1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Livonia

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LIVONIA, or Livland (Russian, Liflandia), one of the three Baltic provinces of Russia, bounded W. by the Gulf of Riga, N. by Esthonia, E. by the governments of St Petersburg, Pskov and Vitebsk, and S. by Courland. A group of islands (1110 sq. m.) at the entrance of the Gulf of Riga, of which Oesel, Mohn, Runo and Paternoster are the largest, belong to this government. It covers an area of 18,160 sq. m., but of this the part of Lake Peipus which belongs to it occupies 1090. Its surface is diversified by several plateaus, those of Haanhof and of the Livonian Aa having an average elevation of 400 to 700 ft., while several summits reach 800 to 1000 ft. or more. The edges of the plateaus are gapped by deep valleys; the hilly tract between the Dvina and its tributary the Livonian Aa has received, from its picturesque narrow valleys, thick forests and numerous lakes, the name of “Livonian Switzerland.” The plateau of Odenpäh, drained by tributaries of the Embach river, which flows for 93 m. from Lake Virz-yärvi into Lake Peipus, occupies an area of 2830 sq. m., and has an average elevation of 500 ft. More than a thousand lakes are scattered over Livonia, of which that of Virz-yärvi, having a surface of 106 sq. m. (115 ft. above sea-level), is the largest. Marshes and peat-bogs occupy one-tenth of the province. Of the numerous rivers, the Dvina, which flows for 90 m. along its frontier, the Pernau, Salis, Livonian Aa and Embach are navigable.

The Silurian formation which covers Esthonia, appears in the northern part of Livonia, the remainder of the province consisting of Devonian strata. The whole is overlaid with glacial deposits, sometimes 400 ft. thick. The typical bottom moraine, with erratics from Finland, extends all over the country. Glacial furrows, striae and elongated troughs are met with everywhere, running mostly from north-west to south-east, as well as ȧsar or eskérs, which have the same direction. Sand-dunes cover large tracts on the shores of the Baltic. No traces of marine deposits are found higher than 100 or 150 ft. above the present sea-level. The soil is not very fertile. Forests cover about two-fifths of the surface. The climate is rather severe. The mean temperatures are 43° F. at Riga (winter 23°, summer 63°) and 40° at Yuriev. The winds are very variable; the average number of rainy and snowy days is 146 at Riga (rainfall 24·1 in.). Fogs are not uncommon.

The population of Livonia, which was 621,600 in 1816, reached 1,000,876 in 1870, and 1,295,231 in 1897, of whom 43·4% were Letts, 39·9% Ehsts, 7·6% Germans, 5·4% Russians, 2% Jews and 1·2% Poles. The estimated pop. in 1906 was 1,411,000. The Livs, who formerly extended east into the government of Vitebsk, have nearly all passed away. Their native language, of Finnish origin, is rapidly disappearing, their present language being a Lettish patois. In 1846 a grammar and dictionary of it were made with difficulty from the mouths of old people. The Ehsts, who resemble the Finns of Tavastland, have maintained their ethnic features, their customs, national traditions, songs and poetry, and their harmonious language. There is a marked revival of national feeling, favoured by “Young Esthonia.” The prevailing religion is the Lutheran (79·8%); 14·3% belong to the Orthodox Greek Church; of the Russians, however, a considerable proportion are Raskolniks (Nonconformists); the Roman Catholics amount to 2·3%, and the Jews to 2%. 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.

Nearly all the soil belongs to the nobility, the extent of the peasants’ estates being only 15% of the entire area of the government. Serfdom was abolished in 1819, but the peasants remained under the jurisdiction of their landlords. The class of peasant proprietors being restricted to a small number of wealthy peasants, the bulk have remained tenants at will; they are very miserable, and about one-fourth of them are continually wandering in search of work. From time to time the emigration takes the shape of a mass movement, which the government stops by forcible measures. The average size of the landed estates is 9500 to 11,000 acres, far above the general average for Russia. Agriculture has reached a high degree of perfection on the estates of the landlords. The principal crops are rye, oats, barley, flax and potatoes, with some wheat, hemp and buckwheat. Dairy-farming and gardening are on the increase. Fishing in Lake Peipus gives occupation to nearly 100,000 persons, and is also carried on in the Gulf of Riga and in the rivers. Woollen, cloth, cotton and flax mills, steam flour and saw mills, distilleries and breweries, machinery works, paper mills, furniture, tobacco, soap, candle and hardware works are among the chief industrial establishments. Livonia carries on a large export trade, especially through Riga and Pernau, in petroleum, wool, oilcake, flax, linseed, hemp, grain, timber and wooden wares; the Dvina is the chief channel for this trade.

Education stands on a much higher level than elsewhere in Russia, no less than 87% of the children receiving regular instruction. The higher educational institutions include Yuriev (Dorpat) University, Riga polytechnic and a high school for the clergy.

The government is divided into nine districts, the chief towns of which, with their populations in 1897, are: Riga, capital of the government (282,943); Arensburg, in the island of Oesel (4621); Yuriev or Dorpat (42,421); Fellin (7659); Pernau (12,856); Walk (10,139); Wenden (6327); Werro (4154); and Wolmar (5124). The capital of the government is Riga.

Coins of the time of Alexander the Great, found on the island of Oesel, show that the coasts of the Baltic were at an early period in commercial relation with the civilized world. The chronicle of Nestor mentions as inhabitants of the Baltic coast the Chudes, the Livs, the Narova, Letgola, Semigallians and Korś;. It was probably about the 9th century that the Chudes became tributary to the Varangian-Russian states. As they reacquired their independence, Yaroslav I. undertook in 1030 a campaign against them, and founded Yuriev (Dorpat). The Germans first penetrated into Livonia in the 11th century, and in 1158 several Lübeck and Visby merchants landed at the mouth of the Dvina. In 1186 the emissaries of the archbishop of Bremen began to preach Christianity among the Ehsts and Letts, and in 1201 the bishop of Livonia established his residence at Riga. In 1202 or 1204 Innocent III. recognized the order of Brothers of the Sword, the residence of its grand master being at Wenden; and the order, spreading the Christian religion by the sword among the natives, carried on from that time a series of uninterrupted wars against the Russian republics and Lithuania, as well as a struggle against the archbishop of Riga, Riga having become a centre for trade, intermediate between the Hanseatic towns and those of Novgorod, Pskov and Polotsk. The first active interference of Lithuania in the affairs of Livonia took place immediately after the great outbreak of the peasants on Oesel; Olgierd then devastated all southern Livonia. The order, having purchased the Danish part of Esthonia, in 1347, began a 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 Ivan IV. of Russia in 1558 led to a division of Livonia, its northern part, Dorpat included, being taken by Russia, and the southern part falling under the dominion of Poland. From that time (1561) 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 18th century, it became the theatre of war between Poland, Russia and Sweden, and was finally conquered by Russia. The official concession was confirmed by the treaty of Nystad in 1721.

See E. Seraphim, Geschichte Liv-, Esth-, und Kurlands (2nd ed., Revel, 1897–1904) and Geschichte von Livland (Gotha, 1905, &c.). (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)