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THE LETTS

1. Russland, Polen und Livland bis ins 17. Jhrdt. Von THEODOR

SCHIEMANN. Berlin. 1886–1887. 2. Gutsherr und Bauer in Livland im 17. u. 18. Jhrdt. Von A. V.

TRANSCHE-ROSENECK. Strassburg. 1890. 3. Latvju Dainas. Edited by KR. BARONS and H. WISSENDORFF.

Mitau and Petrograd. 1894, in progress. (In Lettish.) 4. Livländische Geschichte. Von ERNST SERAPHIM. Reval.

1897-1904 5. Die Lettische Revolution. Berlin. 1906–1907. 6. Baltische Landeskunde. Von K. R. KUPFFER. Riga. 1911. 7. Die Agrargesetzgebung Livlands im 19. Jhrdt. Von A. TOBIEN•

Riga. 1899–1911. 8. Die Baltenländer u. Litauen. Von Otto KESSLER. Berlin.

1916. 9. Esthonians and Letts. Edited by M. REUSSNER. Moscow.

1916. (In Russian.)

T ERY little had been heard in England about the Letts

V before 1915. It was towards the end of that year that they began to be mentioned frequently in dispatches. The splendid Lettish Rifle Battalions, recruited and officered exclusively from the race whose name they bear, have brought into prominence a people who have too often been confounded with the Lithuanians. These volunteer battalions have recalled by their prowess and deeds of valour the legendary heroism of their ancestors, and have deservedly been praised by the Russian General Staff. It is important that the western public of Europe, when reading of the achievements of these descendants of generations of fighters, should learn to distinguish between them and the Lithuanians.

The Letts are Aryans. Their language is Indo-European, and constitutes, with the Lithuanian and Old Prussian, the Baltic family. Only two living languages belonging to this family have been handed down-the Lithuanian and the Lettish. The Old Prussians are' Germanised 'in their language, and the Germans have robbed them of all, even of their name, and have covered it with shame before mankind. However, the memory of the glory of the Old Prussians has not died in the hearts of the sons of the Old Prussian stock, and many manifestations show that the soul of this race is still alive, that their consciousness has awakened, and that they have nothing in common with the Germans. In 1837 Pott demonstrated that the Letto-Lithuanic languages form an independent group—the Baltic family—which should be placed next to the Slavonic and Germanic families in regard to independence, and in front of them in regard to antiquity. Later philologists, without exception, have confirmed this view. A. Meillet, for instance, confirms the simple truth that no Slav could understand a word of Lettish or Lithuanian. Nevertheless, certain politicians have not hesitated to proclaim the Letts and the Lithuanians to be Slavs.

The Letts inhabit at present the southern part of Livonia (Vidzeme-Midland) : for instance, the districts of Riga, Wenden (Cēsis), Wolmar (Valmeera) and Walk (Valka), all Courland (Kurzeme), a small border in the provinces of Pskov and Kovno, and three districts of the province of Vitebsk (Daugavpils, Ludze, Rēzekne), and also the Baltic coast-land Prussia. The Letts are, moreover, scattered throughout in Russia. They are found in the provinces of Novgorod, Moghilev, Kuban, as well as in the two capitals, Moscow and Petrograd. Large numbers of Letts live in foreign countries, principally in the United States and in Brazil. In normal times Lettish emigration has always been considerable, but the Revolution of 1905 gave it an additional impetus.

It is very difficult to give an approximately accurate estimate of Lettish population, because official statistics frequently reckon Letts as Russians, Poles, or Germans, and because very many live abroad. The most moderate estimate gives their number at a little over 2,000,000, of whom some 1,500,000 are Protestants, nearly 500,000 Roman Catholics, and about 150,000 Greek Catholics. In Livonia there are, according to the official estimates of 1907, 624,000 Letts ; in Courland 560,000 ; in the province of Vitebsk 320,000 ; in the province of Pskov 13,000 ; in the province of Kovno 30,000 ; in Petrograd and Moscow about 20,000 each.

Several types are found in the Lettish nation; but the fundamental difference between the Letts on the one side, and Russians or Germans on the other, is clearly defined. The fair race of the North holds the most prominent place, and is represented by 30 per cent. of the population; whilst in Russia proper this fair race is represented by but 7 per cent., and in Northern Germany by 20 per cent., Southern Germany possessing no more than 3 per cent. We could also cite passages from the well-known ethnologists, Vacher de Lapouge and Latham, in corroboration of this statement. Latham shows that the Letts, Scandinavians, and English are the most Aryan of the races of Europe. The great fair dolichocephalic race, alluded to above, is closely followed by cross-breeds of various degrees and in a rapidly diminishing progression—the pure brachycephalic being extremely rare. Generally, the pure dolichocephalic type is also the oldest and the most Lettish. Of this type Latham (1854) wrote:

*The extent to which the Letts and Lithuanians are, at the present moment, fragments of larger populations, is seen from the history of the Prussians and the Yatwings; for the Prussians and the Yatwings were populations of comparative importance, I hold, however, as the result of a considerable amount of neither impatient nor one-sided investigation, that all the acts of all the Old Prussians, and all the acts of all the Yatwings, put together are as nothing to the prehistoric actions of certain earlier members of this important and interesting stock.'

Latham further maintained that they were the first conquerors in the East, and the first seafarers in the North.

History finds the Letts in their present country, namely, Livonia, Courland, and Latgale (the Lettish part of the province of Vitebsk), in the sixth to the eighth centuries, in developed organisations. The German Knights, who conquered the country in the twelfth century, fell upon the Letts when peacefully engaged in agriculture, cattle-breeding, bee-keeping, etc. They did not live in villages, but on separate farms. They were nevertheless keen soldiers and versed in the military arts, traded with other countries and had their own fleet. Their political institutions were as far advanced as those of any of their neighbours, and they had lords and rulers of their own.

After the conquest of the country by the Germans, many of the Lettish nobility were ' Germanised,' and a great number were received into the German aristocracy ; but the majority

of the Letts were little by little ground down to a peasant class, and for many centuries ' peasant' and 'Lett' were identical terms. Bishop Albert, the founder of the Brotherhood of the Sword, introduced the feudal system, by bestowing land on his vassals. In the thirteenth century the Lettish peasants were still free and owners of their land, but in the fourteenth century they had already become the serfs of the feudal lords. The country was described, in the sixteenth century, by Russov as ' a Heaven for the priests, a paradise . for the lords, a gold-mine for the traders, and a hell for the 'peasants.'

Under the Lithuanian Polish rule, the condition of the serfs was not improved. In 1562 King Sigismund Augustus issued his edict conferring privileges on the Baltic nobility and making the peasants the absolute property of their lords.

The conversion of the Letts to Christianity took place towards the end of the twelfth century. A Papal Bull, declaring the urgency of a crusade against the Baltic pagans, was borne from town to town throughout Friesland by a priest named Meinhardt, who journeyed to Livonia and founded a Christian colony on the banks of the Dvina. The severity of the Lettish winter drove the colonists southward, but in 1202 a permanent settlement was effected. In that year, Albert, a young priest of Bremen, and nephew of the Archbishop of that city, set sail from Lübeck, accompanied by twenty-three other vessels. Having landed at the mouth of the Dvina, he established his following on the site of the early colony, and became the Bishop and also the Governor of Riga. Bishop Albert was a man of strong character. His city grew rapidly rich and important, and with the consent of the Pope he founded the Brotherhood of the Sword. It seems that the Christian faith was not entirely unknown to the Letts even before this crusade, having been previously introduced by the Russians. Many Russian words for religious ceremonies still exist in Lettish. Efforts had also been made as early as 870 by the Swedes and in 1048 by the Danes, but no real success had been achieved until the Germans came. ' $

The establishment of the Catholic Church was consolidated by Bishop Albert, the country being dedicated by him to the Virgin Mary, and ever after the Papacy strove to create a distinct papal power in Riga. It was never strong enough

fully to carry out this purpose, but it succeeded in limiting the authority of the Empire and in preventing Lübeck and Bremen from laying hands on this northern port. In 1221 Riga received its own constitution. In 1245 it became the seat of the Archbishop of the Baltic lands, and in 1282 joined the Hanseatic League, and was everywhere recognised as a powerful city.

Down to the period of the Reformation the history of Livonia and Courland is a long succession of struggles between the Teutonic Knights allied with the Brotherhood of the Sword on the one hand, and the ruling bishops or the Hanseatic League on the other. In 1523 Luther wrote his letter to the Christians in Livonia. The towns and the nobility (vassals of the Teutonic Order and the Church) received the Reformation with enthusiasm, seeing in it a means for their political betterment. At that time the Teutonic Order was ruled by a famous opponent of the Reformation, Count Plettenberg ; but the power of the Order was already on the wane. Count Plettenberg was compelled to recognise the rights of protestant Riga, and, shortly after his death in 1561, the Order was abolished.

Then for a brief period Courland was an independent duchy under the protection of Lithuania-Poland. The most remarkable of its dukes was James, an adventurous spirit whose fame spread to England in the reign of Charles II. He made commercial treaties with England; he even agreed to assist the King with his feet, and lent him money, which was never repaid. His ships sailed to Africa and the West Indies, where his sailors founded colonies. The island of Tobago was formally granted to the Duke of Courland, his heirs and successors, on certain conditions : 'one of which was that he 'suffered none but his own or the King's subjects to settle 'on the island.' The sole trace of the Lettish occupation of Tobago is to be found in the nomenclature of the Bay of Courland. There is sufficient evidence to show that the Letts were no mean seamen during the seventeenth century.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Russia took possession of the provinces of Esthonia and Livonia, and at the end of that century she acquired Courland, appointing a Governor of Riga. The ancient fortress of the Livonian SwordBrotherhood is now restored as a palace; side by side with the

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