Tag Archives: Lithuania

Operation Jungle The Failed British secret service mission in the Baltic States 1945-1956

The WW2 alliance between Great Britain, US and the Soviet Union was an unusual alliance based rather on circumstances and practical need rather than true friendship and cooperation. Soon after the end of the war, the western leaders found out that they have encountered a new much dangerous rival the Soviet Union. A gigantic nation, with large army that had seized control over all Eastern Europe, getting its grip on China and East Asia and entering the Middle East. The danger to western world from Stalin was far more greater than Hitler can ever possess.  So it did not took long for British secret service SIS (MI6) and American CIA to devise plans to spy on Soviet Union and attempt to sabotage it from the inside. And the occupied Baltic States was the perfect spot for such operations. And so begun an infamous and forgotten British spy affair in the Baltic states.

Intelligence across the Baltic sea was reconnected at 1943. It was difficult and controversial at the start, for Soviet Union was still officially the British ally and most of the Baltic agents were anti-communists. Many thought that to stop another Soviet Occupation was to intensify the cooperation with Germans a much shared thought that time. Others hoped that Britain will cancel its alliance with the Soviets and come to help the Baltic states. Already at the start the British failed the Baltic hopes. Estonian resistance member Evald Aruvald recalled that they had passed to British details of their strength and positions at the front, and they in turn passed this information to the Soviets. It was a great damage to the Estonian fight against the Soviets that they regarded as their main enemy.

The British involvement in the Baltic resistance movement started with Alexander “Sandy” McKibbin, born in per-revolutionary Russia and the timber merchant in pre-war Estonia and also a SIS spy. During the war he worked in SIS station at Stockholm. His main job was to spy on Nazis in the Baltic states, that had occupied them on 1941 and was fighting losing defensive battle against the advancing Soviet forces. The Lithuanian underground fighters who were hoping to restore the national independence contacted the McKibbin in Sweden who signed him up. Soviets were equal enemies to Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians just as the Nazis. Soviet Union had first occupied the Baltic states at 1940, then Germany at 1941 and again Soviets at 1944 entered the Baltic states. Patriots and nationalists had no other choice to fight a three-way war.

For the British the Baltic independence was not a basic necessity to fight for. But, they were interested on what is happening in the occupied Baltic states to know if the Soviets are planning a further Push westwards. On 15 October  1945. the SIS sent a boat from Sweden to Latvia with four agents on reconnaissance mission. Unfortunately the boat capsized and the agents were captured and tortured.  Their ciphers and radio transmitters fell into hands of Jānis Lukašēvičs a Latvian KGB officer. Instead of just waiting for more spies to come and hunt them was too risky. Instead the KGB devised a plan to use the captured information and equipment to lure more British spies into the trap. The plan was called Lursen – S, although it is usually called the “Red Web” from the British author Tom Bower book title released in 1989 as the first detailed publication about these dark events. The British journalist Edward Lucas has made further studies in this matter in his book “Deception” on 2012.

In March 1946. Lukaševičs forced a Latvian Augusts Bergmanis who had operated a radio for the British during the war to start sending messages again, claiming that the agents have given their codes and radios before  capture.  The British responded and sent two agents in 1946 to find out what happened to previous operation. But their transmitter was broken and SIS instructed them to contact with existing – KGB controlled operator. Now KGB controlled the entire British secret network. Instead of just arresting them Lukaševičs ordered to wait and keep contacts with the agents. The SIS instructed their agents who now were watched by the KGB to meet other British agents on the ground. That lead to more clues. Two stranded British agents in Latvia were arrested, a Latvian Fēliks Rumnieks was sent to make contacts with the KGB and work as the double agent and was arrested and confessed everything.

In Lithuania the KGB devised a similar sinister scheme. An American born Lithuanian Juozas Albinas Markulis was a resistance organization leader, in fact a traitor since 1944. He summoned a meeting of all the partisan leaders of Lithuania in 1947. Since Markulis had contacts with the British the majority of leaders went straight into KGB trap. In Latvia Lukaševičs also arranged a meeting in Riga between the Latvian resistance senior leaders and the representatives of “Latvian government in exile” and “British secret agent”. The unsuspecting man met the “agent” informed him about every detail of their operations and were arrested and never seen again.

In 1948 18 June the US president Harry Truman tasked the newly created CIA with propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action, sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and subversion against the hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups and support the indigenous anti-communist elements in the threatened countries in the world. That was a kick-start for American and later British secret war against the Soviet Union. After the first Soviet Nuclear Bomb tests, the War in Korea sparked great interests in Soviet Affairs. But the Western diplomats were kept in their embassies and barred from any inside information and outside world had little knowledge about what is happening behind Iron Curtain. So it was SIS and CIA tasks to do it.

The Baltic states were ideal spot for spying. The population was mainly anti-communist, the partisan movements in the forest supposedly numbered many tens of thousands. The region was accessible by boat and plane it was a forward bastion for Soviet expansion to the West, if an attack on the West would be imminent then the signs in the Baltic states would be unmistakeable.The human resources were vast, as Germany, Britain and US was filled with Baltic emigre’s a highly motivated ant-communist fighters. So the SIS secret “Operation Jungle” and CIA “Operation Tilestone” was born.

CIA placed a training camp in Kaufbeuren Germany for Baltic recruits, the SIS made a training school at 110 Old Church St, Chelsea. One of the leaders was colonel Alfons Rebane an ex Estonian Waffen SS legion officer. The trainees were taught to land from small boats, parachuting, unarmed combat and survival techniques and radio operation. However, the idea that these agents could find useful information about the Soviet forces and perform combat operations inside Soviet Union was dubious and far-fetched. Despite that British and American spymasters were pushing for it not considering the fact that they had little knowledge about the real strength of the Baltic resistance and the fact that it could be a trap. Also nobody suspected that the head of the SIS section number 9, in charge of all British anti-Soviet operations was a Soviet spy. In 1947. he moved to US where he was liaison  officer between SIS and CIA.

So KGB knew everything from the start. KGB officer Lukaševičs organized a bogus escape of a seasoned agent called Vidvuds Šveics in 1948. He contacted SIS and claimed himself as the representative of the Latvian resistance. SIS believed him. They placed him as the head of six-strong group (two from each three countries) trained by SIS. They even gave him a list of local sympathizers the ones that KGB was eager to catch. When his team landed in Lithuanian beach, Šveics separated from others and alerted the border guards, who killed both Estonians and one of the Latvians. The others fled. Šveics sent a message to SIS about his miraculous escape. By the year all the all the operation network was under the Soviet control, but the British spymasters still believed its safe and intact. Next landing in 1949, in Latvia was successful, but agents were arrested by KGB agents posing as resistance fighters.

Meanwhile in US the Americans had almost zero knowledge about the Soviet Union, its geography and military strength. Incoming intelligence was mostly trivial, spotty, garbled and out of date. The Western powers believed that Soviets can reach the English channel in few weeks and drop nuclear weapons on US already in 1949. So the parachuted thousands o emigre’s from the Baltic Sea to Black Sea. They even recruited former Nazi officers and war criminals who had great experience dealing with the Soviets.

CIA recruited Lithuanian resistance leader Lukša, who made cooperation with resistance leaders at home. However the KGB had Lithuanian resistance under control. When both SIS and CIA started to notice leak in their operation they blamed each other. But it was too late as the Baltic resistance in 1949, was mostly crushed. The mass deportations, forced collectivization had destroyed the partisan food supplies. Those who still resisted were placed under extreme torture.

However the SIS was still sending agents to Latvia. Because of the traitor, they were arrested, another Estonian who was supposed to contact them swallowed a cyanide capsule before capture. Another SIS group in 1952 was caught because of badly forged passports.  An Estonian agent Mart Mannik landed in Latvia and made it to Estonia, where local KGB officers lured him in trap a Tallinn suburbs and captured him.

Similar American and British operations ended same way in Romania, Ukraine and Albania and first alarms were raised over the Baltic mission that officially was considerate successful. However the British spy chiefs kept everything in secret and denied any problems. CIA director Walter Bedell Smith ordered to make a report on the CIA Baltic mission and the report was alarmingly negative. However, the Americans believed even if the missions are unsuccessful they cause a lot of stir and headaches for the Soviet leaders. So they send another group to Latvia in 1952 two were caught, one committed  suicide the other escaped. He had a chance of alarming the CIA about the defeat of the partisans and KGB full control, he  had radio equipment to do that. Instead he found his old girlfriend and spent all the money on her and when he was captured the Soviets determined that he did not transmit any substantial intelligence.

KGB mastermind Lukaševičs sent another agent to the west Jānis Ērglis, who had long combat experience against the partisans, now he was impersonating one. SIS again trusted him, trained him and sent him back to Latvia with four agents. They never returned to London. KGB even scammed one million rubles from SIS as support money to partisans. But, the KGB made a mistake when London requested a sample from Tobol river near the reactor where Soviets produced plutonium for their nukes. The very idea that forest partisans could cross entire Soviet Union to highly guarded installation was at least bizarre.However the KGB reacted equally incompetently. The KGB technicians produced “river water” of such lethal radioactivity that it could only been produced inside the core of the reactor. Once it was analyzed in London it was finally clear that something was seriously wrong.

CIA commissioned a independent investigation and closed its operation on 1954. British “Operation Jungle” lasted until 1956. The last message read: “We can no longer help you. Will be sending no further physical or material help. All safe houses are blown … This is our last message until better times. We will listen to you until 30 June. Thereafter God help you.” By that time the partisan movement was numbered to only few thousand demoralized beaten man who had lost hope for Third World War the western assistance and hopes for liberation. When Western world just stood by when Soviet tanks crushed Hungarian democratic revolution the trust and hope for the west was all gone.

Only few British and American agents survived the Soviet torture and imprisonment. Some spent rest of their life’s in occupied Baltic states in poor conditions, few man were released in exchange. Soviets made propaganda movies about captured western agents helping the nationalist bandits. In western world the failure was kept in secrecy for many years until last three decades after Soviet collapse has revealed, the great cost of Western intelligence service incompetence. Many men lost their life’s in Russia, Ukraine, Baltic States, Romania, Albania and China because of flawed belief that sending an armed commandos to help  national resistance could help to topple the Soviet Union. In most cases these agents fell for fake resistance members and Soviets had double agents even in their main command ranks at home. It should not be overestimated that the Operation Jungle was done for Baltic freedom, the Baltic resistance was mainly used as a tool for British an American spy games . These failed spy games also cost many life’s of Baltic freedom fighters who naively trusted the westerners who were naive themselves.

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The Livonian War

Narva attacked by Russians in 1558.

15-16 century was a time of great change in Europe in both political and social fields. Feudal ways of ruling nations changed. Strong European countries became centralized with strong royal administration and armies became more powerful.  Once weak feudal nations slowly became empires. At this time the nation that was unable to make significant changes became prey to other much stronger nations.

Livonia had strong neighbors- Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was largest country in Europe spanning from the Baltic sea to the Black Sea. Sweden started to gain ambitions to control the Baltic Sea. Denmark also rivalled for mastery in the Baltic. However even stronger and dangerous enemy was tempting to get Baltic region. It was Russia. In 8-9 century Kievan Rus was the first form of the Russian Empire, but it broke in many weak duchies. Duchies such as Pskov, Polotsk and Novgorod often tried to interfere Baltic region by attacking local tribes and forcing to pay fees for them. But they were too weak to conquer the Baltic peoples. When German Crusaders took Baltic lands by force, Russians were unable to do anything about it. Another weakening factor was Mongol invasion- in 13th century Mongolian Hordes destroyed Russian cities and imposed so-called Mongol-Tatar yoke.  Kiev fell in direct Mongolian rule, while Novgorod was more independent but still fed up with Mongols.  The Mongols created a country called the Golden Horde with Sarai as capital. Mongols controlled Russian Duchies with use of fees and taxes and tried not to make them too strong. However because of inner conflicts within the Horde the yoke got weaker. In 1380 the forces of Moscow defeated the Mongol army at the Battle of Kulikovo. This great battle however was more a result of an inner Mongol power struggle than effort of Russian liberation. Mongol power stayed and in 1382 the Mongols revenged by burning Moscow. But Mongols were crushed by Mongolian ruler Timur (Tamerlan) from Samarkand who destroyed Sarai but spared Moscow. In 1480 Moscow destroyed Mongol army at the Battle at River Ugra and no longer saw them as their senior rulers. Mongol yoke ended and Moscow became a prime duchy in Russia. The Russians learned many things from Mongols, such as brutal ways of ruling and the lack of justice.  Grand Duke of Ivan III captured Novgorod and Pskov. When 1455 Constantinople the center of the Orthodox Church was taken by the Ottomans, Ivan III declared that Moscow has become a Third Rome- the center of Eastern Christianity and heir of Roman Empire. That was beginning of the Russian imperialism.

Czar of All Russia Ivan IV the Terrible

Heir of Ivan III was Vasily III. In 1530 Ivan his son was born. In 1533 Vasily III was dead. Ivan IV was crowned as Czar of all Russia. Since he was child first years of his rule the power was managed by boyars. Ivan IV reached his prominence when he led the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan.   Both cities were owned by the Mongols and that was the end of Mongol influence in Russia.

After the fall of Kazan Ivan IV took his eyes on Livonia. Ivan IV wanted free port to the west and connect trade routes from the Baltic to Caspian Sea. Only Russian port on the Baltic Sea was Ivangorod right next to Narva, but it was too small and shallow. Russia required Livonia to pay taxes for Dorpat (Tartu) to keep peace. But in 1557 Livonians could not pay money to Ivan IV triggering his anger. Russia at first could not invade Livonia because relations with Poland-Lithuania were not secured. But in 1557 Kazan was captured and Russian army got large reinforcements from local Tatar tribes. Livonia still was not paying the money. Before that Russians managed to defeat Han of Crimea and stop Sweden. Grip on Livonia was getting stronger and Livonian cities asked for Polish help. In 1557 Livonia signed anti-Russian alliance with Poland-Lithuania and Order was under Polish protection. Russia saw this as a threat to its security and in 1558 declared war on Livonia.

Livonia was invaded by Russian forces and large groups of Tatar Hordes. Narva surrendered to Russia first, next was Dorpat. Sweden, Poland-Lithuania tried to force Russians leave Livonia, but without any luck. Russians pillaged Livonia killed civilians and in 1559 the Livonian Order gave up their independence to Poland-Lithuania. Order became part of the Polish army and their lands were given to them. Ivan IV tried to persuade Poland-Lithuania to join war against Muslim rulers of Crimea, but Lithuania disproved such proposal and helped the Han of Crimea. In 1560  August 2 Russians completely destroyed the Livonian army at the Battle of Ergeme. In same time Ivan IV started repressions against its aides.  On August 7 Ivan IV lost his beloved wife Anastasia. It was a great tragedy for Ivan and probably caused mental breakdown. Some say that Ivan IV turned evil after this and deserved his nickname ‘Terrible’. Ivan married again many times and most of his future wife’s were killed by his orders.

Atrocities of Russian army in Livonia

During the next years’ wars with brief cease-fire continued. Russia confronted Poland and Sweden and was unable to win. In Moscow Ivan IV continued bloody repressions accompanied by orgies and heavy drinking. In 1563 Russians captured Lithuanian controlled Polotsk.

The war started to shift against Russia when Crimean Tatars won many victories in 1579. They even devastated Moscow. Meanwhile after death of Polish king Sigismund Augustus throne was taken by energetic Stepfan Batory who started many successful attacks against Russia. He recaptured Polotsk and head deep into the Russian land almost threatening Ivan’s IV safety.   Sweden chased away Russians from Estonian part of Livonia. In 1581 Swedish mercenary forces captured Narva making heavy blow to Ivan IV. In November 1581 Ivan did heavy blow for himself by killing his son Ivan in spike of anger. Ivan IV now lost his heir. His remaining son Feodor was sick with Down syndrome and unable to rule. This was end of Rurikovich dynasty. Next year Russia made peace deal with Poland-Lithuania and Sweden.

Livonian Confederation ceased to exist. Northern Livonia with Reval (Tallin) and Narve was given to Sweden. Rest of Livonia was given to Poland-Lithuania. The New Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was established, its Duke was the last Master of the Livonian Order Gotthard Kettler. It was an autonomous nation with Jelgava as a capitol. Rest of Latvia was under direct jurisdiction of Poland. Riga tried to resist and was independent for many years but was captured by the Poles.

Russia lost in her first attempt to get way to the west. After Ivan IV death Russia felled in civil war together with Polish invasion.  Peace in the Baltic was kept until 1600 when Sweden and Poland-Lithuania started wars for Latvian territory.  It was Czar Peter I who again tried to “carve a window to Europe” and succeed in 1721 realizing an Ivan’s dream.

Livonia after Livonian war

Selected Sources

Madariaga, Isabel de. (2005) Ivan the Terrible: First Tsar of Russia. New York. Yale University Press.

Klišāns, Valdis. (1992) Livonija 13.-16. gs. pirmajā pusē : mācību līdzeklis. Riga: Latvijas Universitāte

 

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The Grand Duchy of Lithuania

The Coat of Arms of Grand Duchy of Lithuania

The Crusades in Latvian land ended in Crusader win and Early Latvian enslavement. Same thing happened to Estonians, but closest Latvian nation the Lithuania could withstand the Crusader attack and form a unified country which was  one of the largest European nations for many decades. The phenomenon of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy which was at  its height 10 times larger than present day Lithuanian country is still not completely explained even by Lithuanians themselves.

In 12-13 century the political processes in Lithuania was not interrupted by foreign forces. That was for geographical  reasons, for Lithuania was more inland based than Latvia or Estonia. The Germans from the west was blockaded by Prussia and Poland and Russians from the east was busy dealing with Mongol rulers. The social differentiation between Lithuanian tribes was deepening; one became a warrior or a farmer, another got the rights of the ruling. In the place of Elders  the leader place was taken kunigaikštis the high nobles who got their seats inherited so they became kings a formed their dynasties. The high organization of Lithuanian military led to many raids in neighboring lands which were so deadly that made Lithuanians a feared threat. In previous posts about the Crusades in Latvian land the Lithuanian attacks were mentioned many times. They could even reach the outskirts of Karelia.

The high civil organization and military strength led to the unification of various Lithuanian and Samogotian regions, they were ruled by  kunigaikštis. At the 13th century thirties and forties the one of kunigaikštis Mindaugas emerged as sole ruler of all Lithuanian and Samogotian lands. He did this by using force and guile assassinating his enemies and started to rule Lithuania by himself.

Lithuanian country met his first crisis in 1248 when the conflict emerged between Mindaugas and his relatives. Against Mindaugas also joined forces the Duke of Galicia and Volinia Danil Romanovich and many others. However Mindaugas managed to split his enemy ranks; he baptized in 1251 and in 1253 he was recognized by the Pope as the King of Lithuania. Lithuania was officially recognized as a rightful Catholic European kingdom and was removed from the Crusader hit list. But the resistance to Mindaugas remained strong, the baptizing made a heavy disappointment in Samogitans. Samogotia was ceded to the Crusaders by Mindaugas, but Samogotians upraised and in 1258 they defeated the Order at Skoda and in 1260  at Durbe. This made Mindaugas restart his war against the Crusaders and in 1261 he again became Pagan canceling his baptizing. Finlay in 1263 Mindaugas was assassinated by conspirators and Christianity was frowned upon.  Mindaugas today is considered as the symbol of Lithuanian nation and one of the main Lithuanian historic personalities. He was a tyrant and powermonger but his achievements was groundbreaking for Lithuanians.

Sculpture of the King Mindaugas

Sculpture of the King Mindaugas

After his death his heirs Treniota, Mindaugas sister son (1263.-1264), Vaišvilka (1264.-1267)- Mindaugas son, The son of Danil Romanovich Duke Shvarn (1267-1269). The power struggle made crisis and endangered Lithuania for could became part of Crusaders or Duchy of Galicia and Volinia. The crisis was brought to an end by Grand Duke Traidenis (1267-1282). He unified the tribes, defeated the Volonians and Crusaders and expanded the Lithuania even further.

At the end of 13th century Lithuania was ruled by Gediminian dynasty. Crusaders attacked Lithuania every year reaching the outskirts of Vilnius. Lithuanians fortified their positions and gathered their forces and the war against the Crusaders lasted all 14th century. Not only German knights came to Lithuania, even from France and Spain the volunteer knights traveled to bring Christianity back to Lithuania. To weaken enemy the Grand Duke Gediminas took part in the civil war between Livonian Order and Riga Town Council and Archbishop, he supported Riga for Riga was only trade partner for Lithuania.  Lithuania tried to reach the end of the Crusades by trying to baptize again amid strong Pagan opposition. In the mean time Lithuanians expanded their territory to the east. Since the Russians were weakened by the Mongols and Mongols were weakened themselves, Lithuanians at the reign of Algirdas took the Duchies of Polotsk, Smolensk, Vitebsk, and Kiev under their rule. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania sized 800 000 square kilometers and reached to the shores of the Black Sea.

But the giant kingdom was endangered bitterly by Crusaders and Duchy of Moscow. Algirdas tried to capture Moscow three times but never succeeded. After his death in 1377 the conflict between his heirs Kęstutis, Vytautas and Jogaila emerged. Kęstutis, Vytautas was of the old Pagan elite but Jogaila was from new generation. Jogaila killed Kęstutis and exiled Vytautas and took all power to himself. He was convinced that Lithuania must baptize again to secure peace. In 1358 the Krėva agreement was signed between Poland and Lithuania and in 1386 when Jogaila married Polish princess Jadviga he became the king of Poland as king Vladislav I, remained as Grand Duke of Lithuania. He tried to use Poles in governing of Lithuania, this was resisted by Lithuanian elite and Vytautas who used the support of Russian boyars and the Crusaders.  In 1392 Vytautas regained the throne of Lithuania from Jogaila.

Vytautas kept Lithuania as Catholic country, but Teutonic Crusaders still attacked Lithuania. In 1410  February 15 the Order was annihilated in Battle of Grunwald one of the largest battles of Medieval war history. But the Lithuanians did not use the opportunity to Crush the Order completely in 1411 at Toruń a peace was signed. But in 1422 the Order tried to attack again but were forced to sign peace once and for all. The Crusader aggression was finally halted.  Vytautas could even capture Novgorod and Moscow and claim the throne of Moravia during the Hussite Wars.

After the death Vytautas political struggle again took place. Jogaila again claimed the throne of Lithuania. He passed the throne to Švitrigaila, but this was resisted by Polish elite and civil war broke out. Švitrigaila was deposed by Sigismund the brother of Vytautas. He defeated Švitrigaila and Livonian Order forces, but was killed by conspirators in 1440. Boyar’s crowned the thirteen year old Jogaila’s son Kazimir as king of Lithuania. In 1447 he became king of Poland also making the personal – union between Poland and Lithuania. Until Kazimir reached adulthood the power was concentrated between  Boyar oligarchs.  Boyars were Lithuanian, Belorussian, Russian and Polish noble elite who fought for equal rights in their ranks. It’s axiomatic that if the country lacks strong ruler then the country is ruled by oligarchy and is weakened because of their inner fights. Boyars started to gain more power,  Radziwiłł family was strongest Boyar dynasty.

In the 16th century the Grand Duchy of Moscow started to take Lithuanian lands. Smolensk was lost, but further advance on Moscow was halted because the Russian population of Lithuania remained loyal. But even more problems came from Poland; both countries were ruled by same dynasty rulers and both societies of two states came even closer. Poles wanted the vast lands of Lithuania for they were good for colonization.  In 16th century Lithuania was de facto united with Poland and boyars was for full unification.

This finally happened in 1569 July 1 The Union of Lublin took place. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth or Rzeczpospolita was formed. The full independence of Lithuania came to an end. In next decades the Poles took most power in states manners. But the union was necessary for Lithuanian survival because the danger of Russia was growing and Lithuania needed the Polish help to fight Russian advance. The union lasted until 1795 when it was annexed by Russia, Prussia and Austria.

Seleted Sources:

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

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


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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.

549px-Baltic_Tribes_c_1200.svg

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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