Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Order of The Brothers of Sword


Arms of Order

The Crusades are famous for their Orders – spiritual military organizations with their own social order and code of laws.

The name ordo in Latin means “class”. The first orders where clerical organizations for monks. At the Early Middle Ages when Christianity begun to took prime importance on every person’s life, there were many people who wanted to devote their life for God by becoming monks. The monks lived in Monasteries; they were barred from secular tastes like marriage and family. They lived an in closed communities where they spend time in prayers and studying the holy texts. At 9th century the secular leaders begun to take more pressure on church based organizations making many Monasteries to decay and lose it spiritual basis. The Medieval sources tell that some Monasteries had become so secular so they acted more as guest houses than spiritual surroundings.

This was watched reluctantly by conservative forces in the church and needs for new reforms that will bring spirituality back to the Monasteries were needed. At year 910  in Burgundia (present day France), Cluny the first Monastery which was inferior only to the Pope was founded. It followed the statutes written by Benedict of Nursia, those who followed his teachings were to be called the Benedictines. New statutes commanded to strongly regard the inner discipline of the Monastery and tackle the depravity of clergymen.  When in 1073 the new charismatic Pope Gregory VIII previously known as monk Hildebrand, the Benedictine statutes were amended with thesis of higher and unquestionable power of the Pope and give rights to depose every secular ruler and free his subjects from the duty of loyalty.  Gregor’s VII ambitions caused a bitter conflict with secular ruler Henry IV the Holy Roman Emperor, but his efforts for the Benedictine movement were successful; in 12th Century there were 2000 Monasteries following the statutes of Benedict of Nursia.

The Order of Benedict was the first order in world history but in 13 century new spiritual movements of monks emerged. The Cistercian Order objected the Benedictine lust for luxury and lack of desire for physical work. They made more ascetic lifestyle and built their Monasteries at remote places. Following the call of monk Bernard of Clairvaux they became a missionary and travelled to  Pagan lands such as Latvia. There were more monk orders like the Franciscans and Dominican Order.

When the Crusader movement started to gain it heights the new military orders emerged. They were based on desire to compile spiritual and secular beliefs. The knights joining the order lived just as monks except they had a stronger hierarchy and were allowed to kill. The Orders had special ranks, rules and intuitions. The head of the military order was the Master; he commanded the Order and set ranks of its members. Many ranks such as Marshal, Officer and Commander are common in today’s military organizations.  The oldest military order was the Order of Malta which still operates today. The most popular was the Knights Templar or Order of the Temple which was the richest and powerful knight organization of Medieval times. They were utterly destroyed by French King Philip IV who wanted to loot Orders wealth to clear his debt.  But the order who affected the Baltic region was Teutonic Order as all orders it started in the Holy Land to fight Muslims. But then the order discovered that fighting Pagans in Europe are more suitable. They were responsible for conquering the Western Slavs and Baltic Prussians and supporting the invasion in Baltic Region. Their state located in Eastern Prussia became a Secular Duchy in 1525.  The Duchy of Prussia was the prime essence of the future Empire of Germany therefore the Teutonic Order can be called as the prime root of the united German nation.

But the Teutonic Order was not yet ready to lead the Crusades in Latvian land for it had a hard time with Prussians. The Crusaders coming from Germany was not members of the Teutonic Order. So Bishop Albert needed strong force for his own to protect Riga and fight the Pagans. The Chronicle of Henry claims that Albert’s right hand man Theodoricus instituted ‘’some Christ’s brothers of knights”. This is recognized by historians as the foundation of new military order. Their emblem on their shirts was cross and swords that’s why they are called as Order of The Brothers of Sword. It is considered that the order was founded in 1202 in Riga. The Order was designed to protect Riga and was first consisted of local Germans of Riga. But they gained more recruits from Germany. Their statutes were derived from Knights Templars and bulla issued by Pope Innocent III made order an subjects of Bishop of Riga.  The Bishop also managed to bring The Cistercian Order to Latvian land. They established their Monastery at Daugavgrīva near Riga.  Conquer of the Latvian land could start now with everything ready.

It was first Livonians who suffered from the order. In year 1203 Livonians were attacked by Duke of Polock who wanted the fees from Livonians. Livonians surrendered and paid the fees to Russians but German knights forced them to leave.  At this same year the Lithuanians together with Visvaldis the ruler of Jersika tried to siege Riga but were forced to retreat. This forced Albert to look for more Crusaders because Lithuanians attacked again. It was clear that a mighty and unified force of Lithuanians was more danger than split Latvian tribes. However the Lithuanians did not care much about Latvian freedom rather for their own security and pillage. They raided Semigallians making them ask for Crusader help. Semigallian king Viestards did much to collaborate with Crusaders to hold off Lithuanians. He sent one hostage from each of his castles to gain German support. It was an old diplomatic practice to give the man as pledge to the other side. If the ruler breaks alliance he risks loosing pledged man’s life who often was his son. The Livonian rulers gave his sons as hostages to guarantee peace with the Germans.  In 1205 the Lithuanian raiders raided Estonian lands and as they came back they were destroyed by unified German-Semigallian force. Next year the Crusaders captured last hostile Livonian strongpoint -the castle of Sala. The surroundings of Riga were now clear from danger. The nobles of Sala requested help to Duke of Polock and his army came to Sala at 1206. Russians together with Livonians of Turaida tried to capture Sala but were forced to retreat.

Germans revenged at Turaida for helping the Russians and burned down the Turaida castle. But they failed to capture the castle of Darbelis on the opposite bank of the river. Therefore at 1207 the Order of the Brothers of Sword had captured all Livonian lands. The next post will show how the Crusaders captured the land of Latgallians and destroyed the beautiful town of Jersika.

Selected sources

Šterns,Indriķis. (2002) Latvijas vēsture, 1180-1290: krustakari. Riga: Latvijas vēstures instūta apgāds.

Militzer, Klaus. (2005) Die Geschichte Des Deutschen Ordens. Stuttgart. Kohlhammer.

Grīnberga L. (Ed.) (1999) Ceļvedis ordeņu vēsturē. Riga. Zvaigzne ABC.

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First Crusaders in Latvia and the founding of Riga

When the Crusaders came to Latvian land they had to look for a suitable place to establish a base of operations. Since the mouth of river Daugava was a perfect place for merchants and port making they first landed on  the shores of Riga Bay and sailed in the inner waters of the Daugava. The place around the mouth of Daugava was perfect because it was located in the center between territories of four Latvian tribes and could be supported from Germany by supply ships.

The Christian missionary Meinard came along with merchants who knew the land before and brought him to the Livonian town of Ikšķile. Ikšķile is located further from Riga, the German could not get the permission to establish a trade base there because they had to deal with trade rivals from the Duchy of Polock. The local Livonians had to pay fees to Polock or risk bloody attack.  This was not a full time enslavement and the annexation of Livonian lands from Polock. It was rather close to protection payment as practiced by criminal gangs to extract money from weak shopkeepers. The Russians did not interfere much in local Livonian politics or their religion.  The Germans on the other hand wanted more power on Livonians mainly their land.

Meinard became the first Bishop on the Ikšķile he built the stone first church and stone palace in Latvia. There was records of Scandinavian built wooden church in Courland but its remains were never found. There was a wooden Orthodox Church in Jersika but no stone buildings built by Latvians themselves are not found until this day. The church of Ikšķile now lies in ruins and is located on the separate island in the result of flooding done by the Riga Hydroelectric power plant.

ikskiles baznica

Ruins of Church of Ikskile

As already mentioned in some previous post the mission of baptizing local Livonians was not successful. When Livonians discovered that Germans will be another oppressor far worse than Russians, they rejected the Christianity by simply “washing it away” in Daugava. Meinard was forced to ask to the Pope for permission to  organize Crusade. But he died in 1196 giving his job to his heir Bishop Berthold. He started to organize Crusade and managed to get justification for his war by getting a bulla (the sacred church delclaration against its enemies) against Livonian issued by the Pope. In year 1198  he on the horseback  accompanied by knights approached Livonian castle of Sala. He demanded Livonians to baptize immediately. The Livonians refused and Berthold returned at the “spot of Riga” (ad locum Rige), because the castle was located on the island and Berthold needed ships to attack it. Livonians realising the danger decided to make preventive attack by joining forces and surprise the crusaders at their weakspot. The battle resulted in defeat on both sides- Livonians were forced to flee, but the Berthold was killed. Livonians were forced to pay fees but Crusaders needed a new much better leader.

In year 1198 the new more greater and powerful leader came to Latvian lands. The new Bishop Albert had everything to manage Crusade against Latvian Pagans. At this same year the new Roman Pole Innocent III recognized as the most glorious Middle Age Pope was elected. They both had much in common- they willed for supreme power, they both organized Crusades and were far better diplomats than secular kings of their time. However they both suffered a crucial failure; Pope Innocent III was swindled by greedy Venetian merchants who diverted the Fourth Crusade (1204) from the Holy Land to Constantinople compromising the whole idea of Crusades because a Christian capitol was destroyed in the name of Holy War. Same thing happened to Albert when he was forced to give protection rights to the greedy knights of the Brothers of the sword. Albert outlived Innocent III by 14 years (Innocent III died in 1216) dying in 1229. The last resting place of both great church leaders is unknown until this day.

Albert did not rush to Latvian land; he wanted to “study the circumstances without the help of army first”. He first went to Gotland where he recruited men for his Crusade and then came back to Germany where he looked for more Crusaders. The Pope Innocent III issued bulla against Livonian barbarians “who gives the God’s honour to dull creatures and bushes”. In 1200 he finally entered the Latvian land visiting Crusader outposts at Ikšķile and Sala. He was attacked by Livonians on the way and escaped defeat with difficulty because according to Chronicle of Henry he was not supported by German knights. This however doubtful giving question where the 500 German knights whom Albert brought with him were hiding when Albert was in danger? That can be more a propagandist claim by Chronicler Henry making Albert’s achievements too great. The historian Indriķis Šterns insists that the story of Bishop Albert recruiting more than hundred men to Latvian land is a propagandist claim.  He rather entered the river Daugava alone without Crusaders or with smaller amount of them.

Albert at year 1200 already started to move to the site of Riga. The German merchants already may have even a wooden settlement there. Albert knowing that this is the best spot decided to establish his base there. The site of Riga was not first settled by Germans- there were small Livonian villages there already. He requested the Pope Innocent III for giving monopoly rights to the port of Riga.  It was done but the document is not preserved until this day, giving no details about it. But it sure was the juridical basis for Albert to start “building the city of Riga” in  1201 as claimed in Chronicle of Henry. So the year 1201 is officially considered as the founding date of Latvia. At year 2001 Riga celebrated the 800 year birthday. Albert moved his residence from Ikšķile to Riga. The first citizens of Riga were German merchants, Russian merchants, clergyman and Crusader knights as well as local Livonians. Riga started as a small German trade settlement absorbing nearby Livonian villages, gaining more emigrants from Germany and Western Europe and becoming a strong natural center of Latvian land. Riga has no clear date of founding because there were settlements before 1201 and there is no official founding document. The Bishop Albert also cannot be clearly called as the founder of Riga because he in reality just moved his residence to Riga were first settlements were already built. As Indriķis Šterns insists Riga can be compared to Rome which also started as an group of small settlements joined by the Romans, and founded with no documents and claimed to be built by two brothers Romulus and Rem. However this does not prevent us from considering that Riga founded in 1201 by Bishop Albert because the every good legend has the legacy of making history.


Commemorative coin of 800 years of Riga







Selected sources

Šterns,Indriķis. (2002) Latvijas vēsture, 1180-1290: krustakari. Riga: Latvijas vēstures instūta apgāds.

Zeids, Teodors (Ed.) (1978). Feodālā Rīga. Riga: Latvijas PSR Zinātņu akadēmija. Vēstures institūts.

Caune, Andris, Ose, Ieva. (2010) Latvijas viduslaiku mūra baznīcas : 12. gs. beigas – 16. gs. sākums : enciklopēdija. Riga: Latvijas vēstures institūta apgāds.


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Latvia during the Crusades- an short survey


German Crusaders

In this post we will discuss the basics of the Crusades in Latvian land and in the next posts the aspects of this matter will be discussed in more detail.

The Middle Ages in Latvia have been studied professionally with the help of brilliant historians. The Latvian historian in-exile Indriķis Šterns has released two volumes of Latvian Middle Age history which are still considered as the prime source for Latvian Middle Age history. In present day Latvia the study of Middle Age history is pursued by Prof. Ilgvars Misāns- an author of many books in Latvian and German. Significant efforts done in Latvian Middle Age history by authors of many publications Valdis Klišāns and Andris Levāns. There is much done for translation and publication of Middle Age historic sources. There is many more historians and efforts to mention which helps to understand rather complex Latvian Middle Age history.

The Crusades are one of the most popular aspects of the Middle Ages, the bloody capture of Jerusalem, the war between two gentleman’s -Richard I The Lionheart and Saladin and the secrets of the Order of the Templar’s. But there is much to say about the Crusades against Pagans in Baltic Region.

The causes of the Crusader movement are many. The Catholic Church had enormous power of every Middle Age man from the town beggar to the king. It was unquestionable that the will of God affects every man’s life. People were driven by fears from making a sin causing God’s anger. So it was a duty of every living soul to commit something honorable for every man has to stand before the trial of God after his death. The fear from the torments of Hell and the belief that the Day of Judgment could occur every moment made the religious fanaticism stronger than before. One of the holiest ways to serve God was making pilgrimage to the Holy Land where Jesus and his apostles once lived. The Holy Land located in today’s Palestine was under the occupation of Muslims in 638. The Christians believed that the Holy Sights of Palestine posses a magical power which heals the pilgrim from illnesses and evil. There were many who desired to be buried in the Holy Land, so they moved there at the end of their lives.

However at 11 century the political changes in the Middle East made harder for pilgrims to reach their desired destination. The Jerusalem and large parts of the Byzantine Empire was taken by Seljuk’s the nomadic tribe from Central Asia. Seljuk’s are ancestors of the present day Turkish nation. Seljuk’s converted to Islam and was more radical Muslims than Arabs and was known as very vicious and brutal fighters. Seljuk’s attacked the pilgrims and made significant danger for emperors of Constantinople.  The request for help from Byzantium emperors and the will to secure the Holy Land from the infidels known as Saracens was enough to start the Holy Wars. Despite the fact that the Ten Commandments prohibits man to kill another man the murder done for religious goals was enough to get forgiveness for the sins and entry to Paradise.

The Holy War was declared by Pope Urban II in 1095 at the council of Clevro. The call to liberate Jerusalem gathered thousands. First Crusade started at 1096 and ended successfully in 1099 by capturing Jerusalem.  Despite that the strong resistance of Muslims forced t0 start more Crusades to Holy Land. They  ended in bitter failure in 1270 when the last Crusader palace was taken by Muslims. The failures in Palestine made the Crusader movement to look for other routes for more successful battles. Spain was one which was half-controlled by Muslims. The war against Spanish Muslims known as Reqonqista lasted till 1492 which ended in Crusader victory. But there were other lands for Crusaders to attack which was inhabited by Paganic Slavic- Baltic tribes. These lands were valuable piece to get in the name of Christianity. When the Crusaders came to conquer the Latvian lands they wanted the land more than the gates of Paradise, the Crusades to Baltic Region was driven by more economical goals than religious. The main mission was to baptize the Pagans but the real goal was to conquer them.

The first victims were north- western Slavs who lived on the borders of the Holy German Empire of Rome. At the 12th century slowly the Slavs were conquered and assimilated and their lands became part of German Empire.  The same thing was done by Swedes who attacked the Finnic Pagans. Finland became a part of Sweden for many centuries.

The Latvian land was first visited by German merchants around 1160. Soon the first missionaries came to introduce Christianity to Pagans. It was done by Augustinian monk Meinard (who became a bishop later) and his comrade Theodoricus. They established the center of Crusader operations at Iķšķile were the first stone buildings were built on Latvian lands. The attempt of peaceful baptism was not successful. The Livonians rejected the new religion. Meinard decided to call the first Crusade against Livonians. But he died before the Crusade was made. The attack was carried by Bishop Berthold. His army was defeated and he was killed in battle near Riga. The leadership was now taken by Bishop Albert (1199-1229). In his time of rule the Crusaders using force and guile defeated the Latvian tribes. In 1202 The Order of the Brothers of Sword was established to fight Latvian tribes. The order was mostly made from German knights who looked for new adventure and lands. At 13th century the Danish King Valdemar II also wanted to take Baltic lands. The Danes defeated Estonians at the battle of Lindanise (near Tallin) and wanted more, but Valdemar was deposed in inner Danish fights and the Danish advance stopped.

At 13th century the Teutonic Order (also known as German Order) became the main Crusader force. The Order conquered the Baltic Prussian tribes and established their own state at today’s Kaliningrad which belongs to Russia now.  The Prussian nation was assimilated completely. The Teutonic Order managed to enclose the Order of The Brothers of Sword when it was destroyed in Battle of Saule in 1236. The Livonian Order was made which was dependent to the Teutonic Order.  The German Knights conquered the Estonian and Latvian lands. The attacks on Lithuania continued until the 14th century when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was recognized as the rightful Christian state.

The Latvian and Estonian lands were joined in the Livonian Confederation for the next three centuries. The Crusades made Latvia as a part of the Western world and culture. The early Latvian land was never a part of Russia as today Russian nationalist historians argue. Certainly there was Russian presence, there was Orthodox Churches in Latgalia and the presence of Russian merchants, but it was not as significant as the Western. Never the Baltic Region was the part of Russia, because the numerous Russian Duchies were too small to conquer the Latvian land and the claims that Balts are actually a part of the  Slavs is nonsense. Latvia only became a Russian territory at 18 century when it was gained by Russian Empire. The Latvia is a part of Western World right from the beginning of the Crusades and even before because Balts came from today’s Germany. We can surely propose that much of cultural heritage in today’s Latvia comes from Germany and Latvia has more significant cultural relations with western mainly German culture rather than Eastern Russian although it’s a question wetter the Russia really is part of Eastern civilization or it’s another member of Western civilization.

Selected Sources

Šterns,Indriķis. (2002) Latvijas vēsture, 1180-1290: krustakari. Riga: Latvijas vēstures instūta apgāds.

Misāns, Ilgvars. (1999) Baznīca un krusta kari 12. un 13. gadsimtā : eksperimentāls mācību līdzeklis. Riga: Zvaignze ABC.

Baltijas valstu vēsture : mācību līdzeklis (2000). Riga. Zvaigzne ABC.

Biļķins, Vilis, (1973) Zemgaliešu brīvības cīņas. Minneapolis. Sēļzemnieka apgāds.

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Early Latvian statehood and civil order before the Crusades

There were and there is right now a discussion about the question of early Latvian statehood’s. The nationalists insist that there were real Latvian kingdoms with kings and castles. The skeptics see this as much as fantasy and try to solve this question more on the middle ground, that there was an existing statehood’s but they cannot be compared to the kingdoms in Western Europe and neither in Eastern Europe. The early Latvians were on the first basic steps to form a feudal kingdom but the Crusader invasion halted this advance.

As we found out in previous posts the main centers of early Latvian people were wooden fortresses and towns around them. The all forms of ruling were concentrated in those fortresses. Fortresses had their own districts they are called pilsnovadi in Latvian. In most cases they were not large in size that’s why I call them micro-states. At the end of the 13 century a new administrative form appeared-  parishes (pagasti in Latvian). The name comes from Russia where the word  погостиь means the rights of rulers regale basically meaning fee paying to the ruler. From that the Russian word погост evolved as the territory for fee collecting. It was called mark in German. Parish consisted of many villages which were subjugated to fortress districts. There is 450 known castles and fortresses today. Manny fortress districts united in larger territorial unions called lands in German chronicles (terra, land). At Courland there were nine lands called Vanema, Bandava, Ventava, Piemare, Duvzare, Megava, Pilsāts, Ceklis and the Land between Skrunda and Semigallia. At Semigallia there were seven lands- Silene, Žagare, Dobene, Spārnene, Tērvete, Dobele and Upmale. Within Dobene and Spārnene there were smaller administrative units called provinces (in Dobene- 16, Spārnene- 19). There is no complete amount of Livonian and Latgalian lands known today we can guess that there were many. There was no unified state which would unite all tribes in Latvia.

Despite that there were small statehood’s or micro-states. In Western Courland the king (rex in the chronicle) Lamekin is said to be an king of Ventava. The chronicle of Rimbert calls Kursa as as the kingdom (regnum) with five civitats (civitās) the districts in it. In Latgalia there were rulers acknowledged as kings. The most largest state was the state of Jersika (regnum Gercike). Its ruler was Visvaldis (The ruler of all ) he also was the warlord or unified Jersikian- Lithuanian army. Visvaldis took rule of many territories which stretched from river Daugava to river Gauja. The state was consisted of many fortress districts so the state of Jersika can be called as a confederation. Some districts on the right bank of river Aivekste formed their union called Lettia. The neighbor of Jersika was the state of Koknese ruled by a king or Duke Vetseke. The Tālava was called in many sources differently from simply a province to land union. It was ruled by Tālibalds and his sons. Tālava consisted large territory at the Gauja river basin. There are no sources of Selonian kings and states there were four castles in Selonia. Chronicle of Henry of Livonia says that there were many Livonian kings and four Livonian lands. The land of Daugava, Turaida, Metsepole and Idumeja. Ako was recognised as the mightiest Livonian ruler and bitter fighter against Crusaders. The Kaupo recognised as the king on the other hand was very friendly to Crusaders and even took the legendary trip to Rome to meet the Pope himself.

There was an organized society in Latvia within the early type states. It was based on a confederation of lands and fortress districts. But there were no state organizations like in Lithuania which could unite all Latvian tribes. The Lithuanians managed to settle their differences and at the time of Crusader invasion was ready counter the Crusader threat.

Senlatvijas karte

The map showing early Latvian statehood’s

According to the archaeological findings and written sources the early Latvian society was socially divided. The Latvian Pagans occasionally placed the most worth belongings in the dead man’s grave. From that the archaeologists can tell the social status of the berried man. The graves with weapons and jewels were probably belonged to Noble’s. They could be the elders of the village or even districts. Other social class according to archaeologists was the members of warhoods who took a prominent position in the states military. Third class was the free peasants of the village who took part in wars, but was second handed in state politics, because all decisions were made by Noble’s. The Fourth Class with poor grave inventory was the prisoners of the war and other unfree peoples.

The leader of the early Latvian states was the rulers (valdnieks) or the kings (ķēniņš) as named in chronicles. The taxes were collected by special taxman’s. The amounts of taxes were measured in ploughs or horses.

There were also early forms of parliament. The ruler could not make military decisions without consulting the members of war-hood. The meetings of nobles decided the state’s internal and external questions. There were also records of meetings between the elders which could make the same decisions as the war nobles like signing a peace deal with the Crusaders.

The early Latvians were not an uncivilized barbarians, but were at much lower levels than the rest of Europe’s feudal nations.  That’s why early Latvians could not fight with German Crusaders equally.

Selected Sources

Vasks,Andrejs. Vaska,Baiba and Grāvere, Rita. (1997) Latvijas Aizvēsture 8500 g. pr. Kr.-1200. g pēc. Kr. Riga. Zvaigzne ABC.

Apals, Jānis and others. (2011) Latvijas senākā vēsture : 9.g.t. pr.Kr. – 1200.g. Editor: Mugurēvičs Ēvalds. Riga : Latvijas vēstures institūta apgāds.

Šnē, Andris. (2002) Sabiedrība un vara: sociālās attiecības Austrumlatvijā aizvēstures beigās. Riga. Intelekts.

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The Latvian Prehistoric neighbors – early Lithuanians and Estonians

It would be unwise to exclude Latvian Baltic neighbors Lithuanians and Estonians from aspects of Latvian history because both three nations share much in common in the basis of Baltic history. Let’s take a brief survey about Prehistoric aspects in Lithuania and Estonia.

Estonia as much as Latvia was under the ice shield during the last Ice Age. Some minor parts of Lithuania were not covered by the ice shield. First country inhabited by humans was Lithuania in 9000 BC at the same time the humans came to Latvia. Estonia was covered by ice much longer than other two Baltic states.  The first traces of humans in Estonia were dated at 8000 BC.

During the Stone age the Baltic settlers practiced hunting and fishing lifestyles. After the beginning of the Bronze age the slow move to productive economy started. Lithuanians were first to make fortifications, Estonian made very complex roundly set rock molds still visible today at Jõelähtme.

During the 9-13 century in both Baltic states just as Latvia the new organized tribes formed. The early Lithuanian tribes were Samgotians, Aukštaitians, and tribal peoples simply known as Lithuanians. The present day Kallinigrad and Poland were inhabited by many no extinct Baltic tribes mainly Prussians, Skalvians and Youtwingians. The Samgotians are common with Latgallians as they have a different dialect than other Lithuanians. The Estonia was inhabited by Estonians and Seths who lived North-eastern Estonia and Russia.


Just as early Latvians the Lithuanians and Estonians established wooden fortresses however the Estonians was first to build stone fortifications like the Varbola Stronghold built in the 10 -11 century. One of the main centers of Lithuania was Kernave which was the first capital of Lithuania before it was burned down by the crusaders.

The Ruins of Varbola Stronghlod. The Kernave- first capital of Lithuania.

At the time of Viking raids the Estonians were also a victim of Viking raids.  At the 11 century Estonia was invaded by Russians. The Grand Duke of Kiev Jaroslaw the Wise attacked Estonians and established a support base called Jurjevo at 1030.  The Russians occupied the South eastern Estonia until in 1061 the Estonians drive out the invaders. Russians also attacked Lithuanians but at 12th century the Kievan Russia resolved in many minor states unable to conquer Baltic lands. Plus the invasion of the Mongolians halted the Russian development for many hundred years. There are Russian historians who say that if the Mongol invasion had never accrued; the Baltic region would be conquered by Russians long before western crusaders.

Just as the Latvians the Lithuanians and Estonians were divided in small statehood’s or micro-states ruled by king like rulers. When the western invasion begun in the Baltic region the three Baltic nations witnessed different fates. Estonians were attacked by Danes and Germans and together with Latvians enslaved by German crusaders. But Lithuanians repulsed all invasions and established their own kingdom which lived until 16th century when it was unified with Poland.

Selected Sources:

Maisalu, Ains (Ed.) (2000) Baltijas valstu vēsture : mācību līdzeklis. Riga. Zvaigzne ABC.

Plakans, Andrejs. (2011) A concise history of the Baltic States. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press

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