The Baltic states, or Baltic countries, is a term which usually refers to three countries to the East of the Baltic Sea: Baltic Republics refers to the same territories under Soviet occupation.
Prior to World War II, Finland was sometimes considered as the fourth Baltic state, particularly by the Soviet Union. For example in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Nazi-Germany conceded to mention Finland as one of the Baltic States. Since the 1920s-1930s, the Finnish view, that Finland is one of the Nordic countries, has become generally accepted.
Despite the common name, some people point out, that Baltic countries have little in common. Estonia wants to become yet another Nordic country, Lithuania highlights its connection to Poland and Central Europe.
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5 See also:
The Baltic countries are often considered belonging to Eastern Europe due to five decades of Soviet occupation following the second world war. But they have been influenced mainly by Sweden, Russia, Poland and Germany. Culturally and geographically they belong to Northern Europe. A compromise terminology for the Baltic States is Northeastern Europe.
The term Baltic states differs from the term Baltic sea countries which refers to the countries bordering the Baltic.
The common history of the Baltic States starts when the Sword Brethren brought Christianity and feudalism to the region. After that these countries have been a battlefield of Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia and Germany.
The Baltic States gained their independence in the aftermath of World War I.
In the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Nazi Germany allowed the Soviet Union to annex (most of) the Baltic States. A short period of Soviet occupation was followed by a German invasion, and at the end of the war, again a Soviet invasion. After World War II, the Baltic States were once again annexed by the Soviet Union.
Following the period of occupation by Soviet forces which lasted from the end of the second world war until the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991, the three Baltic states declared their independence in 1989 and 1990 and their independence was recognized by the Soviet Union on September 6, 1991.
Instead of declaring themselves as new states, they are in fact a re-establishment of the pre-war republics that had existed between the first and second world wars. This further emphasized the statement that Soviet domination during the Cold War period as an illegal occupation. The Baltic states are today liberal democracies, parliamentary republic, and quickly growing market economies.
The Baltic states did in 2002 achieve the opportunity to realize a long standing political goal, integration with Western Europe. The main political objective since their independence from the Soviet Union, more than a decade ago has been to gain rights of membership to both the European Union and NATO. Membership in the EU is scheduled for May 2004 pending the outcome of the referendums to be held in the candidate countries.
Although the three nations have much in common in their history and culture they belong to two distinct language families.
They also belonged to 2 different religions:
Due to a long period of Germanic domination, starting in middle ages, a large part of the old generation still speak German as a second language. The Baltic states has historically also been under Swedish and Russian spheres of influence. Following the period of Soviet domination, ethnic Russians today make up a sizable minority in the Baltic states.