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Baltic Duchy (1918)

Last modified: 2002-10-12 by dov gutterman
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by Ivan Sache, 24 April 2001


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At the end of the First World War there were plans to create Baltic Duchy on the lands of Estonia and Latvia. This had to be governed by Baltic Germans and would be in personal union with Germany. Head of the state would have been duke of Mecklenburg - Adolf Friedrich . On 5 November, 1918 temporary government under regent-council was created to prime the declaration of duchy. But with the beginning of revolution in Germany plans were stopped. 25 December regent-council stopped the action.
Source: Estonian Encyclopedia
Erki Kurrikoff, 14 April 2001

So this would have been a duchy within the German Empire, am I right? Like all other duchies, principalities, kingdoms etc. in Germany at the time, and with Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg as duke but not as sovereign but under the German emperor? This is how I interprete the use of the term "personal union" in this context, because otherwise it would have been a personal union with Mecklenburg.
Would the borders of this duchy perhaps have had the same borders as the old province of Livonia? Livonia still had its traditional borders in the pre-WWI Russia and its arms is now present in the state arms of Latvia (the griffin in the arms).
Elias Granqvist, 24 April 2001

This thing is also little bit described in Courland page. Subjects of this project was all former territories of Livonian ordem: Courland, Livland and Estland - three gouvernorates in Russia. Also declaration in 11.5.1918 is not so serious event because in 1918 in Baltic was no real power to support this project. Real strength have Bermont-Avalov (supporting Russian monarchy), Red Army and joint Estonian-Latvian troops.
Gvido Petersons, 24 April 2001

This was probably something planned to be created following the new border of Russia set in the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk, according to which Russia would lose the Baltic countries. The date should perhaps be 5 November 1917 instead of 1918? (Gvido writes 11 May 1918)
Elias Granqvist, 24 April 2001

In Flag Report 15 we can found:
Estonia April 1918 - The Balto-German party, leaded by Baron Dellingshansen, did not recognize the government proclaimed on 24 February 1918 and called the German troops, that occupied the country (March - April 1918). The Germans established a military occupation regime that lasted eight months. During this time they projected to establish a Baltic Duchy under the rule of a German prince, member of the Confederation. Due to the war, the project never came into existence, and no flag represented the hypothetical duchy.
In Latvia April 1918 - After the failure of the Russian front, the German lords of Curlandia, who were a powerful military force in the region, and were collaborating with the German forces that occupied the territory, helped the German army to occupy the rest of the country (March 1918), where Germany established a military occupation regime. The German lords requested the restoration of the Duchy of Curlandia. The colors of Curlandia were red and white. All Latvia occupied by the Germans (April), during the subsequent regime of military occupation it was accomplished the project of including the region in a Baltic Kingdom that also encompassed Curlandia and Estonia. For this hypothetical Duchy there is no known flag (or rather flag project).
an for Lithuania: The territory of Lithuania remained occupied by German forces during most of the war. There existed a flag in the Smaller Lithuania (Region of Memel) with the colors green, white and red (casually the Hungarian colors reverted). These colors were also those of a Konigsberg-based Lithuanian students association since 1829 and other in Tilsit since 1885. The Lithuanians of Russia also adopted this flag during World War I. Togheter with this flag, Jonas Basanavicius proposed to readopt the traditional flag, red with the white knight. In the Conference of San Petersburgo of 1917 Adomas Varnas proposed a variation in the knight who would be endowed with a torch, and with blue background (perhaps derived from an ancient military flag). The Lithuanian National Council was created in September under the control of the Allies and with very little influence in the country. As the Lithuanians were using various flags and no one had yet prevailed as the national one, the Council adopted de facto a flag green over red. On 11 December 1917 the Lithuanian National Council proclaimed the independence of the country, but the German troops were still there. In February 1918 Germany allowed the proclamation of independence from Russia but kept the occupation regime. A special commission ruled that the colors of Lithuania would be yellow, green and red. It was approved on 19 April 1918. Initially the shade of red and green was very dark, later to turn to a medium shade. In May 1918, after the peace with Russia (Brest-Litovsk) this country resigned its rights on the region. Germany agreed to recognize the independence of Lithuania provided that its government would be satisfactory for the German interest. In July 1918 Germany proposed the creation of an independent Lithuanian state, in the form of a Kingdom, that would be in perpetual alliance with the German Empire. There were negotiations with prince William of Urach (of the royal dynasty of Wuttemberg) to be offererd the crown (July) but the pressures of the annexionist groups made the attempt to fail. In November, the German defeat supposed the end of the project. The Lithuanian National Council, supported by the Entente, took the power and established a Constitution in November 1918. on 11 November 1918 the national flag was hoisted. No flag different from the one adopted by the National Council was designed for the hypothetical Kingdom of Lithuania.
According this:
Flag posted must be a proposal. It's unknow for the Flag Report article authors (Jahwlanski, Deriabin and Dobriazko), never was published in any Bulletin, and before publication of the article Michel Lupant and Lucien Philippe were asked for a possible flag, and both answered that they dont know any proposed flag for this proposed Duchy.
Before was a project of creation of a Kingdom of Lithuania under a Wuttemberg family king. Lithuania was occupated c. 1915-1918 by Germans
Jaume Olle', 25 April 2001

from <www.heraldica.org>:
"In 1918 the reigning prince was Albert I, only child of Charles III. Albert's only child Louis (1870-1949) remained unmarried, and the next of kin was the duke of Urach, a German prince (though born and raised in Monaco), through Albert's aunt Florestine. It seemed possible that Monaco would pass into German hands, and France could not accept that."
I guess that the duke of Urach is the above-mentioned William (he was a prince, but his title was duke). The Monegasque solution was to allow prince Louis to adopt his illegitimate daughter (thereby legitimizing her). This daughter, Charlotte, became the mother of prince Rainier III.
Ole Andersen, 25 April 2001

Actually there isn't much information about this in Estonian. Baltic Duchy haven't played a big part in Estonian history and most of Estonians haven't heard about it. Baltic Duchy would have consisted of old provinces of Estonia, Livonia and town of Riga. Actually the borders of Baltic provinces changed in 1917 to match with the ethnic borders. But with the beginning of German occupation the old borders was restored.
Erki Kurrikoff, 8 May 2001


by Benjamin Templer Sendall, 7 October 2002

The information I found from Latvian and other sources indicate that the Baltic Duchy was declared independent by Germany on 22nd September 1918 (Russia having relinquished its authority over most of the Baltic lands by this point - confirmed in the Treaty of Brest Litovsk). The Regency Council for the new state was established on 8th November 1918, formed from the existing United Land Council of Livonia, Estonia, Riga & Oesel and the Land Council of Courland. The Land Councils had been effectively the "political arm" of the German landowners in the Baltic provinces who, with Germany's support, wished to retain the political and economic power they had held under the Russian Empire. The Regency Council, i.e. the Baltic Duchy, functioned until 28th November 1918, albeit without international recognition, except from Germany. Interestingly, on the 8th March and 12th April of that year, both the Land Council of Courland and the Joint Land Council of Livonia, Estonia, Riga and Ísel had declared independent states, known as the Duchy of Courland and the Baltic State (Baltischer Staat), respectively. Both states proclaimed themselves to be in personal union with Prussia, although the Kaiser never responded. It is unclear whether or not the newly "merged" state was actually called the Baltic Duchy or retained the name of its largest predecessor, the Baltic State. The new state was to be a confederation of 7 cantons: Estonia, Courland, Lettgallia, North Livonia, Ísel, Riga and South Livonia.
The situation thereafter becomes confused with the nationalist Latvian People's Council (having declared Latvia's independence on 18th November 1918) vying for power with the Latvian Conciliar / Socialist Soviet Republic (declared on 17th December 1918; recognized by the USSR on 22nd December 1918). The Soviet-backed regime was expelled from Riga (and effectively Latvia) by May of 1919. However, the German landowners were not a spent force and their militia, the Landeswehr was able to launch a successful attack on Liejpa in April of 1919 and stage a coup d'etat against the Latvian nationalist government of  President Ulmanis in Riga. This puppet-regime was headed by a Latvian, Andrievs Niedra but no one was under any doubt as to who was pulling the strings. Presumably, the aborted attempt at the founding of a Baltic Duchy, Germany's defeat and recognition of a Latvian state on 25th November 1918, had persuaded the German landowners to co-opt certain Latvians in order to retain influence. A joint force of Latvians and Estonians removed the Niedra regime after heavy fighting between 22-24th June 1919 (the "Battles of Cesis"); the German landowners organized themselves into a National Council and under a liberal leadership committed themselves to co-operation with the restored Ulmanis government.
Interestingly, the website <www.worldstatesmen.com> attributes a blue over white horizontal bicolour to the Baltic State and its merged successor.
Sources: various sources including: The Latvian Institute at <www.latinst.lv> and <www.worldstatesmen.com>.
Benjamin Templer Sendall, 7 October 2002






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