1902 Encyclopedia > Livonia


LIVONIA, or LIVLAND (Liflandia of the Russians), one of the three Baltic provinces of Russia, is bounded by the Gulf of Riga on the W., Esthonia on the N., the governments of St Petersburg, Pskov, and -Vitebsk on the E., and Courland on the S. A group of islands, situated at the entrance of the Gulf of Riga, of which Osel, Mohn, Runo, and Paternoster are the largest, belong to this government. It covers, with the islands, a surface of 18,160 square miles, but of this the part of Lake Peipus, or Tchndskoye, which belongs to it occupies 1090. Its surface is diversified by several plateaus, those of 1-Iaanhoff and of the Livonian Aa having an average height of 700 feet, whilst several summits reach from 800 to 1000 feet or more (such as the Munna-Miiggi, 1063 feet ; Haisingcovered with deep forests and numerous lakes, the name of "Wendish Switzerland." The plateau of Odenpd, watered by the tributaries of the Embach river, which flows for 93 miles from lake Wierz-yarvi into Lake Peipus, occupies an area of 2830 square miles, and has an average height of 500 feet. More than a thousand lakes are scattered frontier, and the Embach are navigable.

The geological structure of Livonia has been elaborately examined. The Silurian formation which covers Esthonia, and much resembles the Norwegian Silurian, appears in the northern part of Livonia, the remainder of the province consisting of Devonian strata. The whole is covered with a mighty sheet of glacial deposits, sometimes 400 feet thick. The typical bottom moraine, with boulders of all sizes up to 20 feet in diameter, brought from Finland, 63°), and 42-° at Dorpat. The intensity and direction of 24.1 inches) ; fogs are not uncommon.

The population of Livonia, which was but 621,600 in 1816, reached 1,000,876 in 1870, and is now about 1,121,000 in 1882. Though it is often described as a German province, only about 7 per cent. of the population (64,120 in 1863) are Germans, the great bulk being Ehsts or Esthonians (47 per cent.) and Letts (41'6 per cent.). The Russians number about 35,000, Poles 5000, and Jews 7000. The Livonians, who have given their name to the country, and who formerly extended far east to Sebej in the government of Vitebsk, have nearly all passed away ; only a few thousands (2050 in 1863) inhabit the forests at the utmost extremity of the peninsula of Courland. Their native language, of Finnish origin, is rapidly disappearing, their present language being rather a Lettish patois. Sjogren, iu 1846, had much difficulty in making a grammar and dictionary of it from the mouths of old people. The Ehsts, who greatly resemble the Finns of Tavastland, have maintained their ethnic features, their customs, national traditions, national songs and poetry, and their harmonious language. There is now a marked revival of national feeling, favoured by " Young Esthonia," together with a tendency towards a union with Finland. No less than eight political papers are published in the Esthonian language. The prevailing religion is the Lutheran (746,651 in 1863) ; about 80,000 Ehsts in Livonia and Esthonia, and 50,000 Letts (see Lirnumcia-ris), as well as the Russians, belong to the Greek Church (156,874 in 1863) ; of the Russians, however, a considerable proportion are raskolniks (nonconformists), who have emigrated to the Baltic provinces in consequence of prosecutions • these last number about 14,500, of whom 8000 are found in the neighbourhood of Riga. About 6000 are Catholics. The Germans belong to the nobility, or to the burgher class in the towns.

The efforts of the German conquerors to Germanize the country have completely failed. The Ehsts and Letts openly display their traditional hatred against the invaders. The teaching in primary schools is carried on in Esthonian and Lettish ; German prevails in colleges and higher schools. The Russian Government has for some time been labouring for " Russification "; the Russian civil code was introduced in the Baltic provinces in 1835, and the use of Russian, instead of German, in official correspondence and in law courts was ordered in 1867, but not generally brought into practice; the fact that the privileges given by the military law to those who have received primary education extend only to those who know Russian contributes to the extension of that languageNearly all the soil belongs to the nobility, the extent of peasants' estates being only 15 per cent. Serfdom was abolished in 1819, when the peasants received personal liberty, remaining, however, under the jurisdiction of their landlords, who maintained also the right to have a predominant influence in the nomination of ministers. Since 1849 the contribution in forced labour which the peasants were compelled to pay to landlords has been gradually, though imperfectly, commuted to a. money payment, and the peasants have received the right to purchase their allotments. But, owing to later limitations of this law, as well as to the high price of allotments and to the establishment of a minimum size of 80 acres, the redemption of the land is going on very slowly. The class of peasant proprietors being restricted to a small number of wealthy peasants, the great bulk have remained Knechis, that is, tenants at will ; they are very miserable, and about one-fourth of them are continually wandering in search of work. They readily emigrate, even to such 'infertile provinces as Novgorod and Vitebsk, and from time to tune the emigration takes the shape of a mass movement, which the Government stops by forcible measures. The average size of landed estates is from 9500 to 11,000 acres, far above the general average for Russia. The estates of the nobility are generally as well cultivated as in western Europe, while the peasants' farms are mostly in a deplorable state. In 1877 21'4 per cent. of the surface of Livonia was under crop, yielding 1,942,600 quarters of grain, and 1,843,200 quarters of potatoes. There were at the same time 146,000 horses, 372,000 cattle, 312,000 sheep, and 150,000 pigs. The shores of the Baltic yield valuable fisheries. Manufactures are steadily increasing. The distilleries yield about 1,400,000 gallons of spirits, part of which is exported ; the beer breweries (two hundred) produce beer worth about 650,000 roubles. There are woollen, cotton, and silk mills, sawmills, and paper, glass, candle, tobacco, and machinery works, - the chief' manufacturing districts being Pernau and Riga. Livonia carries on a large export trade, especially through Riga and Pernau, in flax, linseed, hemp, grain, timber, and wooden wares; the Duna is of course the chief channel for this trade. During the last ten years, however, Libau has entered into brisk competition with the more northern ports of Livonia. The imports, especially through Riga, are also most important, the custom-houses of Livonia having had in 1881 an income of 6,000,000 silver roubles. The government is divided in eleven districts - Riga (104,200), Wollmar (2050), Dorpat (22,600), Pernau (12,500), Wenden (65,000), Arensburg in the island Osel (3150), Walk (2950), Fellin (2900), Werro (2050), Lamsall (1450), and Schlock (800). The capital of the government is Riga.

The first historical notices of Livonia are by Tacitus and Jordanes, but coins of the time of Alexander the Great, found on the island of Osel, show that the coasts of the Baltic were at an early time in commercial relations with the civilized world. The chronicle of Nestor mentions as inhabitants of the Baltic coast the Tehud, the Lives, the Narova, Letgola, Semigalians, and RoM. It is probably about the 9th century that the Tchnd became tributary to the Varyago-Russian states. As they reacquired their independence, Yaroslall I. undertook in 1030 a campaign against them, and founded Yourieff (Dorpat). The first Germans penetrated into Livonia in the 11th century, and in 115S several Bremen merchants landed at the mouth of the Duna. In 1186 the emissaries of the archbishop of Bremen began to preach the Christian religion among the Elists and Letts, and in 1200 the archbishop of Livonia established his residence at the mouth of the Duna, at Riga. In 1202 or 1204 Innocent III. recognized the Order of Brothers of the Sword (Schwert-briidcr), the residence of its grandmaster being at Wenden ; and the order, spreading the Christian religion by sword and fire among the natives, carried on front that time a series of uninterrupted wars against the Russian republics and Lithuania, as well as a struggle against the influence of the archbishop of Riga, which last was supported by the importance acquired by Riga as a centre for trade, intermediate between the Hanseatic towns and those of Novgorod, Pskov, and Polotsk. Time first active interference of Lithuania in the affairs of Livonia dates from the times which immediately followed the great outbreak of peasants on Osel ; Olgerd devastated then all southern Livonia. The order happening to purchase the Danish part of Esthonia, in 1347, began with fresh forces the war against the bishop of Riga, as well as against Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. The wars against those powers were terminated respectively in 1435, 1466, and 1483. About the end of the 15th century the master of the order, Plettenberg, acquired a position of great importance, and in 1527 he was recognized as a prince of the empire by Charles V. On the other hand, the authority of the bishops of Riga was soon completely destroyed (1566). The war of the order with John IV. in 1550 led to a division of Livoniai - its northern part, Dorpat included, being taken by Russia, and the southern part falling under the dominion of Poland. From that time Livonia formed a subject of dispute between Poland and Russia, the latter only formally abdicating its rights to the country in 1582. In 1621 it was the theatre of a war between Poland and Sweden, and was conquered by the latter power, enjoying thus for twenty-five years a milder rule. In 1654, and again at the beginning of the 17th century, it became the theatre of war between Poland, Russia, and Sweden, and at last was finally conquered by Russia. The official concession was confirmed by the treaty of .Nystad in 1721, Russia guaranteeing the privileges of the nobility and citizens, and the freedom of the evangelical confession. (P. A. K.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries