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With Andra, you will explore Riga with a local guide who speaks French.


The Order Period (1202-1561)

Between the late 12th and late 13th centuries, Latvia witnessed the conquest by the Crusaders of the Order of the Knights, later known as the Livonian Order from 1237 onward. This period was characterized by a series of events that profoundly shaped the history of the region. The Crusaders, primarily composed of German Knights, invaded Latvian territory, thereby establishing the Livonian Order as a dominant entity.

The Livonian territory was strategically organized with the construction of a dense network of stone castles, erected to serve as strongholds and control centers. These castles were used as bases for the conquerors and played a crucial role in consolidating the power of the Livonian Order.

The German Influence

A significant aspect of this period was the introduction of Catholicism by the Crusaders, marking the beginning of German religious and cultural influence in the region. The German settlers who established themselves formed the ruling classes, including the nobility and clergy, while the urban population largely consisted of people of German origin.

Until the 15th century, local peasants maintained relative freedom and were often recruited into the military structures of the order as soldiers. This period witnessed some coexistence between the German-Baltic knights and the indigenous population, although the social order began to change by the late 16th century.

By the end of the 16th century, a major social transformation occurred with the gradual conversion of peasants into serfs. Feudal structures strengthened, marking a transition towards a more hierarchical society where the peasant class lost its earlier relative freedom.

In summary, the Livonian Order period in Latvia, from 1202 to 1561, was characterized by conquest, the establishment of German influence, the introduction of Catholicism, the construction of stone castles, and the initial cohabitation between German-Baltic settlers and the indigenous population, followed by a significant social transition towards feudalism by the late 16th century.

Under the Rule of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Sweden (1561-1721)

The Reformation and Weakening of the Livonian Order

The Livonian Order, initially subordinate to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, was deeply affected by the 16th-century Reformation. Although affiliated with the papacy, the majority of its members, mainly Germans, were influenced by the reformist ideas of Martin Luther. This ideological divergence contributed to the weakening of the Order.

The Livonian War and Russian Invasion

The decline of Livonia was hastened by the Livonian War, triggered by the invasion of the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible's army in 1558. This tumultuous period marked the end of Livonia's independence and laid the groundwork for its incorporation into regional conflicts.

Polish-Swedish Confrontation and Territory Division

Simultaneously, Poland positioned itself as a bastion of the Counter-Reformation and Catholicism, while the Swedish king declared himself a Lutheran protector. This led to a Polish-Swedish confrontation, culminating in the Polish-Swedish wars between 1600 and 1629. Following these conflicts, Latvian territory was divided: Riga and Livonia became Swedish, while Courland and Latgale remained under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Arrival of the Russian Empire and the Great Northern War

The end of the Polish-Swedish confrontation paved the way for a third force, the Russian Empire. During the Great Northern War in 1710, the Russian Empire occupied the territories of Estland and Livonia. The legitimacy of this acquisition was established in 1721 through the Treaty of Nystad, confirming Russian sovereignty over a portion of Latvian territory, including Riga. This period marked a significant turning point in Latvian history, shaping its destiny within the Russian Empire.

The movements of the Livonian order

The Russian Empire (1721-1917)

Integration into the Russian Empire (1721-1772)

Following the Treaty of Nystad in 1721, Swedish Livonia was integrated into the Russian Empire as the province of Riga, later evolving into a separate autonomous province of Livonia. This period witnessed the establishment of Russian imperial administration and the implementation of administrative reforms.

Partitions and Annexations (1772-1795)

The subsequent years were marked by geopolitical upheavals in Europe. In 1772, during the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Latgale (Polish Inflanty) was annexed to Russia. In 1795, the second partition led to the annexation of Courland to the Russian Empire. These events redefined the political map of the region and incorporated more Latvian territories into the Empire.

Temporary Occupation by Napoleon and Abolition of Serfdom (1812)

During the Napoleonic invasion in the early 19th century, French troops briefly occupied Courland. However, the region successfully resisted the invasion, and shortly after the Patriotic War of 1812, serfdom was abolished in most regions of Latvia. This period marked a significant social turning point.

Industrialization and Development Period (19th Century)

The second half of the 19th century was characterized by a significant phase of industrialization. In 1861, the first railway line between Riga and Daugavpils was completed, facilitating trade and connectivity. The foundation of the Riga Polytechnic in 1862 underscored the importance of technical and scientific education. Riga emerged as a major industrial center with the establishment of numerous factories, including the famous Russo-Balt.

Emergence of National Consciousness and Social Movements (19th Century)

During this period, the wave of national awakening that swept across Europe also reached Latvia. Latvians began expressing their distinct national identity, notably through the promotion of the Latvian language and culture. Social movements, including Marxist circles, emerged in industrial centers, reflecting social changes and the political aspirations of the population.

This period was characterized by a series of significant transformations, transitioning from integration into the Russian Empire to industrial developments and the emergence of Latvian national consciousness.



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