Baltic States

The term "Baltic States" stands for a group of countries in Eastern Europe near the Russian border along the coastline of the Baltic Sea. These include from North to South: Estonia (1.340.021 inhabitants, as of October 2010), capital: Tallinn. – Latvia (2.245.800 inhabitants, as of January 2010), capital: Riga. – Lithuania (2.981.275 inhabitants, as of December 2012), capital: Vilnius.
“Baltic” defines a geographical region, while “Baltic States” is a political term which encompasses three independent States of different historical and ethnical context. Latvian and Lithuanian belong to the Baltic language group, while Estonians are Finno-Ugric people who therefore relate historically as well as in language to the Finns. From medieval times until the end of World War I economic and social life, particularly in the historical regions of Livland and Kurland (today parts of Estonia and Latvia), was dominated by a German speaking upper class.
The Baltic States had achieved independence from the Russian Empire during World War I. However, as a result of the Molotov-Rippentrop-Pact, they were, again occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. 1939/40 Baltic Germans left the countries of the Baltic States under the “Heim ins Reich” programme, first to settle in Posen (Posznan, Poland) and later in other parts of Nazi Germany. After the break-up of the Soviet Empire, the Baltic States in 1990 declared their independence. 2004 they joined the NATO.