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Transformation: The Baltics

The Crusaders

The Baltic Crusades of 11th to 15th century formed the transformation of the Baltic region from pagan farming peasants paying tribute to which Lord prevailed to rule them, to the Christianized, market-oriental, foundation of modern Baltic society.

The rise and fall of the knighthood became indicative of the changes that occurred.  The knighthood institution represented Medieval European values, and the incursion of knightly orders into the Baltic countries, despite strong resistance from pagan people.  The Germans and Scandinavians who played their part in the Baltic Crusades, left critical political and social footprints, that affected historical Baltic events, that would evolve into the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The Baltic Crusades; part of the Catholic crusading movement comprised of five main Crusades that took place between 1096 and 1221.  The Crusades; armed pilgrimages called for and blessed by the Pope, its main aim to reclaim Jerusalem and surrounding territory.  The enemies of Crusaders in the Holy Land were primarily followers of Islam.  In the 12th century, the balance of power shifted, the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople and the seat of the Christian Byzantine Empire attracted Crusader interest.  In the Baltic Crusades in Europe, motivation was more about acquisition of land and power rather than holiness.  An incentive put forward to these Crusaders by the Pope, was eternal salvation.

Crusader success in the conversion to Catholicism was much higher in the Baltic Crusades.  By the 13th century, all but the Lithuanians had converted to Catholicism.

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