1346-1525 1561-1621

Livonia disintegrating, 1525-1561

The old federation of the LIVONIAN ORDER and the TEUTONIC ORDER, dating back to 1237, was dissolved when the last HOCHMEISTER of the Teutonic Order, Albrecht von Brandenburg, in 1525 converted what remained of Prussia in his control into the Duchy of Prussia.
Livonia was ruled by the LANDTAG or the STAENDE (Estates), i.e. the country's German nobility and the also ethnically German representatives of the cities.
Livonia (with Estonia and Courland), which in itself was split into many autonomous entities - the free city of Riga, the territories of the dioceses of Pilten, Arensburg, Dorpat, the territories of the archbishop and of the cathedral chapter of Riga etc., was soon exposed to military threats from outside.
The Lutheran reformation, declared state religion in 1554 by Landmeister WALTER VON PLETTENBERG, meant that numerous ecclesiastical territories were up for secularization, and there were many claimants - Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia.
In 1558 the prince-bishoprics of Pilten and Arensburg, with all of Oesel and Dagoe, were formed into a Duchy for Magnus, brother of Denmark's king. Swedish troops occupied northern Estonia, Russian troops occupied Dorpat (Tartu) and in 1559 Riga.

In no state to defend itself, Livonia disintegrated. Reval (Tallinn) asked for Swedish protection in 1561 and with it much of ESTONIA became Swedish; Riga declared itself a free city after the Russians withdrew in 1561; COURLAND was declared a Duchy and as such a Polish fief, and core LIVONIA, i.e. the Livonian estates, equally placed itself under Polish protection.

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Courland, Livonia and Estonia. Confidential Handbooks No.57, 1919, from the British Foreign Office, posted on the Web by jewishgen.org
History of Riga, from Riga - World Heritage City
History of Latvia, from vernet.tv
The Livonia War (1554-1582), by Tony Campbell, posted by SISRE

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 5th 2002, last revised on November 11th 2004

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