History Files


European Kingdoms

Northern Europe




Latvia (Latvija) / Livonia

This Baltic country has historically also been known Lattonia, Lettonia, and Lettland, but for several hundred years it was submerged within a Germanic Crusader state called Livonia. Today the name of Livonia is still important as a description for areas of the region, even though it is no longer marked on any maps. Its core lands belong today to Latvia, which is a country in Northern Europe which shares its borders with Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south - and both Russia and Belarus to the east and south-east. It is separated from Sweden in the west by the Baltic Sea, and the capital is Riga, a city founded by the very Germanic crusaders who conquered the territory during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and founded the Livonia state.

The Latvian territory was first populated around 10,000 BC, as the ice sheet slowly retreated northwards. The Indo-European proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people, or Lats, settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea between around 3000-2500 BC, along with the Finno-Ugric peoples who has earlier settled in Estonia to the north (of whom the Livs were part). The Indo-European arrivals initially formed part of a general westwards migration until they split off and headed northwards. They further divided from the closely-related Slavic group around 2500 BC and went on to form the ancestors of the Latvians, Lithuanians and Old Prussians. These ancient Balts traded Latvia's renowned supplies of amber with ancient Greece and the Roman empire.

(Additional information from The History of the Baltic Countries, various authors, and from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony.)

10,000 BC

The glacial ice sheet retreats from the territory that will later form Latvia. The retreat is slow but constant, so that the region is entirely free of the ice sheet by about 9,500 BC. Lakes and valleys have been formed by the melt water, and the landscape is littered with heaps of gravel and sand-layered hills which have been pushed up by the glacier, along with boulders from the Scandinavian mountain ridges. Areas of coastal Latvia remain under the waters of the Baltic ice lake (the Yoldia Sea, the modern Baltic Sea), and a severe sub-Arctic climate prevails, making the spread of the first lichen, dwarf birch, and dwarf willow a slow process. The first hunters probably arrive within a millennium, following the last of the mammoths.

Retreating ice sheet
The retreat of the glacial ice sheet allowed first plants and then animals to migrate into the region, closely followed by the first hunter-gatherers

9000s BC

FeatureBy this date, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Prussia are settled by proto-Baltic hunter-gather tribes which all share the same cultural traces. They belong to two groups, one being the regionally-dominant Baltic Kunda culture, which is a development of the earlier Swiderian culture located to the south. The other is the Magdalen-Ahrensburg culture located in north-western Germany and Denmark, which probably enriches the Kunda culture.

Traditional scholarly belief has these hunter-gatherers migrating from the southern Baltics and further east, but a more recent idea suggests that while this is correct for the Baltics, Finland and northern Scandinavia are also first inhabited via the sweeping grass plains of Doggerland (now under the North Sea). Settlements along the River Daugava in modern Latvia testify to the fact that hunter-gathers are present in the region from the end of the ninth millennium.

c.8200 BC

The waters of the ice-damned Baltic Ice Lake penetrate the region of the Billingen Mountains to form a link with the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the Yoldia Sea drops rapidly, by about thirty metres. This retreat is so sudden, and probably has such a profound effect on the early inhabitants of the Baltic area, that it is known as the Billingen Catastrophe.

8000 - 7100 BC

The Preboreal period sees the climate become significantly warmer in the Baltics. Birch and pine forests start to spread, and elk, bears, beavers, and various species of water birds migrate into the region from the south.

7100 - 5800 BC

The Boreal period sees the climate continue to warm and become drier. Pine forests decrease, allowing deciduous trees to gain a firmer foothold and become prevalent. The animal population thrives, with red deer, roe deer, and hares increasing considerably.

5800 - 2800 BC

The Atlantic period is characterised by a climate that is warmer than that of the present day. New species migrate into the Baltic region, including Baltic aurochs and wild boar, which inhabit forests of broad-leaved trees. Water chestnuts grow in the many lakes, and the bountiful life draws hunter-gatherers into the area. The warmness fails towards the end of this period, causing the disappearance of aurochs, wild horses, and water chestnuts.

c.3000 BC

The Comb Ceramic culture reaches Prussia, Latvia, Estonia and Finland as new peoples arrive from the east, almost certainly the Finno-Ugric tribes who form the later core of Finland and Estonia (Estonians, Finns, Livonians, Karelians, Wots, Weps, and Ingrians). The early Neolithic culture seems to form on the basis of the previous Mesolithic cultures, but uses a greater variety of bone, antler and stone implements, and employs boring, drilling, and abrading skills.

c.2500 BC

The Corded Ware culture (or Boat Axe culture) arrives in southern Finland, along the coastal regions, as well as in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, western Russia, Poland, northern Germany, Denmark, and southern Sweden. These new, probably early Indo-European, arrivals also have some domesticated animals and bring agriculture with them, although it continues to exist alongside universally-practised hunter-gather activities for some time. Both these people form the proto-Baltic ancestors of the later Latvians and Lithuanians.

1st century AD

MapThe Roman Iron Age is a relatively peaceful period in Estonia and Latvia. Only a few hill forts of later periods have yielded some finds which date to this period, suggesting the few strongholds were used rarely and only in times of need.


Four Baltic tribal cultures have developed by this time: Couronians (later Kurland), Latgallians (the Lats), and Selonians, and Semigallians (who are for a long time troublesome border tribes between later Livonia and northern Lithuania).

Gutmanala cave in Latvia
Gutmanala, close to Riga, was an ancient cult site in use right up to the nineteenth century


The Latgals, Livonians and neighbouring Zemgals or Semigallians have conflicting interests with the Russian principalities of Polotsk, Pskov, and Novgorod, with the latter two making a number of raids on north-eastern Latvia. The first major setback to Russian expansionism is the disastrous defeat of the army led by the sons of Prince Vseslav of Polotsk against the Semigallians. According to a chronicle, Russian losses amount to 9,000 men.


Denmark is fast rising as a great military and merchant power, and it is in its interest to end the occasional Estonian and Couronian pirate attacks that threatened its Baltic trade (from Ösel - Saaremaa, the richest area of Estonia and home to the notorious Eastern Vikings - and the later province of Kurland respectively). To that end, a Danish fleets now makes an attack against Estonia.


German Christian missionaries arrive, converting small numbers of Balts and probably establishing nascent congregations. On the whole the Balts appear reluctant to convert, perhaps fervently so, which means German Crusaders are sent to Latvia to convert the pagan population - a pretext for a grab for land and resources which is supported by the Pope. They are strongly opposed, although extremely little is known about the Livonian native leaders who lead that opposition.

late 1100s


Liv chieftain.

c.1190s - 1200


Liv/Lett chieftain in Metzepole (modern Vidzeme).

c.1200s - 1214


Liv/Lett chieftain in Talva (Letgale).

? - 1244


Latgal chieftain in Varka.

Principality of Koknese
AD 1101 - 1209

Following the death of Vseslav of Polotsk, the greater part of the principality broke up into smaller states which included the principalities of Druck, Jersika, Koknese, Minsk, and Vitebsk. Koknese was one of the smallest principalities, situated on the right bank of the River Daugava, a Latgalian and Selonian settlement which was perhaps more locally known as Kukenois (now in southern-central Latvia).

1180s - 1206

Prince Vyachko / Vetseka / Vetseke

Prince of Koknese.


According to the (German) sources, Vetseka gives half of his territory to Albert, bishop of Riga, in return for protection against the duchy of Samogitia and the principality of Polotsk. During a raid by the Livonian Knights he is captured and delivered in chains to Riga, where the bishop sets him free. Returning to his capital, Vetseka burns down both it and his fortress and retreats to Novgorod where he dies the following year.

Koknese Castle
The modern ruins of Koknese Castle which was built under the orders of Prince-Bishop Albert in 1209 as a symbol of his domination of the region


By this time, Koknese has been taken over by the Livonian Knights.

Principality of Gersik
AD 1180s - 1215

It was around this time that a short-lived Latgal principality which was subject to Polotsk appeared in Gersik, or Gersike, situated on the right bank of the Daugava around 150 kilometres south of Riga (and which no longer exists). It had only two rulers before being conquered by the Livonian Knights.

fl 1180s - 1190s


Latgal chief of Gersik.

1186 - 1215


Latgal chief of Gersik.

Prince-Bishops of Livonia
AD 1186 - 1253

While the Danes were securing all of North Estonia by force, the rest of the Baltics was undergoing the same process from the south. What is now Estonia and Latvia quickly came to be governed by German prince-bishops in Courland, Dorpat, Ösel-Wiek and, governing the heart of later Latvia, the prince-bishop of Riga. The Livonian Order of Knights conquered the rest of what is now Latvia and central Estonia. The captured territory between Danish Estonia and Lithuania became known as Livonia. The prince-bishops of Livonia ruled their central section of Livonia first from Üxküll (Uexküll), then from Riga, and were appointed by the archbishop of Bremen.

During this period, important ethnic changes took place among the Baltic peoples. Within the confines of Livonia, the fusion of the kindred Latgals, Sels and Kurshes (Couronians) into one people took place, emerging as the Latvians of the future. They took that name from the most numerous of the Baltic peoples in Livonia, the Latgals (Letti, or Letten). The assimilation of the Finno-Ugric people, the Livs or Livonians, also began at this time, although they managed to leave their mark on Latvian language and culture.

1186 - 1196


First appointed prince-bishop of Livonia.

1196 - 1198


Abbot of Cistercian Lockum Monastery, Hanover.


A large fleet of German crusaders and peasants arrives to increase the size of the colonial settlements in Livonia. Taking the crusaders inland to face a gathering army of Livonian natives, Berthold defeats them but is killed at the end of the battle. Bishop Albert is appointed his successor, and he goes on to complete the task of Christianising the Livonians.

River Daugava
The River Daugava was an important border between the Lats and Lithuanians at this time

1199 - 1229

Albert of Buxhoeveden

Founded Riga. First grand master of the Livonian Knights.


The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia describes a clearly non-Slavic tribe called the Vindi (German Winden, English Wends). They live in Courland and Livonia, clearly the northernmost remnants of the Belgic Venedi. The tribe's name is preserved in the River Windau (in Latvian this is the Venta), which has the town of Windau (the Latvian Ventspils) at its mouth. It is also preserved in Wenden, the old name for the town of Cēsis in Livonia.


Bishop Albert of Germany lands with his followers at the mouth of the River Väina and founds the colonial settlement town of Riga. Europeans are becoming hungry for land at this point, and others follow the lead set by the German bishops in invading the pagan Baltic territories.


Bishop Albert founds the Livonian Order of Knights for the purposes of conquest and Christianisation in the Baltics. This marks the beginning of the Northern Crusade.


According to the (German) sources, Prince Vetseka of Koknese gives half of his territory to Bishop Albert in return for protection against the duchy of Samogitia and the principality of Polotsk. During a raid by the Livonian Knights he is captured and delivered in chains to Riga, where the bishop sets him free.


The bishop of Riga assumes the style 'prince of Livonia', and makes Livonia part of the Holy Roman empire, although this is not formalised until 1 December 1225. Part of the bishop's territories are given as a fief to his standing army, the Livonian Knights. The bishop also moves his headquarters from Üxküll to Riga.


By this time, Koknese has been taken over by the Livonian Knights and the sovereignty of Polotsk is finally revoked in 1215. The Knights control the town until its transference to the bishopric of Riga in 1238.


Christianity now has effective control of the Lats, with them being governed by German bishops and the Livonian Knights. Bishop Albert oversees the building of Riga's Dome Cathedral.


The small Latgal principality of Gersik is conquered by the Livonian Knights.


The Danes are temporarily eclipsed in North Estonia when the Livonian Knights conquer all of their territory. The bishopric of Ösel-Wiek is established the following year.


The Samogitians and Semigallians (situated between the Lithuanians and the Lats in what is now southern Latvia) decimate the Livonian Knights at the Battle of Schaulen (Saule).


North Estonia (Harria and Vironia) is returned to the Danes under the terms of the Treaty of Stensby, which is mediated by the Pope. The Knights keep Jerwia and hand over the former principality of Koknese, on the right bank of the River Daugava which borders the Lithuanians, to the archbishop of Riga.

1229 - 1231

Albert Suerbeer

Appointed but not recognised.


Albert Suerbeer is appointed to the position by the archbishop of Bremen, but the canons of Riga refuse to recognise him, preferring to elect their own candidate in Nikolaus von Nauen. He is confirmed by the Pope in 1231. Albert serves in Ireland for five years before being recalled to Germany and then sent back to Livonia to serve as archbishop of Riga.

1229 - 1253

Nikolaus von Nauen

Archbishopric of Riga / Prince-Bishops of Livonia
AD 1255 - 1561

The bishopric of Livonia was soon raised to an archbishopric, as the new order in the Baltics cemented its rule over the native Ests (Estonians), Livs (Livonians, modern western Latvians and southern Estonians) and Lats (or Latgalians, modern eastern Latvia). The position was a secular one with a capital at Riga, although the initial intention had been to set up a pro-Papal ecclesiastical state. That hope was destroyed in North Estonia in 1233, when the Danes defeated an attempt to achieve it.

1253 - 1273

Albert Suerbeer

Raised to archbishop in 1255.


The Livonian Knights, along with the Teutonic Knights, are abandoned by their Estonian and Couronian vassals and defeated again, this time severely, at the Battle of Durbe in Livonia by the Samogitians. As a result, numerous rebellions break out against the Teutonic Knights all across the Baltics, including military expeditions by the Lithuanians, and it takes around thirty years before complete control is regained.

1273 - 1284

Johannes I von Lune


The towns of Riga, Cesis, Limba˛i, Koknese and Valmiera in Livonia, and Tartu within the bishopric of Dorpat, are included in the Hanseatic League of trading towns in Northern Europe.

The inclusion of Riga in the Hanseatic League in 1282 would have accelerated its development as an important trading town with vital seaward connections to Europe

1285 - 1294

Johannes II von Vechten

1290 - 1307

The principality of Polotsk is controlled by the archbishopric, before the brother of Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania secures the throne.

1294 - 1300

Johannes III von Schwerin

1300 - 1302

Isarnus Tacconi

Archbishop of Lund (1302-1310).

1303 - 1310

Jens Grand

Archbishop of Lund (1289-1302).

1304 - 1310

Jens Grand's occupation of the title is in name only as he never enters Riga. Instead, day-to-day duties are handled by Friedrich von Pernstein, who is appointed the succeeding archbishop when Jens Grand becomes prince-bishop of Bremen in 1310-1327.

1304 - 1341

Friedrich von Pernstein

1341 - 1347

Engelbert von Dolen

1348 - 1369

Bromhold von Vyffhusen

1370 - 1374

Siegfried Blomberg

1374 - 1393

Johannes IV von Sinten


Bishop Dietrich of Dorpat hates the Livonian Knights with some intensity, so much so that he forms a coalition against the Knights with Lithuania, Mecklenburg and the notorious Victual Brothers who are Baltic pirates. The Knights invade the bishopric but achieve no success. In the end their lack of results removes from them the right to demand military service from the Livonian bishops.

1393 - 1418

Johannes V von Wallenrodt


The Battle of Tannenberg sees Polish and Lithuanian forces under Polish leadership halt the eastward expansion of the Teutonic Knights. After this defeat, the Livonian Order begins to weaken and disintegrate.

1418 - 1424

Johannes VI Ambundi

1424 - 1448

Henning Scharpenberg


One of the merchants guilds in Tallinn erects Estonia's (and the world's) first Christmas tree (sixty-nine years before Riga does the same). Merchants and single women dance around the tree, after which it is set alight and all the evidence is disposed of. According to records, Riga's first Christmas tree in 1510 isn't even a real tree, just a wooden pyramid decorated with flowers, fruits and toys.

1448 - 1479

Silvester Stodewescher

1479 - 1484

The seat remains vacant. Information on two of the last archbishops to be subsequently appointed, Linde and Blankenfeld, is contradictory, and due to deflation no coins are minted during their terms of office.

1484 - 1509

Michael Hildebrand

1501 - 1503

As the Orthodox Rus border Livonia to the east, the Livonian Knights can claim to be holding an outpost of Catholic Europe, and while they are more than interested in trade with the Rus, the expansion of Moscow up to Livonia's borders at this time complicates matters. War between Moscow and the Knights breaks out in 1501. Livonians, uniting their forces under the leadership of the Knights, defeat Moscow's army near Lake Smolensk in 1502, and a truce is concluded the following year which lasts until 1558. The Russians are prevented from expanding westwards to the Baltic coast.

1509 - 1524

Jasper Linde

1524 - 1527

Johannes VII Blankenfeld

Already bishop of Reval (1514), and Dorpat (1518).


The German Lutheran reformation reaches Livonia and Dorpat, accompanied by a violent stripping of the churches. This movement weakens the Catholic church in Old Livonia and North Estonia, making it more likely that one or more of the neighbouring centralised states will attempt to seize power. Moscow, Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden are all eager to do just that.

1528 - 1539

Thomas Schoning

1539 - 1563

Wilhelm von Brandenburg

Grandson of Albert III of Brandenburg.

1558 - 1561

Following Russian provocation and the conquest of Dorpat, the Livonian Wars erupt in the Baltic States, ripping apart the old order in Livonia and North Estonia. The Livonian Knights and the archbishop of Riga seek help from Sigismund II of Poland-Lithuania, pawning five Order castles and two archbishopric castles together with their surrounding territory to help procure it. However, the army of the Livonian Knights is completely destroyed by the Russians at the Battle of Ergeme in 1560, and a year later, on 29 November, the master of the Order, Gotthard Kettler, acknowledges the supreme power of Sigismund II over all areas regarding the Order, including its territories, formally dissolving the Livonian Knights. The archbishop of Riga also accepts the treaty of dissolution, known as the Pacta Subiectionis.

Russian atrocities in Livonia
Russian troops committed atrocities against the Livonian population, as shown in this print from 'Zeyttung' which was published in Nuremberg in 1561.

Polish Governors of Livonia
AD 1561 - 1621

Following the dissolution of the Livonian Knights in 1561, southern Estonia remained within Livonia which, along with the duchy of Courland, became part of Poland-Lithuania. Grand Duke Sigismund II of Lithuania took possession and became grand duke of Livonia in 1566. The city of Riga refused to accept the Pacta Subiectionis, although it was secularised in 1563 (and only restored in 1918 as the diocese of Riga). Instead Riga became a Free City until the end of the Livonian Wars in 1583, while Polish military governors controlled the rest of Livonia.

1559 - 1560

Jan Chodkiewicz

1559 - 1560

Jerzy Zenowicz

Ruled jointly. Last of the military governors.

1560 - 1561

Mikolaj Radziwilj

First Polish governor.

1561 - 1562?

Mikolaj Radziwill


1562 - 1566

Gotthard Kettler

Duke of Courland & Semigallia.

1566 - 1578

Jan Chodkiewicz


1570 - 1578

Magnus of Livonia

Prince of Denmark. Titular 'king of Livonia'.

1570 - 1578

Magnus, bishop of Courland and of Reval, claims the title, 'king of Livonia', although his power is very limited. He is, however, supported by the Russian czar, Ivan the Terrible, who launches a new offensive in this decade, and reaches Riga and Tallinn. He does not manage to capture either town.

Magnus of Livonia
The failure of Magnus of Livonia to capture the territory he claimed probably would have made very little difference to most of the population, although the subsequent Swedish period was later viewed as a golden age


Aleksander Chodkiewicz

Acting governor.

1578 - 1584

Mikolaj Radziwill

Second term of office.

1582 - 1583

An armistice agreement is concluded between the Russian czar and the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom proclaiming Livonia a possession of the latter. In 1583, Russia concludes a similar agreement with Sweden, acknowledging its supreme power in North Estonia.

1582 - 1588

Stanislaw Pekoslawski


1588 - 1598

The post is vacant, but the duties are administered by Jan Dymitr Solikowski, the commisar.

1588 - 1598

Jan Dymitr Solikowski



Lew Sapieha


1598 - 1603

The post is vacant again, but the duties are administered by Jan Abramowicz, the governor of Dorpat province.

1598 - 1603

Jan Abramowicz / Abrahamowicz


1600 - 1605

The Swedish king initiates the First Polish-Swedish War by assembling troops in Tallinn in order to attack Poland-Lithuania's Livonia, but instead the army suffers significant losses at Cesis and Koknes. The Swedes are driven out of Livonia in 1601. Further attacks on Riga in 1604 and Courland in 1605 also fail, but the Swedish-Russian alliance diverts Polish efforts towards Moscow.

1603 - 1621

Jan Karol Chodkiewicz

1621 - 1629

FeatureSweden captures Riga in 1621, and the First Polish-Swedish War ends with the Treaty of Altmark, which sees most of Poland-Lithuania's Livonia come under Swedish rule. It is probably during this period that many of the old German Crusader castles such as Helme Order Castle are destroyed. The remainder of Livonia, the eastern part of Livonia, named Latgallia, remains in Polish hands (Inflantia or the Inflanty Voivodeship, the principality of Livonia), and survives today as the Latgale region of Latvia.

Swedish Governors-General of Livonia
AD 1629 - 1721

The First Polish-Swedish War ended with the Treaty of Altmark in 1629, which formalised the occupation of Poland-Lithuania's Livonia under Swedish rule as Swedish Livonia. In fact, parts of Livonia as far south as Riga had been in Swedish hands since 1621. Only the remainder of Livonian territory, the small eastern part of Livonia, named Latgallia, remained in Polish hands. In the Swedish territory, serfdom was eased and a network of schools was established for the peasantry. The country also retained its own diet, or parliament.

1622 - 1628

Jacob De la Gardie

Former governor of Swedish Estonia (1619).

1628 - 1629

Gustaf Evertsson Horn

1629 - 1633

Johan Skytte

Also governor-general of Ingria & Karelia.

1633 - 1634

Nils Assersson Mannersköld

1634 - 1643

Bengt Bengtsson Oxenstierna

Son of Gabriel Bengtsson Oxenstierna (1645). Also in Ingria.


Hermann greve Wrangel

Former governor of Swedish Prussia (1632).


Erik Eriksson Ryning

1645 - 1647

Gabriel Bengtsson Oxenstierna

Former governor of Estonia (1611) & Finland (1631).

1649 - 1651

Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie

Son of Jacob De la Gardie (1622).

1652 - 1653

Gustaf Evertsson Horn

Second term. Later governor of Ingria (1654) & Finland (1657).

1655 - 1657

Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie

Second term of office.

1655 - 1660

Seeing a golden opportunity following the Russian capture of large areas of Lithuania in 1654, Swedish troops enter the duchy of Courland, triggering the Second Polish-Swedish War. It ends when Livonia is officially ceded to Sweden following Poland-Lithuania's signing of the Treaty of Oliva.

FeatureDuring this period, Russian settlers who have seceded from the Orthodox church following the Great Schism migrate to the south-western shores of Lake Peipsi (now the eastern border of Estonia), forming small fishing communities along the lake's shore.


Axel Lillie / Lillje

Former governor of Pomerania (1652).

1662 - 1665

Bengt Oxenstierna

Second term of office.

1665 - 1671

Clas Åkesson Tott the Younger

1671 - 1674

Fabian von Fersen

1674 - 1686

Krister Klasson Horn af Åminne

Former governor of Ingria (1657).

1687 - 1695

Jacob Johan Hastfer

1695 - 1697

The country suffers a severe famine, known as the Great Famine, which leads to the death of almost a fifth of the entire Livonian population. The famine is theorised to be the result of climate change, and Livonia is not the only victim. Estonia and Finland also suffer large-scale death due to famine.

1696 - 1702

Erik Dahlberg

Former governor of Bremen-Verden (1693).


Sweden fights Russia, Poland and Denmark in the Great Northern War, which is another attempt at empire building in the Baltic states by outside powers.

1702 - 1706

Carl Gustaf Frölich

Later governor of Finland (1735).

1706 - 1709

Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt

Captured and detained by Russia until his death.

1708 - 1709

Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt may have been appointed governor of Livonia on the strength of his victory at the Battle of Gemauerthof in 1705. Now he is ordered to march east with a supply column to support Charles' main invasion force in Russia. Lewenhaupt is engaged at the Battle of Lesnaya and is defeated and forced to abandon his supplies. In the following year he finally meets up with the king's army and is given command of the infantry at the Battle of Poltava, a disaster for Sweden, and the army's surrender at Perevolochna. Lewenhaupt is captured by the Russians and remains in Moscow until his death in 1719.


Henrik Otto Albedyll

1709 - 1710

Niels Jonsson Stromberg af Clastorp

Former governor of Swedish Estonia.

1710 - 1721

Sweden is defeated at the end of the Great Northern War, and much of Livonia has been devastated by it, with castles and strongholds destroyed, farms laid waste, and peasants chased off the land. The victors, Russia, Poland and Denmark, divide the spoils with the Treaty of Nystad. Much of Livonia is handed to Russia, although it has already been occupied by Russian troops since 1710.

Vastseliina Castle in Estonia
Vastseliina Castle (now in Võrumaa in Estonia but in 1721 well within Livonia) was destroyed by the Russians during the Great Northern War

Russian Governors of Livonia
AD 1710 - 1915

The captured territories, in Russian hands from 1710, were divided by the Russian empire into three Baltic Provinces: Courland, Estonia and Livonia (the Riga Governate, to which Ösel was attached). In 1801-1809 and from 1819 onwards supreme authority was vested in a governor-general who was based in Riga, but at other times the provinces were governed independently. The governor-general was also the military governor of Riga until 1864 and then commanders of the military district of Riga until 1870.

In 1718 the region's new ruler, Czar Peter the Great, took it upon himself to investigate the reasons behind Livonia's high levels of orderliness. It transpired that the former Swedes and now their native Livonian successors were spending as much administering Livonia (which was approximately three hundred times smaller in territory than was the Russian empire) as Peter was spending on the entire Russian bureaucracy. Despite Livonia's success in this area, Peter dismantled the province's government.

(Additional information from Russia Under the Old Regime, Richard Pipes (1974).)

1710 - 1711

Prince Anikita Repnin-Obolenskiy

Interim governor.

1711 - 1719

Prince Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov

Also governor of Estonia.

1719 - 1726

Prince Anikita Repnin-Obolenskiy

Second term of office.

1726 - 1727

Herman Jensen de Bohn

Acting governor.

1727 - 1729

Count Grigoriy Petrovich Chernyshev

1729 - 1751

Count Peter Lacy

Governor (1729-1740), then governor-general.

1751 - 1753

Prince Vladimir Petrovich Dolgorukiy

Acting governor.

1753 - 1758

Pyotr Voyeykov

Acting governor.

1758 - 1761

Prince Vladimir Petrovich Dolgorukiy

Second term of office.

1761 - 1762

Fyodor Matveyevich Voyeykov

1762 - 1783

With an increase of direct Russian control of the Baltic States in mind, Catherine the Great orders Livonia to be administered directly by the governor-general of the Baltic Provinces, Count George Browne. Local governors are re-introduced in 1783.



Died in office.

1783 - 1790

Aleksandr Andreyevich Bekleshev

1790 - 1792

Johann von Reck

1792 - 1795

Peter Ludwig Freiherr von der Pahlen

1795 - 1797

Gerhard Konrad K Freiherr von Meyendorff


The joint kingdoms of Poland-Lithuania are extinguished. Lithuania and the unconquered remains of Livonia, known as Latgallia, are submerged within imperial Russia. The following year, the Riga Governorate is renamed the governorate of Livonia.


Balthasar Freiherr von Campenhausen


Ernst Burchard Graf von Mengden

1797 - 1808

Christoph Adam von Richter

1808 - 1811

Ivan Nikolayevich Repyev

1811 - 1827

Joseph Duhamel


Napoleon invades the Russian empire with one of the largest armies Europe has ever seen, occupying the Baltic Provinces for several months until he is forced to drag his French-led army back to Germany. The governor of Courland flees to Riga and remains there for the period of French occupation.

1817 - 1819

The emancipation of the serfs in Latvia is something which is advantageous to the nobility, as it dispossesses the peasants of their land without compensation. The social structure changes dramatically, and a class of independent farmers establishes itself after reforms allow the peasants to repurchase their land.

1827 - 1829

Paul Baron von Hahn


Ludwig Johann Ferdinand von Cube

Acting governor.

1829 - 1847

Georg Friedrich Baron von Fölkersahm


Ludwig Johann Ferdinand von Cube

Acting governor for the second time.

1847 - 1862

Heinrich Magnus Wilhelm von Essen

1862 - 1868

August Georg Friedrich von Öttingen

1863 - 1880

The January Uprising takes place across much of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including Poland, Lithuania, the Baltic Provinces, Latgallia, and Livonia. It results in a policy of Russification after spreading from Latgallia to the rest of what is now Latvia.

January Uprising
The January Uprising took place across the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a result of Russian occupation and control, but the last of its leaders were captured in 1865

1868 - 1871

Friedrich Woldemar von Lysander

1871 - 1872

Julius Gustav von Cube

Acting governor.

1872 - 1874

Michael Baron von Wrangell

1874 - 1882

Alexander Karl Abraham

Acting governor until 18 Dec 1874.

1876 - 1905

Between these years, authority over the Baltic Provinces is devolved, with the governor in each province apparently gaining more power. Revolution in the Baltics takes on a nationalist character, and in the same year the position of governor-general of Courland and Livonia, but not Estonia, is revived.

1882 - 1883

Hermann von Tobiessen

Acting governor.

1883 - 1885

Ivan Yegorovich Shevich


Hermann von Tobiessen

Acting governor for the second time.

1885 - 1895

Mikhail Alekseyevich Zinovyev

Died in office.

1895 - 1896

Aleksandr Nikolayevich Bulygin

Acting governor.

1896 - 1900

Vladimir Dmitriyevich Surovtsev

1900 - 1901

Aleksandr Nikolayevich Bulygin

Acting governor for the second time.

1901 - 1905

Mikhail Alekseyevich Pashkov


P P Neklyudov

Acting governor.


Yakov Dmitriyevich Bologovskoy

Acting governor.

1905 - 1914

Nikolay Aleksandrovich Zvegintsev

1905 - 1906

Janis Ozols

Leaders of the rebel Federated Committee of Riga, Oct-Jan.

1905 - 1906

Samuil 'Maksim' Klevansky Bund

Leaders of the rebel Federated Committee of Riga, Oct-Jan.

1914 - 1916

Arkady Ippolitovich Kelepovsky


The position of special plenipotentiary for the civil administration of the Baltic Provinces of Livonia, Estonia and Courland is created. The first incumbent is given responsibility for Estonia and Livonia, but excluding the district of Riga in 1914, then Reval (Tallinn), Baltischport (Paldiski), and Dünamünde (Daugavgriva).


Sergey Sergeyevich Podolinsky

Acting governor.

1916 - 1917

N N Lavrinovsky

Feb 1916 - Feb 1917.

1916 - 1917

Sergey Alekseyevich Shidlovsky

Feb-Mar 1917.

1915 - 1918

Thanks to Russian First World War defeats up to 1917, the Baltic Provinces are conquered by Germany between 1915 (Courland) and 1918 (Estonia), much to the relief of the German-descended land-owning aristocracy. In 1917, Bolshevik-inspired thoughts of revolution are swiftly put down by the Germans and a semi-independent pro-German regime is established. The Baltic provinces are formally transferred to German authority by Russia in 1918 following the Treaties of Brest-Litovsk and of Berlin.

Modern Latvia
AD 1918 - Present Day

Latvia is in the middle of the three Baltic States, resting on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. Independent of Soviet Russian occupation since 1990, it and its immediate neighbours have proven themselves to be some of the better former Eastern Bloc countries in terms of their economic performance and standard of life, although problems do still exist. Latvia is neighboured to the north by Estonia, to the east by Russia and Belarus, to the south by Lithuania, and across the Baltic Sea to the west by Sweden.

After centuries of German, Swedish, and Russian rule, and despite entering the modern period still under Russian rule, Latvia gained its independence in 1918 following the collapse of empires in Eastern Europe. It was formed from various territories which had been created by the crusaders of the eleventh and twelfth century, and which included the duchy of Courland, Latgallia, Livonia, much of which was ruled by the Livonian Knights, the small Polotsk principality of Koknese, and also Semigallia.

Medieval Semigallia is better known today as Zemgale. For the most part it is formed of flat land, largely devoid of uplands and deep river valleys, and boasts one of the most fertile grain fields in Northern Europe, something that has ensured the prosperity of the region for many successive centuries. The region was prosperous, which allowed the building of many luxurious manor houses and castles, one of which survives today - the Baroque masterpiece that is Rundāle Palace. In 1562, Semigallia became part of the duchy of Courland & Semigallia.

At the heart of ancient Latgalia lay the settlement of Rēzekne, on the banks of the river of the same name. It began with a wooden castle on a hill by the river, which was built in the ninth century and lasted until the thirteen century. The name Rēzekne was first documented in 1285 (in German as Rositten), although the modern Latvian form of the name was only approved in 1920. After the war, Rēzekne developed as an important industrial city.

(Additional information by Kaspars Zvergism and from External Link: The Warfare Historian.)


Three governments, Karlis Ulmanis' government, the Iskolat (which occupies almost all of the country), and the Baltic German government all struggle for control. At the same time, the Russo-Polish War is ignited between Poland and Ukraine on one side and Soviet Russia on the other over the creation of the Second Polish Republic and the somewhat uncertain borders on its eastern flank. Józef Piłsudski considers this the best opportunity to restore Poland to its former greatness, and he leads his troops into both Vilnius (part of the fairly brief Polish-Lithuanian War) and Kiev, occupying a welcoming western Ukraine (part of the former Polish Commonwealth).

Latvia is drawn into the conflict in September 1919 when it takes part in a joint operation with Poland. The Poles launch Operation Winter in which General Edward Rydz-Śmigły wins a battle against Red Guard detachments and Latvian communists at Daugavpils (Dyneburg) in Latvia on 15 January 1920.

Russo-Polish War
Polish Renault FT-17 tanks during Operation Winter, Poland's joint operation with the republic of Latvia during autumn 1919


A freely elected Constituent Assembly is convened, which in 1922 adopts a liberal constitution, the Satversme, under Latvia's first president, Janis Cakste. It is suspended after Karlis Ulmanis' coup in 1934 but is reaffirmed in 1990.


The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is signed in Moscow on 23 August. It places the Baltic States under Soviet Russian control, and on 5 October Latvia is forced to accept a mutual assistance pact with the Soviet Union, granting the Soviets the right to station 25,000 troops on Latvian territory.


On 16 June Vyacheslav Molotov presents the Latvian representative in Moscow with an ultimatum accusing Latvia of violations of that pact and on 17 June Soviet forces occupy the country. Annexation is formalised on 5 August, but the German army swiftly occupies Latvia until 1944, and in the following war more than 200,000 Latvian citizens die.

1944 - 1945

The Soviets reoccupy Latvia, and mass deportations follow as the country is forcibly Sovietised. A total of 42,975 persons are deported in 1949.


The Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopts a resolution on the 'Occupation of the Baltic States', in which it declares that the occupation had been 'not in accordance with law', and not the 'will of the Soviet people'. A national movement coalescing in the Popular Front of Latvia takes advantage of glasnost under Mikhail Gorbachev.

1990 - 1991

On 4 May the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopts the Declaration of the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia, which results in Latvian independence. This is fully realised on 21 August 1991 under the direction of Anatolijs Gorbunovs, the caretaker president. A parliament (the Saeima) is elected in 1993, with Guntis Ulmanis as its first elected president, and Russia completing its military withdrawal in 1994.

Riga's Old Town
Modern Riga's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site