26 Facts About Baltic Germans


Baltic Germans were ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia.

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Since their coerced resettlement in 1939, Baltic Germans have markedly declined as a geographically determined ethnic group.

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Thereafter, most Baltic Germans held Estonian or Latvian citizenship until their coerced resettlement to Nazi Germany in 1939, prior to the Soviet invasion and occupation of Estonia and Latvia in 1940.

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Between 1710 and 1795, following Russia's success in the Great Northern War and the three Partitions of Poland, the areas inhabited by Baltic Germans eventually became Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire: Courland Governorate, Governorate of Livonia and Governorate of Estonia.

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Baltic Germans provinces remained autonomous and were self-governed by the local Baltic Germans nobility.

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Until the imperial reforms of the 1880s, local government was in the hands of the landtag of each province, in which only members of the matriculated Baltic Germans nobility held membership and cities were ruled by German burgomasters.

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Between 1710 and approximately 1880 Baltic Germans German ruling class enjoyed great autonomy from the Imperial government and achieved great political influence in the Imperial court.

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All German schools and societies were closed in the Estonian Governorate and Baltic Germans were ordered to leave the Courland Governorate for inner Russia.

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Subsequently, a plan for a United Baltic Germans Duchy ruled by Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg, instead of outright annexation, was developed.

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Baltic Germans greatly suffered under Bolshevik regimes in Estonia and Latvia.

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On November 27, 1918 this was authorized by the Estonian government, and the Volunteer Baltic Germans Battalion was formed under the command of Colonel Constantin von Weiss (de).

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Riga remained by far the largest German center with 38, 523 Baltic Germans residing there in 1935, while Tallinn then had 6, 575 Baltic Germans.

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Many Baltic Germans sold their properties and emigrated to Scandinavia or Western Europe.

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In Latvia, Baltic Germans remained a politically active and organized ethnic group, although they lost some influence after the 1934 Latvian coup d'etat.

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One of the main conditions posed by Hitler to Stalin in August 1939 was the prior transfer of all ethnic Baltic Germans living in Estonia and Latvia to areas under German military control.

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Baltic Germans left by ships from the port cities of Estonia and Latvia to ports of Gotenhafen and Stettin and then were transported to Posen and Lodz in Reichsgau Wartheland and other Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany.

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Many German Baltic Germans men were mobilized in the occupied Warthegau and served in the German army.

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However, several thousand Baltic Germans remained in the Baltics after 1944, but they were subject to widespread discrimination by the Soviet authorities ruling Estonia and Latvia.

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Soviet Union's advance into Poland and Germany in late 1944 and early 1945 resulted in the Baltic Germans being evacuated by the German authorities from their "new homes" to areas even further in the west to escape the advancing Red Army.

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Many Baltic Germans were on board the KdF Ship Wilhelm Gustloff when it was sunk by a Soviet submarine on January 30, 1945.

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Additionally, many Baltic Germans died during the sinking of the SS General von Steuben on February 10, 1945.

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Two books listing the names and personal data of all Baltic Germans who died as a result of the resettlements and wartime conditions between 1939 and 1947 have been published by the Baltic German genealogical society: Deutsch-baltisches Gedenkbuch.

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Many thousands of Baltic Germans emigrated to Canada starting in 1948 with the support of Canadian Governor General The Earl Alexander of Tunis, who had known many Baltic Germans when he had commanded the Baltic German Landeswehr for a short time in 1919.

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Small group of Latvians and Baltic Germans emigrated to Newfoundland as part of then Premier Joseph Smallwood's New Industries Program.

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This, and the fact that the first German ambassadors to Estonia and Latvia were both Baltic Germans, helped to further reconcile the Baltic Germans with these two countries.

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Baltic Germans played leading roles in the society of what are now Estonia and Latvia throughout most of the period from 13th to mid-20th century, with many of them becoming noted scientists, including Karl Ernst von Baer and Emil Lenz, and explorers, such as Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, Adam Johann von Krusenstern, Ferdinand von Wrangel and Otto Schmidt.

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