How viable would the United Baltic Duchy have been after a German victory in WW1?

How viable would the United Baltic Duchy have been after a German victory in WW1?

  • Not at all

    Votes: 9 9.1%
  • For a while

    Votes: 63 63.6%
  • Very successful

    Votes: 27 27.3%

  • Total voters
    99
At the end of World War I, the Baltic Germans made an attempt to establish their own state, the United Baltic Duchy. This Wikipedia article gives the following description:

As a parallel political movement under the German military administration, Baltic Germans began forming provincial councils between September 1917 and March 1918.

On 8 March 1918, the local Baltic German-dominated Kurländischer Landesrat declared the restoration of Duchy of Courland (Herzogtum Kurland), which was formally recognised by Kaiser Wilhelm on 15 March 1918.

On 12 April 1918, a Provincial Assembly (Vereinigter Landesrat), composed of 35 Baltic Germans, 13 Estonians, and 11 Latvians, passed a resolution calling upon the German Emperor to recognise the Baltic provinces as a monarchy and to make them a German protectorate.[7]

The United Baltic Duchy was nominally recognised as a sovereign state by Wilhelm II only on 22 September 1918,[citation needed] half a year after Soviet Russia had formally relinquished all authority over former Russian Imperial Baltic governorates to Germany in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. On 5 November 1918, a temporary Regency Council (Regentschaftsrat) for the new state, led by Baron Adolf Pilar von Pilchau, was formed on a joint basis from both local Land Councils.

The new state was to have its capital in Riga and was to be a confederation of seven cantons: Kurland (Courland), Riga, Lettgallen (Latgale), Südlivland (South Livonia), Nordlivland (North Livonia), Ösel (Saaremaa) and Estland (Estonia), the first four cantons correspondings to today's Latvia and the last three corresponding to today's Estonia.

The first head of state of the United Baltic Duchy was to be Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg, not as a sovereign monarch, but as a subordinate to the German Kaiser, similar to other princes or kings of the German Empire. However, Adolf Friedrich never assumed office. The appointed Regency Council, consisting of four Baltic Germans, three Estonians and three Latvians, functioned until 28 November 1918 without any international recognition except from Germany.

In October 1918, the Chancellor of Germany, Prince Maximilian of Baden, proposed to have the military administration in the Baltic replaced by civilian authority. The new policy was stated in a telegram from the German Foreign Office to the military administration of the Baltic: "The government of the Reich is unanimous in respect of the fundamental change in our policy towards the Baltic countries, namely that in the first instance policy is to be made with the Baltic peoples".[5]

How viable would this United Baltic Duchy have been if Germany had won World War I? Three possible scenarios that come to mind:

  1. Not at all. Estonians and Latvians will not accept German domination. A civil war breaks out resulting in the creation of the separate republics of Estonia and Latvia.
  2. For a while. But after a few decades, when the local population develops more, the Estonians and Latvians will claim their rights and the UBD will still be split.
  3. Very successful. The UBD develops into a democratic state with a multilingual population. German remains the higher cultural language, in addition to local languages such as Estonian and Latvian.

Or are there other possibilities?

UnitedBalticDuchy.png
 
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I doubt that such nation would had lasted long. Sooner or latter Estonians and Latvians would had demanded more and more autonomy or even independence and probably the nation would had been divided to two nations. Even at best case it would be Belgium type loose federation.
 
I give it 20 years or so; the baltic states aren't actually that similar in terms of linguistics or religion, are they? so while i think estonia and latvia could work together, eventually the larger group is gonna get a little big for its britches
 
Between 2 and 3, we've states like those otl, could split later or stay together as they have more weight together
 
I give it 20 years or so; the baltic states aren't actually that similar in terms of linguistics or religion, are they? so while i think estonia and latvia could work together, eventually the larger group is gonna get a little big for its britches
Linguistically, no. Latvian is a Baltic language, whilst Estonian is Finnic.

Religiously, yes. At this point, the Estonians and Latvians were both majority Lutheran

 

kham_coc

Banned
There is essentially two questions here, how long would the Germans have been able to maintain their control in spite of their demographic deficit, not very long.
I dupubt it would be a civil war though, because they would all be united in their opposition of german domination.
And if actual warfare breaks out, Germany (the country) would obviously win.
I think Belgium is the best analogue but with less cleavage points. There might economic ones later, but I think their fortunes should develop pretty similarly.

Really I think I would have voted 3 if we excluded the mentions of Germans.
Because demographically that's unavoidable.
 
As a Baltic German from Latvia, here are my 2 cents about this.

Since 1880s Latvians and Estonians were slowly pushing for autonomy, especially the push was increasing after the autonomy for Kurland and Livonia was reduced and the Russification program of late 19th century was introduced. Since the local governments were run mainly by Germans, who directly or indirectly had to enforce this Russification, Latvians&Estonians viewed Germans as their enemies.
The point of no return, to autonomy, instead of an actual independence, was reached during WW1, especially in 1915/1916, when the Russian imperial army were using Latvian, Estonian and Finnish divisions as cannon fodder.
If the history goes as it went and Latvians and Estonians would have faced similar losses and treatment as they did IOTL, but at the very end Germany would have won, there is no chance that either Latvians or Estonians would have accepted a "United Baltic Duchy" peacefully as this would have been simply viewed as a return to previous "slavery", as the Latvians viewed it. There would have been either a civil war or, in best case scenario - constant military uprisings for at least 5-10 years after the war ended.

The only way, how a United Baltic Duchy would have been realistic in long term, is that it CANNOT be run by germans, but run as some Belgium style Federation, with separate local Latvian, Estonian and German (Riga Free City or something) governments with some kind of a central Government body. However, both Latvians and Estonians would have to have full cultural freedom without any german dominance, which in turn seemed unacceptable for baltic-german nobility at the time. Culture/Religion wise, Latvians, and Estonians are friendly between themselves and are quite similar, so there would have been no anti-Latvian or anti-Estonian movements. If this is achieved, in this type of loose confederation with cultural freedoms, the Baltic Germans would have most likely played the role of Swedes in Finland at the time.

If the independence rebellions were crushed, the Duchy might have survived for some time, but over time, Latvian and Estonian parts most likely would have demanded independence, which would have led to the country being split in 3 parts, which most likely would have been very close economically and politically - Latvia, Estonia and Riga Free City, with some surrounding areas for Germans.
 
Probably because Latgale was not part of the Russian Baltic Governorates (Estonia, Livonia and Courland), but was instead incorporated into the Vitebsk Governorate. However, I agree with you that Latgale will be part of the United Baltic Duchy, because it was historically part of Medieval Livonia.
Latgale only joined the rest of Latvia, because the locals decided that they want to be together with the rest of Latvians in the Latgale council. If theres a United Baltic Duchy, they might not decide to do that. Of course it also depends on what would have happened with Russia in this scenario, if they are not forcefully attached to the Duchy, Latgale might as well decide to stay part of Russia or join Poland, if Poland is a thing in this scenario.

Culture/religion and economic development wise, the region was and still is very different from the rest of Latvia even today. They have their own dialect, they are Catholics instead of Lutherans as the rest of the country and the majority of the russian minority lives there. Historically also the Jewish minority lived primarily in that region.
Nowadays, the region, due to lower education levels, emphasis on agriculture and very strong historical ties with Russia, based on GDP PPP data is on average 2x poorer than the rest of the country.
 
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I give it 20 years or so; the baltic states aren't actually that similar in terms of linguistics or religion, are they? so while i think estonia and latvia could work together, eventually the larger group is gonna get a little big for its britches

The Latvians, Estonians, Livonians, Baltic Swedes and Baltic Germans are all Lutherans, while a small minority of Latvians called Latgalians are Catholics.
 
As a Baltic German from Latvia, here are my 2 cents about this.

Since 1880s Latvians and Estonians were slowly pushing for autonomy, especially the push was increasing after the autonomy for Kurland and Livonia was reduced and the Russification program of late 19th century was introduced. Since the local governments were run mainly by Germans, who directly or indirectly had to enforce this Russification, Latvians&Estonians viewed Germans as their enemies.
The point of no return, to autonomy, instead of an actual independence, was reached during WW1, especially in 1915/1916, when the Russian imperial army were using Latvian, Estonian and Finnish divisions as cannon fodder.
If the history goes as it went and Latvians and Estonians would have faced similar losses and treatment as they did IOTL, but at the very end Germany would have won, there is no chance that either Latvians or Estonians would have accepted a "United Baltic Duchy" peacefully as this would have been simply viewed as a return to previous "slavery", as the Latvians viewed it. There would have been either a civil war or, in best case scenario - constant military uprisings for at least 5-10 years after the war ended.

The only way, how a United Baltic Duchy would have been realistic in long term, is that it CANNOT be run by germans, but run as some Belgium style Federation, with separate local Latvian, Estonian and German (Riga Free City or something) governments with some kind of a central Government body. However, both Latvians and Estonians would have to have full cultural freedom without any german dominance, which in turn seemed unacceptable for baltic-german nobility at the time. Culture/Religion wise, Latvians, and Estonians are friendly between themselves and are quite similar, so there would have been no anti-Latvian or anti-Estonian movements. If this is achieved, in this type of loose confederation with cultural freedoms, the Baltic Germans would have most likely played the role of Swedes in Finland at the time.

If the independence rebellions were crushed, the Duchy might have survived for some time, but over time, Latvian and Estonian parts most likely would have demanded independence, which would have led to the country being split in 3 parts, which most likely would have been very close economically and politically - Latvia, Estonia and Riga Free City, with some surrounding areas for Germans.

I think a Finnish model would work better, with all three languages being official language and separate school systems for all three group.
 
So much here depends on how the Germans handle the declicacies of local economics, culture, and politics. I'd not even try to predict the skill of the Kaiser his cronies, the aristocracy, or the politicians from the Reichstag in dealing with all that. Culturally & logistically Imperial Germany of 1914 was fairly homogeneous, not perfect but fair. Adding in this Duchy creates something akin to the problem of the Austrian empire with its multiple ethnic and cultural groups. The Polish Duchy must be considered along with this, as well as any annexation from France and Belgium in the west, ect... This looks like a political minefield with the German leaders standing in the middle of it. Good luck at keeping it peaceful and happy for two or more decades.
 
So much here depends on how the Germans handle the declicacies of local economics, culture, and politics. I'd not even try to predict the skill of the Kaiser his cronies, the aristocracy, or the politicians from the Reichstag in dealing with all that. Culturally & logistically Imperial Germany of 1914 was fairly homogeneous, not perfect but fair. Adding in this Duchy creates something akin to the problem of the Austrian empire with its multiple ethnic and cultural groups. The Polish Duchy must be considered along with this, as well as any annexation from France and Belgium in the west, ect... This looks like a political minefield with the German leaders standing in the middle of it. Good luck at keeping it peaceful and happy for two or more decades.

The duke has a greater interest in being popular among the Estonian and Latvian than among the Baltic German elite. I would expect him to represent the interests of the former.
 
Probably. But there are powerful business and political interests with their own agenda. The Kaisers administration and Reichstag are going to have some tricky policy decisions.
 
I don't see why there would be crazy resistance to German occupation when there was not crazy resistance to Russian occupation.

Likely it does develop and want to throw off the German yoke eventually. However Germany can dominate this state absence the intervention of other powers. Russia (or the Soviet Union) will surely try to change that, and may find local allies in doing so. But it's also possible many locals find they prefer to be a German puppet state to a Russian colony or find the two interchangeable and don't particularly care.
 
There's some factors to consider if we take the original idea of the Baltic Duchy being integrated into the German Empire as a constituent state (as opposed to a separate, independent state, which creates its own dynamics)
  • Whether or not the Baltic Duchy adopts a restrictive constitution/unequal suffrage to maintain Baltic German minority control over the Latvians/Estonians, it is not going to matter on the federal level. Once Baltic citizens become German citizens, they will all have equal votes to the Reichstag - which means that Baltic representatives to the Reichstag are not going to be Baltic Germans when they only compose 5% of the vote, but Latvians and Estonians instead. This'll rather quickly affect the imperial government's opinion towards the Baltic Duchy and also create a rather powerful group of agitators for a democratic pluralistic Baltic Duchy that the Baltic Germans cannot suppress (as the Reichstag elections are, again, federal, and not affected by state laws)
  • The trend in Germany itself is towards equal suffage - the Prussian House of Representatives more or less reached a majority for abolishing the three class voting system in 1918, while Saxony had already abolished theirs before the war. Unless Germany ends up with a permanent military dictatorship after the war (not very likely) this trend is going to push the Baltics as well.
  • There were plans to colonize the Baltics during late WWI, like projects developed by Alfred Hugenburg et al. but I find it unlikely that large numbers of German settlers would move to the impoverished, war-battered Baltics when Berlin or the Ruhr are more lucrative (this is also one of the reasons why Germany was unable to colonize Posen before 1918), and in fact you'd more likely see the opposite reaction, people from the Baltics moving to Germany in larger numbers (much like Poles moved to the Ruhr and formed the Ruhrpolen). Baltic Germans are going to start moving to Germany proper as well - far from all of them are wealthy aristocrats, just as many are relatively impoverished city dwellers or farmers, etc. etc. What I mean is that the ethnic balance is not going to seriously change in German favor under normal conditions, i.e. without ethnic cleansing (which is a whole other can of worms).
Militarily, it would not be difficult for Germany to maintain control since the Baltics are small and not very populated, while also being really close to Germany proper, but with these factors at hand I'm not sure if it would remain Baltic German dominated for long.
 
There's some factors to consider if we take the original idea of the Baltic Duchy being integrated into the German Empire as a constituent state (as opposed to a separate, independent state, which creates its own dynamics)
  • Whether or not the Baltic Duchy adopts a restrictive constitution/unequal suffrage to maintain Baltic German minority control over the Latvians/Estonians, it is not going to matter on the federal level. Once Baltic citizens become German citizens, they will all have equal votes to the Reichstag - which means that Baltic representatives to the Reichstag are not going to be Baltic Germans when they only compose 5% of the vote, but Latvians and Estonians instead. This'll rather quickly affect the imperial government's opinion towards the Baltic Duchy and also create a rather powerful group of agitators for a democratic pluralistic Baltic Duchy that the Baltic Germans cannot suppress (as the Reichstag elections are, again, federal, and not affected by state laws)
  • The trend in Germany itself is towards equal suffage - the Prussian House of Representatives more or less reached a majority for abolishing the three class voting system in 1918, while Saxony had already abolished theirs before the war. Unless Germany ends up with a permanent military dictatorship after the war (not very likely) this trend is going to push the Baltics as well.
  • There were plans to colonize the Baltics during late WWI, like projects developed by Alfred Hugenburg et al. but I find it unlikely that large numbers of German settlers would move to the impoverished, war-battered Baltics when Berlin or the Ruhr are more lucrative (this is also one of the reasons why Germany was unable to colonize Posen before 1918), and in fact you'd more likely see the opposite reaction, people from the Baltics moving to Germany in larger numbers (much like Poles moved to the Ruhr and formed the Ruhrpolen). Baltic Germans are going to start moving to Germany proper as well - far from all of them are wealthy aristocrats, just as many are relatively impoverished city dwellers or farmers, etc. etc. What I mean is that the ethnic balance is not going to seriously change in German favor under normal conditions, i.e. without ethnic cleansing (which is a whole other can of worms).
Militarily, it would not be difficult for Germany to maintain control since the Baltics are small and not very populated, while also being really close to Germany proper, but with these factors at hand I'm not sure if it would remain Baltic German dominated for long.

A whole lot depend on how Riga develop, if Riga mainly develop through rural population moving there the German population will keep decreasing. But if Riga develop in similar manner as in USSR with people from outside the Baltic duchies moving there the German population there will be strengthen.

In the former case Germans will be reduced to an administrative and economic elite of the UBD, while cultural and political the Latvians and Estonians will dominate.

In the latter case you will see Riga serving a melting pot similar to Brussel for Germans, Estonians, Latvians, Jews, Russian etc which are made into Baltic Germans.
 
As a Baltic German from Latvia, here are my 2 cents about this.

Since 1880s Latvians and Estonians were slowly pushing for autonomy, especially the push was increasing after the autonomy for Kurland and Livonia was reduced and the Russification program of late 19th century was introduced. Since the local governments were run mainly by Germans, who directly or indirectly had to enforce this Russification, Latvians&Estonians viewed Germans as their enemies.
The point of no return, to autonomy, instead of an actual independence, was reached during WW1, especially in 1915/1916, when the Russian imperial army were using Latvian, Estonian and Finnish divisions as cannon fodder.
If the history goes as it went and Latvians and Estonians would have faced similar losses and treatment as they did IOTL, but at the very end Germany would have won, there is no chance that either Latvians or Estonians would have accepted a "United Baltic Duchy" peacefully as this would have been simply viewed as a return to previous "slavery", as the Latvians viewed it. There would have been either a civil war or, in best case scenario - constant military uprisings for at least 5-10 years after the war ended.

The only way, how a United Baltic Duchy would have been realistic in long term, is that it CANNOT be run by germans, but run as some Belgium style Federation, with separate local Latvian, Estonian and German (Riga Free City or something) governments with some kind of a central Government body. However, both Latvians and Estonians would have to have full cultural freedom without any german dominance, which in turn seemed unacceptable for baltic-german nobility at the time. Culture/Religion wise, Latvians, and Estonians are friendly between themselves and are quite similar, so there would have been no anti-Latvian or anti-Estonian movements. If this is achieved, in this type of loose confederation with cultural freedoms, the Baltic Germans would have most likely played the role of Swedes in Finland at the time.

If the independence rebellions were crushed, the Duchy might have survived for some time, but over time, Latvian and Estonian parts most likely would have demanded independence, which would have led to the country being split in 3 parts, which most likely would have been very close economically and politically - Latvia, Estonia and Riga Free City, with some surrounding areas for Germans.

Thanks for your reply! Well, I suppose a lot depends on what kind of policy the Germans have towards the Estonians and Latvians. The Wikipedia article I posted in the OP states that Estonians and Latvians are represented in the Landesrat, although this council has a Baltic German majority. The question is how long will this unequal ratio remain acceptable? I understand that the Russians were not liked by the Estonians and Latvians either. Will the Estonians and Latvians accept the German government as protection against the Russians?

However, without an artificial Baltic German majority in the council, the United Baltic Duchy has no reason to exist. Suppose the Estonians and Latvians do get proportional representation. Then they will most likely decide to split the UBD into an independent Estonia and Latvia....

Latgale only joined the rest of Latvia, because the locals decided that they want to be together with the rest of Latvians in the Latgale council. If theres a United Baltic Duchy, they might not decide to do that. Of course it also depends on what would have happened with Russia in this scenario, if they are not forcefully attached to the Duchy, Latgale might as well decide to stay part of Russia or join Poland, if Poland is a thing in this scenario.

I doubt that the local people of Latgale will have any say in that at all. The borders will be set by the Germans and Russians at the negotiating table. However, the Brest-Litovsk treaty is not clear about it... According to the Wikipedia article in the OP, Latgale will be one of the seven cantons of the UBD. As far as that article is worth anything, since clear references are lacking... Should anyone have better references, they are welcome!
 
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