How did Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians appear
What was the Baltic before its land was incorporated into the Russian Empire? Until the XIII century, when the German knights - crusaders began to conquer the Baltic states, it was a solid "tribal zone". Here lived the Baltic and Finno-Ugric tribes, who did not have their own statehood and professed paganism. Thus, modern Latvians as a people appeared as a result of the merger of the Baltic (Latgals, Zemgals, villages, Curonians) and Finno-Ugric (Livs) tribes. It should be borne in mind that the Baltic tribes themselves were not the indigenous population of the Baltic states - they migrated from the south and pushed the local Finno-Ugric population back to the north of modern Latvia. It was the absence of its own statehood that became one of the main reasons for the conquest of the Baltic and Finno-Ugric peoples of the Baltic states by more powerful neighbors.
Starting from the XIII-XIV centuries. the peoples of the Baltic states were between two fires - from the south-west they were crowded and subjugated by German knightly orders, from the northeast by Russian principalities. The “core” of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was also not the ancestors of the modern Lithuanians, but the Lithuanians - the “Western Russians”, the Slavs, the ancestors of the modern Belarusians. The adoption of the Catholic religion and the developed cultural ties with neighboring Poland ensured the differences between the Litvins and the population of Russia. And in the German knightly states, and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the position of the Baltic tribes was far from joyful. They were subjected to religious, linguistic, and social discrimination.
The situation of the Finno-Ugric tribes, which later became the basis for the formation of the Estonian nation, was even worse. In Estonia, as well as in neighboring Livonia and Courland, all the main levers of government and economy were also in the hands of the Austrian Germans. Until the middle of the 19th century, the Russian empire did not even use such a name as “Estonians” - all people from Finland, Vyborg gubernia and a number of other Baltic territories united under the name “Chukhontsy”, and there were no particular differences between Estonians, Izhors, Vepsians, Finns. The standard of living for the Chukhonets was even lower than that of Latvians and Lithuanians. A significant part of the villagers rushed in search of earnings in St. Petersburg, Riga and other major cities. A large number of Estonians rushed even to other regions of the Russian Empire - this is how Estonian settlements appeared in the North Caucasus, in the Crimea, in Siberia and in the Far East. They left “to the ends of the world” not from a good life. It is interesting that in the Baltic cities there were practically no Estonians and Latvians - they called themselves “villagers”, opposing the townspeople - the Germans.
The bulk of the population of the Baltic cities until the XIX century were ethnic Germans, as well as Poles, Jews, but not the Baltic. In fact, the “old” (pre-revolutionary) Baltic was completely built by the Germans. The Baltic cities were German cities - with German architecture, culture, system of municipal government. In the Order state formations, in the Duchy of Courland, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Baltic peoples would never have become equal with the titular Germans, Poles, or Litvins. For the German nobility, who ruled the Baltics, Latvians and Estonians were second-rate people, almost “barbarians,” and no equal rights were out of the question. The nobility and merchants of the Duchy of Kurland consisted entirely of the Ostsee Germans. The German minority for centuries ruled over the Latvian peasants, who constituted the bulk of the population of the duchy. The Latvian peasants were enslaved and, by their social status, were equated with the Courland statute as Roman slaves.
Freedom to the Latvian peasants came almost half a century earlier than to the Russian serfs - the decree on the abolition of serfdom in Courland was signed by Emperor Alexander I in 1817 year. On August 30, the liberation of the peasants was solemnly announced in Mitau. Two years later, in the 1819 year, the peasants of Livonia were also released. Thus, the Latvians received their long-awaited freedom, from which the gradual formation of a class of free Latvian farmers began. If it were not for the will of the Russian emperor, then who knows how many more years the Latvians would be in a state of serfdom of their German masters. The incredible mercy shown by Alexander I towards the peasants of Courland and Livonia had a tremendous impact on the further economic development of these lands. By the way, it is not by chance that Latgale turned into the most economically backward part of Latvia - the liberation from serfdom came to the Latgalian peasants much later, and this fact affected the development of agriculture and trade. crafts in the region.
The liberation of the serfs of Livonia and Courland allowed them to quickly turn into successful farmers living much better than the peasants of Northern and Central Russia. An impetus was given to the further economic development of Latvia. But even after the liberation of the peasants, the main resources of Livonia and Courland remained in the hands of the Ostsee Germans who organically fit into the Russian aristocracy and merchants. A large number of prominent military and political figures of the Russian Empire — generals and admirals, diplomats, and ministers — emerged from the Baltic nobility. On the other hand, the position of the actual Latvians or Estonians remained degraded - and not at all because of the Russians, who are now being accused of occupying the Baltic states, but because of the Baltic nobility, who exploited the population of the region.
Now in all the Baltic countries they like to talk about “the horrors of the Soviet occupation,” but they prefer to keep quiet about the fact that Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians supported the revolution, which gave them the long-awaited deliverance from the domination of the Ostsee Germans. If the German aristocracy of the Baltic States mostly supported the white movement, then on the side of the Reds entire divisions of Latvian riflemen fought. Ethnic Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians played a very large role in establishing Soviet power in Russia, with the highest percentage being in the Red Army and state security agencies.
When modern Baltic politicians argue about the “Soviet occupation”, they forget that tens of thousands of “Latvian riflemen” fought all over Russia for establishing this very Soviet power, and then continued to serve in the organs of the Cheka-OGPU-NKVD, in the Red Army, far from the lowest posts. As you can see, no one Latvians or Estonians were oppressed by Soviet ethnicity; moreover, in the first post-revolutionary years, Latvian formations were considered privileged, it was they who carried the protection of the Soviet leadership and performed the most responsible tasks, including the suppression of numerous anti-Soviet speeches in the Russian province . It must be said that, not feeling ethnic kinship and cultural affinity with the Russian peasants, the shooters dealt with the rebels rather harshly, for which the Soviet leadership valued them.
In the interwar period (from 1920 to 1940 years) in Latvia there were several worlds - Latvian, German, Russian and Jewish, which tried to intersect with each other at a minimum. It is clear that the position of the Germans in independent Latvia was better than the position of Russians or Jews, but certain nuances did exist anyway. So, despite the fact that the Germans and Latvians were Lutherans or Catholics, there were separate German and Latvian Catholic and Protestant churches, separate schools. That is, two people with the kind of close cultural values tried to distance themselves as much as possible from each other. For Latvians, the Germans were invaders and descendants of the exploiters — feudal lords; for the Germans, the Latvians were almost “forest barbarians”. Moreover, as a result of the agrarian reform, the Baltic landowners lost their lands, transferred to the Latvian farmers.
Firstly, promonarchic sentiments prevailed among the Ostsee Germans — they hoped for the restoration of the Russian Empire and the return of Latvia to its composition, and then, in the 1930-s, German Nazism spread very quickly - it’s enough to recall that Alfred Rosenberg himself came from the Baltic of the key Hitler ideologues. With the spread of German power in the Baltic States, the Germans attributed the restoration of their political and economic domination. They considered it extremely unfair that the German-built cities of Estonia and Latvia were in the hands of the “villagers” - Estonians and Latvians.
In fact, if it were not for the “Soviet occupation”, the Baltic states would be under the rule of the Nazis, would be annexed to Germany, and the local Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian population would wait for the status of second-rate people, followed by rapid assimilation. Although the repatriation of Germans from Latvia to Germany was begun in 1939, and by 1940, almost all of the Baltic Germans who lived in the country left it, in any case they would return again if Latvia were part of the Third Reich.
Adolf Hitler himself treated the population of Ostland very dismissively and for a long time prevented the implementation of the plans of a number of German commanders for the formation of Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian formations as part of the SS forces. In the Baltic States, the German administration ordered to prohibit any encroachments of the local population towards autonomy and self-determination, it was strictly forbidden to establish higher education institutions with instruction in Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonian. At the same time, it was allowed to create craft and technical schools for the local population, which indicated only one thing - in the German Baltic, Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians had only the fate of service personnel.
That is, in fact, it was the Soviet troops who saved the Latvians from returning to the position of the disenfranchised majority under the German gentlemen. However, given the number of immigrants from the Baltic republics who served in the Nazi police and the SS, one can be sure that for many of them, serving the invaders as collaborators was not a significant problem.
Now in the Baltic countries the policemen who served Hitler are whitewashed, while the merits of those Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians who weapons in his hands he embarked on the path of struggle against Nazism, served in the Red Army, and fought as part of partisan detachments. The modern Baltic politicians are also forgetting about the enormous contribution that Russia, and then the Soviet Union, made to the development of culture, writing, and science in the Baltic republics. In the USSR, a multitude of books were translated into Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian, writers from the Baltic republics were given the opportunity to publish their works, which were then also translated into other languages of the Soviet Union and printed in large editions.
It was during the Soviet period in the Baltic republics that a powerful and developed education system was created - both secondary and higher, with all Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians being educated in their native language, using their own script without experiencing any discrimination during their subsequent employment. Needless to say, people from the Baltic republics in the Soviet Union received an opportunity for career growth not only within their home regions, but within the whole huge country as a whole - they became high-ranking party leaders, military leaders and naval commanders, made a career from science, culture, sports, etc. All this was made possible thanks to the enormous contribution of the Russian people to the development of the Baltic states. About how much the Russians have done for the Baltics, sensible Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians never forget. It is not by chance that one of the main tasks of the modern Baltic regimes was the eradication of any adequate information about the life of the Baltic republics in the Soviet era. After all, the main task is to permanently detach the Baltic States from Russia and Russian influence, to educate the younger generations of Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians in the spirit of total Russophobia and admiration for the West.
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