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Baltic state
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Baltic state

The Baltic states, or Baltic countries, is a term which usually refers to three countries to the East of the Baltic Sea:

It ought to be noted that although the present-day Baltic countries are republics, the term Baltic Republics refers to the same territories under Soviet occupation.

The term state is here used as a synonym of sovereign country, as distinct from non-sovereign states of the kind to be found in federations and confederations.

Prior to World War II, Finland was sometimes considered, particularly by the Soviet Union, a fourth Baltic state. For example in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, Nazi Germany agreed to mention Finland as one of the Baltic States, thereby indirectly relinquishing Finland to the Soviet sphere of interest. Since then, the Finnish view that Finland is one of the Nordic countries has become generally accepted.

Despite the common name, some people point out that the three Baltic countries have little in common. Estonia wishes to become yet another Nordic country, while Lithuania focuses on its connection to Poland and Central Europe.

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 History
3 Culture
4 See also
5 External links

Geography

The Baltic countries are often considered to be part of Eastern Europe, both geographically and, due to the historical influence of Poland, Russia and the Soviet Union, culturally. Due to the historical impact of the Hanseatic League and especially Estonia's and Latvia's modern and historical connections to Finland and Sweden, they may be also considered a part of Northern Europe. A compromise terminology for the Baltic States is Northeastern Europe.

The term Baltic states differs from the term Baltic sea countries which refers to all the countries bordering the Baltic.

Nearby is Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast, the northern part of historical East Prussia.

Balticum is the geographic term used in local, German and Scandinavian languages for the territory of the Baltic states and historical East Prussia.

History

The common history of the Baltic States began when the Sword Brethren brought Christianity and feudalism to the region. These countries subsequently became a battlefield between Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia and Germany.

By around 1582 almost the whole territory of the Baltic countries (other than northern Estonia) was under the overlordship of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

In the 19th century the Baltic provinces, albeit with names and borders different from the present-day countries, were part of the Russian Empire.

The Baltic States gained their sovereignty as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1918, in the aftermath of World War I, when the new Bolshevik government of Russia released the provinces into independence.

In 1940, under the terms of the Soviet-German Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of interest, the Soviet Union annexed Estonia, Latvia, and later Lithuania. In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied the Baltic region. By late 1944, the Soviet Army, driving the German occupants back West, reached the region again, and re-established control by early 1945. The Baltic States were established as the Estonian SSR, the Latvian SSR and the Lithuanian SSR as constituent parts of the Soviet Union.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the three Baltic states declared their independence in 1989 and 1990 and their independence was recognized by the Soviet Union on September 6, 1991.

Rather than new states, they declared themselves to be in fact restorations of the pre-war republics that had existed between the first and second world wars. This further emphasized their contention that Soviet domination during the Cold War period had been an illegal occupation.

The Baltic states are today liberal democracies, parliamentary republic, and quickly growing market economies.

In 2002 the Baltic states took the first steps towards the realization of their long standing political goal (and their principal objective since leaving the Soviet Union), integration with Western Europe, by applying to become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Membership of NATO was duly achieved on 29 March 2004 and accession to the EU took place on 1 May 2004.

Culture

Although the three nations have much in common in their history and culture they belong to two distinct language families.

They also belong to different Christian denominations: Due to a long period of Germanic domination, starting in the middle ages, German language has an important role. Its role has somewhat diminished after World War II but it remains one of three main foreign languages taught in schools (the other two being English and Russian). The Baltic states have historically also been in the Swedish and Russian spheres of influence. Following the period of Soviet domination, ethnic Russians today make up a sizable minority in the Baltic states, particularly Estonia and Latvia.

See also

External links