1525-1561 Swedish Rule

Livonia Polish, 1561-1621

In 1561, the state of the Livonian Order was disintegrating. Russian raids (see the Livonian War) resulted in severe destruction and caused the various cities and noblemen of Livonia to look elsewhere for protection. In 1561, the Livonian LANDTAG (diet) decided to ask King Sigismund II. Augustus of Poland for his protection (Privilegium Sigismundi Augusti, Nov. 28th 1561). The privilege contained the following points : (1) the Augsburg Confession was recognized as the foundation for the church of Livonia, (2) the German magistrates were confirmed in the cities, (3) the German customary law (Landrecht) was to be codified, (4) for administrative positions within Livonia the indigenate would apply (which technically gave the Baltic Germans a monopoly for these positions). In 1566 the Livonian diet concluded a union with Lithuania, in 1569 Lithuania concluded the Union of Lublin, with Poland. In 1566 Lithuanian Marshall Jan Chodkiewicz was charged with the secularization of the Stift Riga and with the annexation of Livonia into Lithuania.
The countries' other ethnic groups - Baltic Livonians (Latvians) and Finno-Ugric Estonians, were ruled subjects, limited to farming, to positions of day-labourers etc. Enrolment in one of the cities' guilds required the ability to speak German.
The city of RIGA remained a free city 1561-1581 and asked for Polish protection in 1581. One of the reason that made Polish protection so attractive to Livonian noblemen was POLISH LIBERTY.
In 1565 the Russians forced the entire population of Dorpat to move away; in 1569 they were permitted to return. In 1575, the Russians conquered Pernau. In 1582 the Constitutiones Livoniae were passed, octroyed on Livonia by Poland. Livonia was administratively reorganized according to the Polish model (3 presidial districts - Wenden, Dorpat, Pernau). The German Baltics in Livonia opposed this open violation of the Privilegium Sigismundi Augusti. In 1582 a Catholic vishopric was established with seat in Wenden; the Jesuits established colleges in Riga and Dorpat in 1584. In 1585 the Catholic Catechism was translated into Latvian, by Canisius. At the college of Riga, Latvian language was taught. Settlers were brought in to till farms fallen idle during the Livonian War; here the Polish administration favoured Catholic settlers over Lutherans. Riga, the center of Baltic-German resistance, in 1582 rejected the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar. In 1588, Nicholas Mollyn, a Dutch immigrant, established the first printing shop in Riga.
In the first decades of the 17th century, Poland and Sweden came into conflict over Russia and Livonia (Swedish-Polish War); Sweden, in addition, feared that King Sigismund III. of Poland - he was a Wasa and had been King of Sweden in 1592-1600 - might reclaim the Swedish throne, which the Lutheran Swedes regarded intolerable, him being a Catholic. In 1621, Swedish forces took Riga' in 1629, Poland formally ceded the larger part of Livonia, with Riga, to Sweden, keeping the Southeast (LATGALE, Lettgallen, Polish Livonia).

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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
Timeline of Livonia, by Fredrik Livonia, from Eastern Border Lands of the II Polish Republic
Der dem polnischen Adel angeschlossene Adel in Livland, from Bibliothek für Polnische Adelskunde
The Coinage of the Baltic Countries : Duchy of Livonia, 1561-1629, Free city of Riga 1561-1581, The Coinage of Poland in Riga, 1581-1621
History of Riga, from Riga - World Heritage City
DOCUMENTS Women from Livland (1), Woman from Livland (2) from Hans Weigel's book of costume 1577 posted by La Couturiere Parisienne
Maps : Baltic Lands, 1563, 1617, from Freeman Historical Geography, 1903, posted by Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas
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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