Courland, Livonia and Esthonia


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Courland, Livonia and Esthonia is Number 50 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Courland, Livonia, and Esthonia were the three Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire, also known (primarily in Germany and Scandinavia) as Kurland, Livland, and Estland, corresponding roughly to present-day Latvia (Courland and Livonia) and Estonia. The book includes sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. It traces the successive dominance of the provinces by the Teutonic Order in 14th and 15th centuries, Sweden and Poland in the 16th and 17th centuries, and Russia beginning in the 18th century. The study notes the importance of the Baltic Germans, descendants of the original Teutonic knights, who retained much of the wealth and formed the cultural elite of the three provinces. Courland, Livonia, and Esthonia were also the only parts of the Russian Empire to have a majority Protestant (Lutheran) population. Latvia and Estonia gained their independence from Russia after World War I and the Russian Revolution. They were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 but regained their independence in 1991.

Last updated: July 21, 2014