Darya Melekhova on Vesti. FM: national identity of Baltic peoples began to emerge in times of Russian Empire

Darya Melekhova on Vesti. FM: national identity of Baltic peoples began to emerge in times of Russian Empire

The region that we now call the Baltic region began its gradual integration to the Russian Empire after Peter’s the Great victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, an analyst of Vestnik Kavkaza, Darya Melekhova said during a live broadcast of the National Question program on Vesti.FM. Today's program was dedicated to the Baltic peoples in the history of Russia.

A characteristic feature of this process was that the administrative boundaries of the newly annexed lands did not always coincide with the ethnic ones.

"For example, the northern part of Estonia was a separate Reval governorate, and the southern Estonian lands with a part of modern Latvia were the parts of the Livland governorate,” she said, explaining that, of course, the both these governorates were inhabited by the same Estonians speaking the same language.

"Nevertheless, the Estonian population of Livland lived in the common borders with Latvians, while Lithuania's territory was annexed to Russia only at the end of the 18th century following the results of three Partitions of Poland. In this case there was a priority of administrative-political division over ethnicity," the expert said.

According to the analyst of Vestnik Kavkaza, by the middle of the 18th century there were many high-ranking officials in the state, who were from the Baltic countries. ‘’For this reason, in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was much less social tension and uprisings in the Baltic lands than in neighboring Poland, which became a part of Russia after the Napoleonic wars. It is no coincidence, that the Baltic region became the first region of the empire, where serfdom was abolished. This happened in 1811-1819, while in the rest of Russia peasants received personal freedom only in 1861, " the expert said.

The national identity of the Baltic peoples began to emerge also during the reign of the Russian Empire. "In particular, the Bible was published first in Estonian in 1739. By the end of the 18th century, a half of the Estonian population was already able to read and write. In 1843, pastor Edward Aarens standardized the orthography and grammar of the Estonian language on the basis of Finnish, and by the end of the century literacy was a common thing’’, the analyst said, noting that at the same time, the national awakening of the Baltic nations began, but such tendencies then passed across Europe, and Russia did not become an exception.

"The national question acquired a problematic character in the 20th century, but at the dawn of the formation of the Baltic nations it was not a problem, as in the multinational Russian Empire it was not so relevant," Darya Melekhova concluded.