Russian Rule
1721-1795
1848-1880






Livonia under Russian Rule, 1795-1848



Napoleon once contemplated the plan to march along the Baltic coast and take the coastal cities and fortresses, a plan he abandonded in favour of the march on Moscow. Livonia thus remained uncontested within the Russian sphere, and outside of the reach of reforms inspired by the French Revolution.
Catherine II.'s absolutist reforms, which had temporarily abolished the RITTERSCHAFTEN (corporate nobility) had been undone by her successor Paul VI. in 1796. The Ritterschaften now were more suspicious than ever of any attempt to infringe on their privileges.
Livonia was dominated by the German nobility, which ran the administration of the country and it's jurisdiction, and by the German burghers from the cities of Riga, Dorpat (Tartu) etc., who controlled much of the economic life. The vast majority of the population, Latvian or Estonian speaking, was illiterate and lived in the state of serfdom.
In 1804/1819, serfdom was abolished in Livonia, but the peasants' life continued to be regulated - they were forbidden to take up any profession outside agriculture, and they did not own the land they tilled.
In the 1820es a Latvian and Estonian literature began to emerge, indicating improved education in the schools run by the Lutheran church and served by ethnically German teachers. The UNIVERSITY OF DORPAT, reopened in 1802, was a center of German culture.
In the pre-railway years, the city of Riga, dominating the transit trade on the river Dvina into Russia, flourished; the city became home of a sizeable community of ethnic Russians.
In the 1840es Russian influence became stronger in the Baltic Provinces due to the Russian Orthodix Church. It had established communities in the provinces for Russians who resided there. For decades this presence of the Russian Orthodox Church had not challenged the position of the Lutheran Church as the state church. In the 1840es, however, the Russian Orthodox Church addressed the underprivileged Estonian peasants, and in the years between 1845 and 1848, several 10,000 Livonians converted, hoping that it would result in an improvement of their status.


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EXTERNAL
LINKS
Courland, Livonia and Estonia. Confidential Handbooks No.57, 1919, from the British Foreign Office, posted on the Web by jewishgen.org
History of Livonia, from vernet.tv
Tartu History Timeline, from tartu.ee (Dorpat)
DOCUMENTS Livonie, from Annuaire 1789-1815, in French
REFERENCE David G. Kirby, The Baltic World 1772-1993, London : Longman 1995,


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

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