Livonia Polish
Russian Rule

Livonia Swedish, 1621-1721

In 1621 (Swedish-Polish War 1630-1629), the Swedes conquered Riga, in 1625 Dorpat (Tartu). In 1629, Poland formally ceded Livonia with Riga, but except LATGALE, the southeast, to Sweden. Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus confirmed the privileges of the Livonian nobility; the Livonian estates (Landtag) were reestablished.
Livonia's cities contributed valuable resouces to Sweden's usually cash-stricken budget, which were necessary to finance Sweden's many wars - 30 % of the Swedish war budget in 1630. Riga was 'Swedens largest town' and was called 'Sweden's second capital'.
Under Swedish rule, the condition of the (Livonian resp. Estonian) peasants improved, as they were given the right to direct protests (against their treatment by the German noblemen) to the king.
In 1632 the UNIVERSITY OF DORPAT (Tartu) was founded by King Gustavus II. Adolphus. It was destroyed in 1656, reopened in 1690; in 1699 it was relocated to Pernau, in 1710 again destroyed.
Administrative reforms under Swedish rule included the estavlishment of a General Government including both Livonia and Ingria in 1629, the introduction of a Livonian High Court (Hovrätt, 1630), the introduction of the office of a Land Marshall (1634), of a Livonian treasury (1637), of a Territorial Council of 6 members (Landrat) 1643), the implementation of a Diet Ordinnance (1647). In 1648, the Landrat was extended to 12 members.
During the Swedish-Russian War of 1655-1661, Dorpat was held by the Russians, who temporarily laid siege to Riga in 1656. Truce was signed in 1658, peace in the Treaty of Kardis 1661.
German Baltics no longer held a virtual monopoly on the ownership of noble estates; in 1641, 40 % of Livonian soil under cultivation was owned by Swedes. In 1660 the entire council of Riga was ennobled; the foreign trade of Riga, at that time, was dominated by the Dutch. In 1681, Swedish King Charles XI. undertook an attempt to abolish serfdom in Livonia, and by doing so alienated the Livonian nobility. In the years 1683 to 1693 a land survey was undertaken. In the years 1695 to 1697, the population of Livonia suffered from famine.
In 1681 to 1689, the bible was translated into Latvian, by Ernst Glück. In 1687, the Landtag decided to establish parish schools for the 'non-German' population.
In the 1680es and 1690es, the Swedish Kings pursued a policy of Reduction - the confiscation of noble estates which used to be royal property, another policy which antagonized the Livonian nobility. In the Livonian Landtag, Johann Reinhold von Patkul lead the resistance against the reduction policy; in 1693 the Landtag was closed down by the Governor General (= introduction of royal absolutism). Patkul was sentenced to imprisonment. In 1694, King Charles XI. abolished the Livonian state. Patkul managed to escape to the Polish court; he was instrumental in the establishment of the anti-Swedish alliance Sweden was to face in the coming war.
In 1700 the Great Northern War (-1721) broke out, Sweden facing a coalition of enemies - Denmark, Brandenburg, Saxony, Poland, Russia and the Empire. For years, the Swedes under their dashing King CHARLES XII. were victorious, until they were defeated in the BATTLE OF POLTAVA (1709). Livonia was occupied by the Russians in 1710, formally ceded to Russia in 1721 in the PEACE OF NYSTAD. Livonia had suffered from the war very much; the population of Dorpat (Tartu), Livonia's university city, conquered by the Russians in 1704, had dropped to 21.

In the meantime, the population of LATGALE (Polish Livonia) had been converted to Tridentine Catholicism, by the Jesuits. The local German nobility assimilated into Polish aristocracy.

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Courland, Livonia and Estonia. Confidential Handbooks No.57, 1919, from the British Foreign Office, posted on the Web by
Tartu - a brief history, from (Dorpat)
History of Latvia, from
Links on Latvian history, from Latnet and from Looksmart
Biography of Johan Skytte (1577-1645), from, some time Swedish Governor of Livland
DOCUMENTS Maps : Baltic Lands, 1701, from Freeman Historical Geography, 1903, posted by Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas
Map : Sweden around 1658, from The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1923, posted by Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas
Map : Tabula Ducatuum Livoniae et Curlandiae, by G. Valck c.1673-1686, SuUB Bremen, Historische Karten, click Livland under 'Schlagworte'
REFERENCE Reinhard Wittram, Baltische Geschichte. Die Ostseelande Livland, Estland und Kurland 1180-1918 (Baltic History. The Baltic Lands of Livonia, Estonia and Courland, 1180-1918), Darmstadt : Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft (1954) 1973, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 11th 2004

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