What is the cause of the hostility between Russia and the Baltic states?

  • 1
    The hostilitiy dates from mid 19th century where Lettons, Lithuanians, etc... were persecuted under Tsar Alexander III. This is the same relationship there is between a persecutor/majority and a persecutee/minority anywhere in eastern Europe. – Bregalad May 29 '16 at 20:47
  • 1
    Welcome to the site; you may wish to revise your question to indicate that you've done preliminary research as shown in How to Ask. Questions that ask for confirmation of a hypothesis ("is it the Stalinist purges..") and are not backed up by research, are frequently closed. I'm going to edit out the hypothesis in the hopes of keeping the question open. – Mark C. Wallace May 29 '16 at 21:01
  • 2
    The reason is the same as for the hostility between Russia and Ukraine, Russia and Poland, Finland, China, Japan, etc. Russia with all its neighbors. During all its history Russia was trying to expand in all directions by absorbing its neighbors. – Alex May 30 '16 at 17:25
  • 1
    After WW2 Russia forcibly annexed the Baltic states and stole their resources for many decades. – TheMathemagician Jun 1 '16 at 12:34

It's nothing the Baltic states did. They were caught between a paranoid and a land-hungry bully.

The Baltic states had the misfortune to be caught between two of the largest belligerents of WWII, the Soviet Union and Germany. In an attempt to buy time, in August 1939 the USSR and Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact to split up Eastern Europe into spheres of influence giving each side a buffer zone against the other. Shortly after they signed the German-Soviet Frontier Treaty to make some modifications.

enter image description here


The Germans wanted Lebensraum. The Soviets wanted a buffer zone against the inevitable German invasion. The Baltic states wanted to retain their independence.

The Soviets didn't believe the Baltic states would be able to resist a German invasion, or thought they'd ally with the Germans. The Baltic states didn't believe their independence would survive a military pact with the Soviets. Unfortunately, that was all true.

Shortly after the invasion of Poland, the Soviets accused the Baltics of not actually being neutral and demanded they sign "Mutual Assistance Treaties" (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) which theoretically protected the Baltic states, but just allowed the Soviets to establish military bases on Baltic soil which they would then use in June 1940 to take over those countries.

They tried the same thing with Finland fearing the Finns would either ally with Germany or the Germans would simply bowl them over as they did other neutral countries. Not being boxed in, and assuming the Swedes and Western Allies would come to their aid, the Finns politely rejected the offer recognizing it would lead to the loss of their sovereignty. The Soviets, suspecting Finland had already allied with Germany, trumped up a bunch of charges and invaded in winter of 1939 starting the disastrous Russo-Finnish Winter War.

The humiliating defeat for the Finns led to them becoming co-belligerents (not really allies, just fighting against the same enemy) with the Germans to recapture territory lost in the Winter War, exactly what the Soviets feared. This was known as the Continuation War.

In the end, only Finland kept their sovereignty.

  • Nice. I would also find worth to mention the fact that the SU invasion of 1940 lead to a wave of purges, followed by the fact that when Germany conquered the territories there were attempts to restablish the Baltic states governments while under German control, and those governments sided with Germany (it is just to mention they had little option) and SS troops were recruited, all of which aided to further reprisals when the SU expelled the Nazis... very muddy affair. – SJuan76 May 29 '16 at 21:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.