The Government and Politics of Postcommunist Europe

By Andrew A. Michta | Go to book overview

8
LATVIA

THE NATION AND THE STATE

Like Lithuania, the course of Latvia's history has been determined by the struggle between Germany, Russia, Sweden, and Poland for control of the Baltic Sea rim and the trade routes to the East. Known in the Middle Ages as "Livonia,"* the territory of present-day Latvia was controlled by the German Order of Livonian Knights through the sixteenth century, becoming in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the arena of a series of Polish-Russian, Polish-Swedish, and Swedish-Russian wars for the control of the Baltic coast. Present-day Latvia has historically been the key to controlling the Baltic area.

Anthropologically, the Latvians form an east Baltic group related to the Scandinavians together with the Finns, Estonians, and Lithuanians. Like their Lithuanian cousins, the Latvians are descendants of the aboriginal Balts, while the Finns and Estonians are of Finno-Ugric extraction. Latvia's capital, Riga, was founded at the mouth of the Daugava River in the second century A.D. Settled and occupied by the Vikings in the early Middle Ages, Riga fell under German influence becoming a thriving Hanseatic town. 1 In the wake of Sweden's rise to preeminence in the Baltic in the mid-seventeenth century, Riga passed under Swedish control, followed by Russian domination as the Romanovs asserted their authority along the Baltic Rim. Riga became the leading port of the Baltic provinces, connected with the Russian interior by railroad.

____________________
*
Latvian territories, referred to by the Germans as Livoniaor Lievland, became in the eleventh century a target of both German commercial expansion and German an efforts to spread Christianity eastward. The term Livonia was eventually used to describe both the Latvian and the Estonian lands.

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The Government and Politics of Postcommunist Europe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • I - East Central Europe 7
  • 1 - Poland 9
  • 2 - The Czech Republic and Slovakia 29
  • 3 - Hungary 55
  • II - The Balkans 69
  • 4 - Romania 71
  • 5 - Bulgaria 87
  • 6 - Yugoslav Successor States and Albania 103
  • III - The Baltic Rim 125
  • 7 - Lithuania 127
  • 8 - Latvia 147
  • 9 - Estonia 165
  • IV - East European Periphery 181
  • 10 - Belarus 183
  • 11 - Ukraine 197
  • Conclusion: Postcommunist Europe in the New European Order 211
  • Selected Bibliography 221
  • Index 227
  • About the Author 237
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