 1 May 2004.


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. 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 The Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM) ( lt, Baltijos Ministrų Taryba, lv, Baltijas Ministru padome, et, Balti Ministrite Nõukogu) is an institution for intergovernmental cooperation between the Baltic states: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia estab ...
was established on 13 June 1994 to facilitate intergovernmental cooperation. Since 2003, there is coordination between the two organizations. Compared with other regional groupings in Europe, such as the Nordic Council or Visegrád Group, Baltic cooperation is rather limited. All three countries are also members of the New Hanseatic League, an informal group of northern EU states formed to advocate a common fiscal position.


Economies

Economically, parallel with political changes and a transition to democracy – as a rule of law states – the nations' previous command economies were transformed via the legislation into market economies, and set up or renewed the major macroeconomic factors: budgetary rules, national audit, national currency and central bank. Generally, they shortly encountered the following problems: high inflation, high unemployment, low economic growth and high government debt. The inflation rate, in the examined area, relatively quickly dropped to below 5% by 2000. Meanwhile, these economies were stabilised, and in 2004 all of them joined the European Union. New macroeconomic requirements have arisen for them; the Maastricht criteria became obligatory and later the Stability and Growth Pact set stricter rules through national legislation by implementing the regulations and directives of the Sixpack, because the financial crisis was a shocking milestone. All three countries are member states of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
, and the
Eurozone The euro area, commonly called eurozone (EZ), is a currency union of 19 member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro (€) as their primary currency and sole legal tender, and have thus fully implemented EMU pol ...
. They are classified as
high-income economies A high-income economy is defined by the World Bank as a nation with a gross national income per capita of US$12,696 or more in 2020, calculated using the Atlas method. While the term "high-income" is often used interchangeably with "First World" ...
by the
World Bank The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of low- and middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. The World Bank is the collective name for the Inte ...
and maintain high
Human Development Index The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (mean years of schooling completed and expected years of schooling upon entering the education system), and per capita income indicators, w ...
. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are also members of the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate ...
. Estonia adopted the
euro The euro ( symbol: €; code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 out of the member states of the European Union (EU). This group of states is known as the eurozone or, officially, the euro area, and includes about 340 million citizens . ...
currency in January 2011, Latvia in January 2014, and Lithuania in January 2015.


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. Other studies add other indicators to this list: diversification of energy suppliers, energy import dependence and vulnerability of political system. 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. 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. Therefore, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania play a significant role not only in consuming, but also in distribution of Russian energy fuels extracting transaction fees. 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. 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 The European plan on climate change consists of a range of measures adopted by the members of the European Union to fight against climate change. The plan was launched in March 2007, and after months of tough negotiations between the member coun ...
, including the Climate and Energy Strategy 2020, that aims to reduce the
greenhouse emissions Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities strengthen the greenhouse effect, contributing to climate change. Most is carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. The largest emitters include coal in China and ...
to 20%, increase the energy production from renewables for 20% in overall share and 20% energy efficiency development. 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. 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. 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. Possible threats to energy security include, firstly, 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. Secondly, the dependence on single supplier – Russia – is not healthy both for economics and politics. 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. 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.


Culture


Ethnic groups

Estonians Estonians or Estonian people ( et, eestlased) are a Finnic ethnic group native to Estonia who speak the Estonian language. The Estonian language is spoken as the first language by the vast majority of Estonians; it is closely related to othe ...
are Finnic people, together with the nearby
Finns Finns or Finnish people ( fi, suomalaiset, ) are a Baltic Finnic ethnic group native to Finland. Finns are traditionally divided into smaller regional groups that span several countries adjacent to Finland, both those who are native to these ...
. The
Latvians Latvians ( lv, latvieši) are a Baltic ethnic group and nation native to Latvia and the immediate geographical region, the Baltics. They are occasionally also referred to as Letts, especially in older bibliography. Latvians share a common L ...
and Lithuanians, linguistically and culturally related to each other, are
Baltic Baltic may refer to: Peoples and languages *Baltic languages, a subfamily of Indo-European languages, including Lithuanian, Latvian and extinct Old Prussian *Balts (or Baltic peoples), ethnic groups speaking the Baltic languages and/or originatin ...
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Du ...
people. In Latvia exists a small community of Finnic people related to the Estonians, composed of only 250 people, known as Livonians, and they live in the so-called Livonian Coast. The peoples in the Baltic states have together inhabited the eastern coast of the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from ...
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 similarities in and differences within them. The populations of each Baltic country belong to several 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 Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism, identifying primarily with the theology of Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Cathol ...
to the north and Catholicism to the south is the remnant of Swedish and Polish hegemony, respectively, with
Orthodox Christianity Orthodoxy (from Greek: ) is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion. Orthodoxy within Christianity refers to acceptance of the doctrines defined by various creeds and ecumenical councils in Antiquity, but different Chu ...
remaining the dominant religion among Russian and other East Slavic minorities. The Baltic states have historically been in many different spheres of influence, from Danish over Swedish and Polish–Lithuanian, to German (
Hansa Hansa may refer to: Places * Hanseatic League, a 13th–17th century alliance of European trading cities * Hansa (shopping centre), in Turku, Finland *Hansa-Park, a German attraction park * 480 Hansa, a main-belt asteroid, a minor planet orbiting ...
and
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire was a political entity in Western, Central, and Southern Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. From the accession of Otto I in 962 unt ...
), and before independence in the Russian sphere of influence. The Baltic states are inhabited by several ethnic minorities: in Latvia: 33.0% (including 25.4% Russian, 3.3% Belarusian, 2.2%
Ukrainian Ukrainian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Ukraine * Something relating to Ukrainians, an East Slavic people from Eastern Europe * Something relating to demographics of Ukraine in terms of demography and population of Ukraine * So ...
, and 2.1% Polish), in Estonia: 27.6% and in Lithuania: 12.2% (including 5.6% Polish and 4.5% Russian). 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 Baltics. Today, ethnic Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their descendants make up a sizable particularly in Latvia (about one-quarter of the total population and close to one-half in the capital Riga) and Estonia (nearly one-quarter of the total population). Because the three countries had been independent nations prior to their occupation by the Soviet Union, there was a strong feeling of national identity (often labeled "bourgeois nationalism" by the
Communist Party A communist party is a political party that seeks to realize the socio-economic goals of communism. The term ''communist party'' was popularized by the title of '' The Manifesto of the Communist Party'' (1848) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel ...
) 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 the free will of its 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. 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 USSR.


Languages

The languages of the three Baltic peoples belong to two distinct language families. The Latvian and Lithuanian languages belong to the
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Du ...
language family A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ''ancestral language'' or ''parental language'', called the proto-language of that family. The term "family" reflects the tree model of language origination in h ...
and are the only extant (widely recognized) members of the Baltic language group (or more specifically, Eastern Baltic subgroup of Baltic). Latgalian and Samogitian are considered either separate languages or dialects of Latvian and Lithuanian, respectively. The
Estonian language Estonian ( ) is a Finnic language, written in the Latin script. It is the official language of Estonia and one of the official languages of the European Union, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people; 922,000 people in Estonia and 160, ...
(including its divergent Võro and Seto dialects) is a
Finnic language The Finnic (''Fennic'') or more precisely Balto-Finnic (Balto-Fennic, Baltic Finnic, Baltic Fennic) languages constitute a branch of the Uralic language family spoken around the Baltic Sea by the Baltic Finnic peoples. There are around 7 mi ...
, together with neighboring Finland's
Finnish language Finnish ( endonym: or ) is a Uralic language of the Finnic branch, spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside of Finland. Finnish is one of the two official languages of Finland (the other being Swedi ...
. It is also related to the now near-extinct Livonian language spoken as a second language by a few dozen people in Latvia. 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 USSR
invaded An invasion is a military offensive in which large numbers of combatants of one geopolitical entity aggressively enter territory owned by another such entity, generally with the objective of either: conquering; liberating or re-establishing con ...
and re-occupied Estonia in 1944). There is also significant proficiency in Finnish in Estonia owing to its linguistic relationship with Estonian and also widespread exposure to Finnish broadcasts during the Soviet era. Russian was the most commonly studied foreign language at all levels of schooling during the period of Soviet rule in 1944–1991. Despite schooling available and administration conducted in local languages, Russian-speaking settlers were neither encouraged nor motivated to learn the official local languages, so knowledge of some Russian became a practical necessity in daily life in Russian-dominated urban areas. Even to this day, most of the three countries' adult population can understand and speak some Russian, especially so the elderly people who went to school during the Soviet rule. Since the decline of Russian influence and integration into the European Union economy, English has become the most popular second language in the Baltic states. Although Russian is more widely spoken among older people the vast majority of young people are learning English instead with as many as 80 percent of young Lithuanians professing English proficiency, and similar trends in the other Baltic states.
Baltic Romani Baltic Romani is group of dialects of the Romani language spoken in the Baltic states and adjoining regions of Poland and Russia. Half of the speakers live in Poland. It also called Balt Romani, Balt Slavic Romani, Baltic Slavic Romani, and Ro ...
is spoken by the
Roma Roma or ROMA may refer to: Places Australia * Roma, Queensland, a town ** Roma Airport ** Roma Courthouse ** Electoral district of Roma, defunct ** Town of Roma, defunct town, now part of the Maranoa Regional Council * Roma Street, Brisbane, a ...
.


Etymology of the word ''Baltic''

The term ''Baltic'' stems from the name of the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from ...
– a hydronym dating back to at least 3rd century B.C. (when Erastothenes mentioned in an
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages (), the Archaic pe ...
text) and possibly earlier. There are several theories about its origin, most of which trace it to the reconstructed
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European language family. Its proposed features have been derived by linguistic reconstruction from documented Indo-European languages. No direct record of Proto-Indo ...
root ''*bhel'' meaning 'white, fair'. This meaning is retained in the two modern Baltic languages, where in Lithuanian and in Latvian mean 'white'. 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. Since the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire ...
, the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from ...
has appeared on maps in
Germanic languages 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. The most widely spoken Germanic language, ...
as the equivalent of 'East Sea': german: link=no, Ostsee, da, Østersøen, nl, Oostzee, sv, Östersjön, etc. Indeed, the Baltic Sea lies mostly to the east of
Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated betwee ...
,
Denmark ) , song = ( en, "King Christian stood by the lofty mast") , song_type = National and royal anthem , image_map = EU-Denmark.svg , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of Denmark , establish ...
,
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe, the mainland territory of which comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The remote Arctic island of ...
, and
Sweden Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden,The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names states that the country's formal name is the Kingdom of SwedenUNGEGN World Geographical Names, Sweden./ref> is a Nordic countries, Nordic c ...
. The term was also used historically to refer to Baltic Dominions of the Swedish Empire ( sv, Östersjöprovinserna) and, subsequently, the Baltic governorates of the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire was an empire and the final period of the Russian monarchy from 1721 to 1917, ruling across large parts of Eurasia. It succeeded the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad, which ended the Great Northern War ...
(russian: link=no, Остзейские губернии, translit=Ostzejskie gubernii). Terms related to modern name ''Baltic'' appear in ancient texts, but had fallen into disuse until reappearing as the adjective in German, from which it was adopted in other languages. During the 19th century, ''Baltic'' started to supersede as the name for the region. Officially, its Russian equivalent () was first used in 1859. This change was a result of the Baltic German elite adopting terms derived from to refer to themselves. The term ''Baltic countries'' (or ''lands'', or ''states'') was, until the early 20th century, used in the context of countries neighbouring the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from ...
: 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. After
World War I World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
, the new sovereign states that emerged on the east coast of the Baltic Sea –
Estonia Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia, is a country by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, an ...
, Latvia, Lithuania, and
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, and Russia to the east, with the Gulf of Bot ...
– became known as the ''Baltic states''. Since
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
the term has typically been used to group the three countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.


Geography


Nature

File:Pine forest in Estonia.jpg, Forests cover over half the landmass of Estonia File:Ergeljuklintis424aug037qg.jpg, Devonian sandstone cliffs in Gauja National Park, Latvia's largest and oldest national park File:Jägala Juga (Jägalafallet).JPG, Jägala waterfall is the highest natural waterfall in Estonia File:Kauno mariu pakrante.jpg, Gastilionys cliffs in Kauno Marios Regional Park near Kaunas File:Žemaitėjė nug Bėliuoniu pėliekalnė 2.JPG, View from the Bilioniai forthill in Lithuania File:Nida sand dunes (14573723178).jpg, Sand dunes of the Curonian Spit near Nida, which are the highest drifting sand dunes in Europe (
UNESCO World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for ...
).


Current leaders

File:Alar Karis December 2021 (3) (cropped).jpg,
Estonia Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia, is a country by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, an ...

Alar Karis Alar Karis (; born 26 March 1958) is an Estonian molecular geneticist, developmental biologist, civil servant and politician who, since 11 October 2021, has served as the sixth President of Estonia. Prior to presidency Karis was born in Tart ...

President of Estonia File:Sergio Mattarella and Latvian President Levits at the 16th Arraiolos meeting (2) (cropped).jpg, Latvia
Egils Levits
President of Latvia File:Gitanas Nauseda crop.png, Lithuania
Gitanas Nausėda
President of Lithuania The President of the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublikos Prezidentas) is the head of state of Lithuania. The officeholder has been Gitanas Nausėda since 12 July 2019. Powers The president has somewhat more executive authority t ...
File:Kaja Kallas (cropped).jpg,
Estonia Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia, is a country by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, an ...

Kaja Kallas
Prime Minister of Estonia File:Krišjānis Kariņš 2019 (cropped).jpg, Latvia
Krišjānis Kariņš
Prime Minister of Latvia File:Ingrida Simonyte 2019 crop 2.jpg, Lithuania
Ingrida Šimonytė
Prime Minister of Lithuania The prime minister of Lithuania ( lt, Ministras Pirmininkas; "Minister-Chairman") is the head of the government of Lithuania. The prime minister is Lithuania's head of government and is appointed by the president with the assent of the Lithua ...


General statistics

All three
unitary Unitary may refer to: Mathematics * Unitary divisor * Unitary element * Unitary group * Unitary matrix * Unitary morphism * Unitary operator * Unitary transformation * Unitary representation In mathematics, a unitary representation of a grou ...
republics, which simultaneously joined the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
on 1 May 2004, share EET/
EEST Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) is one of the names of the UTC+03:00 time zone, which is 3 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time. It is used as a summer daylight saving time in some European and Middle Eastern countries, which makes i ...
time zone schedules and the
euro The euro ( symbol: €; code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 out of the member states of the European Union (EU). This group of states is known as the eurozone or, officially, the euro area, and includes about 340 million citizens . ...
currency.


See also

* Ethnic cleansing of the Baltics: ** Soviet deportation from the Baltics in 1941 ** Soviet deportation from the Baltics in 1949 ** Soviet deportations from Estonia ** Soviet deportations from Latvia ** Soviet deportations from Lithuania


Notes


References


Further reading

* * * Clerc, Louis; Glover, Nikolas; Jordan, Paul, eds. ''Histories of Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding in the Nordic and Baltic Countries: Representing the Periphery'' (Leiden: Brill Nijhoff, 2015). 348 pp. . for an online book review se
online review
* * * * * * * Malowist, M. “The Economic and Social Development of the Baltic Countries from the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries.” ''Economic History Review'' 12#2 1959, pp. 177–189
online
* * * * * * * * Palmer, Alan. ''The Baltic: A new history of the region and its people'' (New York: Overlook Press, 2006; published in London with the title '' Northern shores: a history of the Baltic Sea and its peoples'' (John Murray, 2006)) * * Vilkauskaite, Dovile O. "From Empire to Independence: The Curious Case of the Baltic States 1917-1922." (thesis, University of Connecticut, 2013)
online
Bibliography pp 70 – 75. *


International peer-reviewed media

* On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom, and Moral Imagination in the Baltics (book series) * ''
Journal of Baltic Studies The Journal of Baltic Studies, the official journal of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS), is a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary academic journal founded in 1970 and published quarterly by Routledge, dedicated to the pol ...
'', journal of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS)
Lituanus
a journal dedicated to Lithuanian and Baltic art, history, language, literature and related cultural topics
The Baltic Course
International Internet Magazine. Analysis and background information on Baltic markets
Baltic Reports
, English-language daily news website that covers all three Baltic states
The Baltic Review
the independent newspaper from the Baltics
The Baltic Times
an independent weekly newspaper that covers the latest political, economic, business, and cultural events in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
The Baltics Today
news about The Baltics


External links




vifanord
– a digital library that provides scientific information on the Nordic and Baltic countries
Baltic states
– The article about Baltic states on Encyclopædia Britannica. * Richter, Klaus
Baltic States and Finland
in


Official statistics of the Baltic states


Statistics Estonia

Statistics Latvia

Statistics Lithuania
{{Authority control States Geography of Eastern Europe Geography of Northern Europe Regions of Europe Regions of Eurasia Bottom-up regional groups within the European Union