Livonia (lĭvōˈnēə) [key], region and former Russian province, comprising present Estonia and parts of Latvia (Vidzeme and Latgale). It borders on the Baltic Sea and its arms, the Gulf of Riga and the Gulf of Finland, in the west and the north and extends E to Lake Peipus (Chudskoye) and the Narva. Livonia, also known as Livland, was named after the Livs, a Finno-Ugric tribe that inhabited the coast when, in the 13th cent., the Livonian Brothers of the Sword conquered the entire region. The knights formed a strong state and threatened Lithuania and Novgorod in the 13th and 14th cent. The chief cities—notably Riga, Tartu, and Tallinn—were Germanic in culture and were members of the Hanseatic League. After the dissolution (1561) of the Livonian Order, Livonia was contested by Poland, Russia, and Sweden. Courland, in the southwest, became a duchy under Polish suzerainty, and Latgale, in the southeast, became part of Poland. Vidzeme, in the center, passed first to Poland, then (1629) to Sweden, which also held the northern part (Estonia). The Swedish share was conquered (1710) in the Northern War by Peter I of Russia, who kept it at the Peace of Nystad (1721). Latgale passed to Russia in 1772. In 1783, Livonia was constituted a Russian province, and in 1918 it was divided between Estonia and Latvia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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