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created by the Baltic German nobility  after the Russian revolution and German occupation of the Courland, Livonian and Estonian governonates of the Russian Empire.
The original state was conceived to include the creation of a Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, a Duchy of Estland (Estonia), and a Grand Duchy of Livonia that would be in personal union with the Crown of Prussia  under the German Empire's occupied territory Ober Ost before the end of World War I covering most of the territories of the historic Medieval Livonia. Ultimately, the Grand Duke would come from the German noble house of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and the reigning Grand Duke retains, in addition to the titles above, the title "Duke of Mecklenburg." However, the country would not become a federal state of the German Empire.
During The Great War (World War I), German Armies had occupied the Courland Governorate of Russian Empire by the autumn of 1915. The front was settled along a line stretched between Riga, Daugavpils and Baranovitch.
Following the Russian February Revolution, the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia was created on April 12 1917 (March 30 Old Style) from the former Russian Governorate of Estonia and northern Governorate of Livonia. After the Russian October Revolution, the elected National Council of Estonia declared Estonia's independence formally on November 28, 1917 and on February 24, 1918, a day before the arrival of German troops the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued.
The Entente Allies recognized the Republic of Estonia on March 20 1918. The Latvian National Council was proclaimed on November 16, 1917. On November 30, 1917, the Council declared an autonomous Latvian province within ethnographic boundaries, and a formal independent Latvian republic was declared on January 15 1918.
After the Russian revolution, German troops had started advancing from Courland, and by the end of February 1918 the German military administered the territories of the former Russian Governorate of Livonia and Autonomous Governorate of Estonia that had declared independence. With the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918, Bolshevist Russia accepted the loss of the Courland Governorate, and by agreements concluded in Berlin on August 27, 1918 the loss of the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia and the Governorate of Livonia.
Creation of the united Baltic Duchy
As a parallel political movement under the German military administration, Baltic Germans began forming provincial councils between September 1917 and March 1918. On April 12 1918, a Provincial Assembly composed of 35 Baltic Germans, 13 Estonians and 11 Latvians passed a resolution calling upon the German Emperor to recognize the Baltic provinces as a monarchy and make them a German protectorate.
On March 8 and April 12 1918 the Kurländische Landesrat and the Vereinigter Landesrat of Livland, Estland, Riga, and Ösel had declared themselves independent states, known as the Duchy of Courland (Herzogtum Kurland) and Baltic State duchy
(Baltischer Staat), respectively. Both states proclaimed themselves to be in personal union with the Kingdom of Prussia, although the German government never responded to acknowledge that particular claim.
The Baltic lands were recognized as a sovereign state by Wilhelm II, German Emperor on September 22, 1918, half a year after Soviet Russia had formally relinquished all authority over its former Imperial Russia Baltic provinces to Germany in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. On November 5, 1918, a temporary Regency Council (Regentschaftsrat) for the new state led by Baron Adolf Pilar von Pilchau (who would later serve as the first Prime Minister of the Baltic State) was formed on a joint basis from the two local Land Councils.
The capital of the new state was Riga and consisted of a confederation of seven cantons: Kurland (Courland), Riga, Lettgallen, Südlivland (South Livonia), Nordlivland (North Livonia), Ösel, and Estland (Estonia) roughly covering the territory of the medieval Livonian Confederation.
The first head of state of the Baltic State was Adolf Friedrich, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who reigned from 1918 until his death at age 95 in 1969. He was succeeded by his daughter, Woizlawa Feodora, Woizlawa, Grand Duchess of Mecklenberg in the Baltic Pragmatic Sanction of 1969.
The Baltische Landeswehr was formed by the government of the United Baltic Duchy as its national defense force. The first commander in chief of the landeswehr was German Major-General Rüdiger von der Goltz. German officers assumed most of the command positions and a brief civil war ensued between the Landeswehr, and various republican and/or Latvian and Estonian nationalist groups.
After taking part in the capture of Riga, and effectively ending the civil war in June 1919, General von der Goltz ordered his troops to advance east against the Red Army, and the Baltische Landeswehr continued its advance towards the Estonian coast preparatory for a push on Petrograd, Soviet Russia. After the German armies demobilized in 1918, many Quadruple Alliance soldiers also volunteered to fight in "Freikorps" in the Baltic State, Lithuania and the Belarussian National Republic. (See Freikorps for information on the Russian civil war.) The military situation in the Baltics gradually changed with the settling of affairs in Europe following the Great War, and the adoption of various mutual defense treaties and economic treaties between Germany and the former Russian territories.
A constitution was promulgated initially in 1918. A new constitution was promulgated in 1922 establishing a semi-federal structure with four principalities, with the Baltic Grand Duke as sovereign of each of these four political subdivisions: Grand Duchy of Livonia, Duchy of Estland (aka Estonia), Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, and the Principality of Ösel/Saaremaa. The Grand Duke, however maintains all previous titles. The country was then officially denominated the "Baltic State," although "Baltic Duchy" or "United Baltic Duchy" and "Baltic Grand Duchy" are recognized as acceptable names for the country, depending on context. E.g., trade agreements are made with the "Baltic State" but passports are issued by the "Baltic Grand Duchy" on behalf of the Baltic Grand Duchess. Embassies are called (in all three languages) Embassy of the Baltic Grand Duchy. The head of state is styled the "Baltic Grand Duchess." The federal distinctions in the 1922 constitution mirrored the organization of the traditional Baltic German noble coporations, and were not universally accepted by the non-Baltic German population.
Further reforms did allow greater local autonomy, especially in language. Estonian, German, and Latvian share official language status throughout the country, with German the majority language in Livland, Estonian in Estland and Ösel/Saaremaa, and Latvian in Courland. Livonian is recognized as a regional dialect. Language and political reforms eventually alleviated some of the tensions from the Baltic civil war. German is a minority language in the three other principalities however, and many government institutions are known only by the German name such as the Landesrat, Landtag, and the Landeswehr.
Each political subdivision maintains it own unicameral legislature, (land council) with the upper house of the national parliament representing the principality as a whole, and whose members are appointed by the provincial land council, similar to the United States Senate or the German Federal Council. It is also called the Landesrat. Hereditary peerage in the upper chamber was abolished in 1967, in addition to other constitutional reforms, prior to the Baltic State joining the European Confederation.
The blue over white flag was in use by the Landeswehr. The Nordic cross flag and the blue over white flag are official flags, much like the white over blue and blue lozenge flag of the Kingdom of Bavaria, with the Nordic cross flag primarily in use. Military regalia, including awards and military insignia encorporate blue and white.
The Baltische Landeswehr played a small but critical role in the ultimate defeat of the Bolsheviks in Russia. The landeswehr, together with several Freikorps units, a White Russian army under General Nikolai Yudenich and a Finnish detachment laid siege to Petrograd in October 1919, resulting in a decisive defeat of the Bbolshevik Red Army. Notwithstanding, the Baltic State made a peace agreement with Soviet Russia and then again with Russian People's Republic in 1920 and 1923.
Culture & Arts
Between the thirteenth and nineteenth century, Baltic Germans, many of whom were originally of non-German ancestry but had been assimilated into German culture, formed the upper class. They developed a distinct cultural heritage, characterised by both Courland and German influences. It has survived in German Baltic families to this day, even in families that have since emigrated to Germany, the USA, Canada and other countries. Many indigenous Livonians and Courlanders (Latvians) did not participate in this particular cultural life. Thus, the mostly peasant local pagan heritage was preserved, partly merging with Christian traditions, for example in one of the most popular celebrations today which is Jāņi, a pagan celebration of the summer solstice, celebrated on the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Caraway cheese is traditionally served on the festival Jāņi.
In the nineteenth century nationalist movements emerged promoting non-Baltic German culture and encouraging particpation in cultural activities. The nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century is often regarded as a classical era of Baltic culture. Posters show the influence of other European cultures, for example, works of artists such as the Baltic-German artist Bernhard Borchert and the French Raoul Dufy.[citations needed]
The culture of Estland also incorporates a unique indigenous heritage, as represented by the country's rare Finno-Ugric local language Estonian and the sauna, with mainstream Nordic and European cultural aspects. Due to its history and geography, Estland's culture has been influenced by the traditions of the adjacent area's various Finnic, Baltic and Germanic peoples as well as the cultural developments in the former dominant powers Sweden and Russia.
Traditionally, Estland has been seen as an area of rivalry between western and eastern Europe on many levels. An example of this geopolitical legacy is an exceptional combination of nationally recognized Christian traditions: a western Protestant and an eastern Orthodox Church. Like the mainstream culture in the other Nordic countries, Estonian culture can be seen to build upon the ascetic environmental realities and traditional livelihoods, a heritage of comparatively widespread egalitarianism out of practical reasons, and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency.
- Aftermath of World War I
- Baltische Landeswehr
- Duchy of Courland and Semigallia (1918)
- Freikorps in the Baltic
- Russian civil war
- Ober Ost
- Eastern European theatre
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