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Livonia
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Livonia

This article is about the region in Europe. For other uses see Livonia (disambiguation).

Livonia once was the land of the Finnic Livonians, but came in the Middle Ages to designate a much broader territory controlled by the Livonian Order in Balticum on the eastern coasts of the Baltic Sea in present-day Latvia and Estonia. Its frontiers are the Gulf of Riga and the Gulf of Finland in the north-west, Lake Peipus and Russia to the east, and Lithuania to the south.

Livonia was called Лифляндия (Liflandiya) in Imperial Russia and Inflanty in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and was inhabited by various Baltic and Finnic peoples ruled by an upper class of Baltic Germans. Some group of Baltic Germans joined Polish nobility ranks and thus polonised.

From the 12th century Livonia was an area of economic and political expansion of the Danes and the Germans; particularly of the Hanseatic League and the Cistercian Order. About 1160 Hanseatic traders of Lübeck established their trading post in the place of future Riga. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia from the 1220s gives a firsthand account of the Christianization of Livonia, granted as a fief by the Hohenstaufen King of Germany Philip of Swabia to Albert of Buxhoeveden, nephew of the Archbishop of Bremen, who sailed with a convoy of ships filled with armed crusaders to carve out a Catholic territory in the East, an aspect of the Northern Crusades. Albert founded Riga in 1201 and built himself a cathedral there, as Prince-Bishop of Livonia.

Thus, from the early 13th century Livonia became a confederation of lands ruled by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword (founded by Albert in 1202), joined with the Teutonic Knights in Prussia in year 1237) and the territories belonging to the archbishop of Riga and bishops of Couronia (Piltyn), Ozylia, Revel (Tallinn) and Dorpat, where Albert's brother Hermann established himself as prince-bishop.

In 1561 Livonia fell to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Organisation of Livonia in the Commonwealth:

Next: wars between Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Russia for control of Livonia.

The Livonian language is still spoken in parts of Latvia and Estonia, but is understood to be fast approaching extinction.

Neil Gaiman, in his comic book The Sandman, portrayed the last sinner in Hell as being a 10th-century mass murderer from Livonia, who was too proud of the magnitude of his sins to accept forgiveness.

"...but I am Breschau of Livonia! This is my sin!"

"No one cares any more, Breschau. No one remembers. I doubt one mortal in a hundred thousand could even point to where Livonia used to be, on a map."


Polish Livonia was the remainder of Livonia, that was kept Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after the Treaty of Oliva in 1660. Livonia, which had been a common territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1561, was conquered by Sweden in 1620s, in the course of the Polish War, and conquest of the majority was completed by 1629. Under Swedish rule of the country became known as Swedish Livonia, which was formally recognised in Oliva, 1660.

See also: Courland, Swedish Livonia, History of Poland, History of Lithuania