The Confederation of Livonia

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After last native resistance was quelled the Crusades ended. Latvian land along with Estonia was divided between conquerors. The outcome of the Crusades was the Confederation of Livonia or the Land of Saint Mary (Terra Mariana) as it was officially called. It consisted of three episcopacy’s, one archbishopric, two Town council land territories (Riga and Reval) and State of Livonian order. The Confederation had no official capital, but had its own diet the Landtag (an early Medieval version of parliament) since 1419 located the in city of Valka. The territorial division was made by William from Modena in 1228 and following years.

The archbishopric of Riga was located in Vidzeme and some part of Latgalia. It was divided in two pieces since the waterway of river Gauja was owned by Livonian Order. The land located on the left side of Gauja was called “Livonian end“, the other larger side was called “Latvian end” the both names came because one side was inhabited by Livonians and other by Latgalian Latvians. The archbishop’s residence was in Riga, but Riga was not part of the Archbishopric. Another stronghold of the Archbishop was Castle of Treiden (Turaida) and Kokenhusen (Koknese). Local Latvians and Livonians were forced to make corvee for the land owner (corvee is an obligatory agricultural work for every peasant who lives on vassals land like harvesting).

Bishopric of Courland was split into three sides, the Upper Courland is known today as the Livonian Coast, small piece of Western Courland, and Lower Courland. The residence of Bishop of Courland was Piltene. Other centers were Ēdole, Embūte, and Aizpute. In Estonia there was the Bishopric of Dorpat (Tartu) and The Bishopric of Ösel-wiek which was located in Western Estonia and on islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa (Ōsel and Wiek) The main centers there were mighty castles of Hapsal (Haapsalu) and Arensburg (Kuressare). Reval (Tallin) was the main center in Estonia as much as Riga and had its own territory.  The Northern Estonia was ruled by Danes in a small period of time as shown on map above, but later became part of the Livonian Order.

Livonian order ruled the largest pieces of Livonia.  It relayed its rule on building castles. The sites of the fortresses became cities. The main Castle was the Castle of Wenden (Cesis), others were Windau (Ventspils), Kreuzburg (Krustpils) and Dinaburg (Daugavpils). It also had castles in Riga. The first was destroyed during the Civil War between Riga and Order and second still stands today and serves as the official residence of the President of Latvia. The castles in Latvia will be disused more in future posts. Livonian Order was the main defense force of Livonia and key politic player.

The first diet the Landtag was called in 1419. It took place in Valka for it was crossing point between Latvian and Estonian lands (today Valka is divided between Latvia and Estonia). Landtag was an attempt to organize and centralize Livonia, but Livonia newer fully unified into one state. That was crucial when in 15-16 century the Livonian neighbors Sweden, Poland-Lithuania and more dangerously Russia became strong centralized countries marking an end to Livonian Confederation.

Selected sources

Šterns, Indriķis. (1997) Latvijas vēsture, 1290-1500. Riga: Daugava.

Spekke, Arnolds. (1995) Latvieši un Livonija 16. gs. Riga: Zinātne.

Klišāns, Valdis. (1992) Livonija 13.-16. gs. pirmajā pusē : mācību līdzeklis. Riga: Latvijas Universitāte

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