Russian Rule
World War I

Livonia under Russian Rule, 1880-1914

In 1882, Livonia had a population of 1,173,951, 81.6 % of whom were Protestants, 13.4 % Greek Catholics, 2.4 % Jews, 1 % Roman Catholics. By nationality 42.72 % were Latvians, 41.49 % Estonians, 7.87 % Germans, 4.71 % Russians (Meyers).
In 1881 Tsar Alexander II. was crowned, and with him began a new phase in Livonian history, as RUSSIFICATION, under the slogan one Tsar, one faith, one language, one law, was implemented step by step. The German RITTERSCHAFT did their utmost to fight it, and then there was the Latvian community, the vast majority of the population.
The administration in St. Petersburg, which hitherto had regarded the German Ritterschaft as partners in the administration of the country, now came to regard them as obstacles to be removed.
The Russian administration took over elementary education, which now was held in Russian (with the result that scholl attendance figures considerably declined and over 100 schools were closed); the judicial system was reformed, Russian introduced as the language of jurisdiction and Russian law implemented, most of the judges appointed being Russians.
In 1889 the German-dominated city council was abolished, a city administration according to the Russian town law introduced, Russian introduced as the language of administration.
The result was emigration of Germans into the Reich, rising numbers of ethnic Russian residents of Livonia, the opening of career opportunities for ethnic Latvians and a growing Russian Orthodox community. However, the Germans continued to have a strong influence on the country's economy, owned most of the farmland and dominated the better jobs in administration, education and economy. Many job-seeking Latvians, unable to find the job they hoped for in Latvia, transmigrated to Russia.
The early 20th century saw the establishment of modern political organizations. The Latvian SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY was founded in 1904.
During the Russian Revolution of 1905, in countryside Latvia EXECUTIVE COMMITTEES were established; a number of German feudal estates went up in flames. The Social Democrats were the dominating group. Negotiations and plans for an opening of the Baltic Provinces' diets for representation of all groups of society did not lead to a result. State control was reestablished, and the Ritterschaft remained unreformed.

Courland, Livonia and Estonia. Confidential Handbooks No.57, 1919, from the British Foreign Office, posted on the Web by
History of Livonia, from
Tartu History Timeline, from (Dorpat)
Riga, History of, from vest_ang
Riga, Art Nouveau Heritage, from Riga 800
DOCUMENTS Henry Lansdell, Baltic Russia, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine July 1890 pp.295-309, from Cornell Digital Library Collection
Map : The Baltic Provinces 1882, from Blackie & Sons Atlas (Edinburgh, 1882), posted by FEEFHS
Livland, P.1, P.2, P.3, from Meyers Konversationslexikon 1888-1890 edition, in German
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 March 24th 2008

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