Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, known as the Fall of Berlin, was one of the last major offensives of the European theatre of World War II. Following the Vistula–Oder Offensive of January–February 1945, the Red Army had temporarily halted on a line 60 km east of Berlin. On 9 March, Germany established its defence plan for the city with Operation Clausewitz; the first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were made on 20 March, under the newly appointed commander of Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici. When the Soviet offensive resumed on 16 April, two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Red Army encircled the city after successful battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. On 20 April 1945, Hitler's birthday, the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, advancing from the east and north, started shelling Berlin's city centre, while Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front broke through Army Group Centre and advanced towards the southern suburbs of Berlin.
On 23 April General Helmuth Weidling assumed command of the forces within Berlin. The garrison consisted of several depleted and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, along with poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. Over the course of the next week, the Red Army took the entire city. Before the battle was over and several of his followers killed themselves; the city's garrison surrendered on 2 May but fighting continued to the north-west and south-west of the city until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May as some German units fought westward so that they could surrender to the Western Allies rather than to the Soviets. Starting on 12 January 1945, the Red Army began the Vistula–Oder Offensive across the Narew River. On the fourth day, the Red Army broke out and started moving west, up to 30 to 40 km per day, taking East Prussia and Poznań, drawing up on a line 60 km east of Berlin along the Oder River; the newly created Army Group Vistula, under the command of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, attempted a counter-attack, but this had failed by 24 February.
The Red Army drove on to Pomerania, clearing the right bank of the Oder River, thereby reaching into Silesia. In the south the Siege of Budapest raged. Three German divisions' attempts to relieve the encircled Hungarian capital city failed, Budapest fell to the Soviets on 13 February. Adolf Hitler insisted on a counter-attack to recapture the Drau-Danube triangle; the goal was to secure the oil region of Nagykanizsa and regain the Danube River for future operations, but the depleted German forces had been given an impossible task. By 16 March, the German Lake Balaton Offensive had failed, a counter-attack by the Red Army took back in 24 hours everything the Germans had taken ten days to gain. On 30 March, the Soviets entered Austria. Between June and September 1944, the Wehrmacht had lost more than a million men, it lacked the fuel and armaments needed to operate effectively. On 12 April 1945, who had earlier decided to remain in the city against the wishes of his advisers, heard the news that the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died.
This raised false hopes in the Führerbunker that there might yet be a falling out among the Allies and that Berlin would be saved at the last moment, as had happened once before when Berlin was threatened. No plans were made by the Western Allies to seize the city by a ground operation; the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, General Eisenhower lost interest in the race to Berlin and saw no further need to suffer casualties by attacking a city that would be in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war, envisioning excessive friendly fire if both armies attempted to occupy the city at once. The major Western Allied contribution to the battle was the bombing of Berlin during 1945. During 1945 the United States Army Air Forces launched large daytime raids on Berlin and for 36 nights in succession, scores of RAF Mosquitos bombed the German capital, ending on the night of 20/21 April 1945 just before the Soviets entered the city; the Soviet offensive into central Germany, what became East Germany, had two objectives.
Stalin did not believe the Western Allies would hand over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet zone, so he began the offensive on a broad front and moved to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the overriding objective was to capture Berlin; the two goals were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won unless Berlin were taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held useful post-war strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and the German atomic bomb programme. On 6 March, Hitler appointed Lieutenant General Helmuth Reymann commander of the Berlin Defence Area, replacing Lieutenant General Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild. On 20 March, General Gotthard Heinrici was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula replacing Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Heinrici was one of the best defensive tacticians in the German army, he started to lay defensive plans. Heinrici assessed that the main Soviet thrust would be made over the Oder River and along the main east-west Autobahn.
He decided not to try to defend the banks of the Oder with anything more than a light skirmishing screen. Instead, Heinrici arranged for engineers
Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus, situated on the Svislač and the Nyamiha Rivers. As the national capital, Minsk has a special administrative status in Belarus and is the administrative centre of Minsk Region and Minsk District; the population in January 2018 was 1,982,444. Minsk is the administrative capital of the Commonwealth of Independent States and seat of its Executive Secretary; the earliest historical references to Minsk date to the 11th century, when it was noted as a provincial city within the Principality of Polotsk. The settlement developed on the rivers. In 1242, Minsk became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it received town privileges in 1499. From 1569, it was a capital of the Minsk Voivodeship, in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, it was part of a region annexed by the Russian Empire in 1793, as a consequence of the Second Partition of Poland. From 1919 to 1991, after the Russian Revolution, Minsk was the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, in the Soviet Union.
Minsk will host the 2019 European Games. The Old East Slavic name of the town was Мѣньскъ; the direct continuation of this name in Belarusian is Miensk. The resulting form of the name, was taken over both in Russian and Polish, under the influence of Russian it became official in Belarusian. However, some Belarusian-speakers continue to use Miensk as their preferred name for the city; when Belarus was under Polish rule, the names Mińsk Litewski'Minsk of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania' and Mińsk Białoruski'Minsk in Belarus' were used to differentiate this place name from Mińsk Mazowiecki'Minsk in Masovia'. In modern Polish, Mińsk without an attribute refers to the city in Belarus, about 50 times bigger than Mińsk Mazowiecki; the area of today's Minsk was settled by the Early East Slavs by the 9th century AD. The Svislach River valley was the settlement boundary between two Early East Slav tribes – the Krivichs and Dregovichs. By 980, the area was incorporated into the early medieval Principality of Polotsk, one of the earliest East Slav principalities of Old Rus' state.
Minsk was first mentioned in the name form Měneskъ in the Primary Chronicle for the year 1067 in association with the Battle on the River Nemiga. 1067 is now accepted as the founding year of Minsk. City authorities consider the date of 3 March 1067, to be the exact founding date of the city, though the town had existed for some time by then; the origin of the name is unknown but there are several theories. In the early 12th century, the Principality of Polotsk disintegrated into smaller fiefs; the Principality of Minsk was established by one of the Polotsk dynasty princes. In 1129, the Principality of Minsk was annexed by the dominant principality of Kievan Rus. By 1150, Minsk rivaled Polotsk as the major city in the former Principality of Polotsk; the princes of Minsk and Polotsk were engaged in years of struggle trying to unite all lands under the rule of Polotsk. Minsk escaped the Mongol invasion of Rus in 1237–1239. In 1242, Minsk became a part of the expanding Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it joined peacefully and local elites enjoyed high rank in the society of the Grand Duchy.
In 1413, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland entered into a union. Minsk became the centre of Minsk Voivodship. In 1441, the Polish-Lithuanian prince and future king Casimir IV included Minsk in a list of cities enjoying certain privileges, in 1499, during the reign of his son, Alexander I Jagiellon, Minsk received town privileges under Magdeburg law. In 1569, after the Union of Lublin, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland merged into a single state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Afterwards, a Polish community including government clerks and craftsmen settled in Minsk. By the middle of the 16th century, Minsk was an important economic and cultural centre in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, it was an important centre for the Eastern Orthodox Church. Following the Union of Brest, both the Uniate church and the Roman Catholic Church increased in influence. In 1655, Minsk was conquered by troops of Tsar Alexei of Russia. Russians governed the city until 1660 when it was regained by King of Poland.
By the end of the Polish-Russian War, Minsk had just 300 houses. The second wave of devastation occurred during the Great Northern War, when Minsk was occupied in 1708 and 1709 by the army of Charles XII of Sweden and by the army of Peter the Great; the last decades of the Polish rule involved decline or slow development, since Minsk had become a small provincial town of little economic or military significance. Minsk was annexed by Russia in 1793 as a consequence of the Second Partition of Poland. In 1796, it became the centre of the Minsk Governorate. All of the initial street names were replaced by Russian names, though the spelling of the city's name remained unchanged, it was occupied by the Grande Armée during French invasion of Russia in 1812. Throughout the 19th century, the city continued to grow and improve. In the 1830s, major streets and squares of Minsk were paved. A first public library was opened in 1836, a fire brigade was put into operation in 1837. In 1838, the first
The Vistula is the longest and largest river in Poland and the 9th longest river in Europe, at 1,047 kilometres in length. The drainage basin area of the Vistula is 193,960 km2; the remainder is in Belarus and Slovakia. The Vistula rises at Barania Góra in the south of Poland, 1,220 meters above sea level in the Silesian Beskids, where it begins with the White Little Vistula and the Black Little Vistula, it flows over the biggest cities including Kraków, Warsaw, Płock, Włocławek, Toruń, Bydgoszcz, Świecie, Grudziądz, Tczew and Gdańsk. It empties into the Vistula Lagoon or directly into the Gdańsk Bay of the Baltic Sea with a delta and several branches; the name was first recorded by Pliny in AD 77 in his Natural History. Mela names the river Vistula, Pliny uses Vistla; the root of the name Vistula is Indo-European *u̯eis-'to ooze, flow slowly' and is found in many European rivernames. The diminutive endings -ila, -ula, were used in many Indo-European languages, including Latin. In writing about the Vistula River and its peoples, Ptolemy uses the Greek spelling Ouistoula.
Other ancient sources spell it Istula. Ammianus Marcellinus refers to the Bisula. Jordanes uses Viscla. 12th-century Polish chronicler Wincenty Kadłubek Latinised the rivername as Vandalus, a form influenced by Lithuanian vanduõ'water', while Jan Długosz in his Annales seu cronicae incliti regni Poloniae called the Vistula'white waters' referring to the White Little Vistula: "a nationibus orientalibus Polonis vicinis, ob aquae candorem Alba aqua... nominatur." Over the course of history the river possessed several names in different languages such as Low German: Wießel, Dutch: Wijsel, Yiddish: ווייסל Yiddish pronunciation: and Russian: Висла. The Vistula river is formed in the southern Silesian Voivodeship of Poland from two sources, the Czarna Wisełka at an altitude of 1,107 m and the Biała Wisełka at an altitude of 1,080 m on the western slope of Barania Góra in the Silesian Beskids; the Vistula can be divided into three parts: upper, from its sources to Sandomierz. The Vistula river basin covers 194,424 square kilometres.
In addition, the majority of its river basin is 100 to 200 m above sea level. The highest point of the river basin is at 2,655 metres. One of the features of the river basin of the Vistula is its asymmetry—in great measure resulting from the tilting direction of the Central European Lowland toward the northwest, the direction of the flow of glacial waters, considerable predisposition of its older base; the asymmetry of the river basin is 73–27%. The most recent glaciation of the Pleistocene epoch, which ended around 10,000 BC, is called the Vistulian glaciation or Weichselian glaciation in regard to north-central Europe; the river forms. The delta starts around Biała Góra near Sztum, about 50 km from the mouth, where the river Nogat splits off; the Nogat starts separately as a river named Alte Nogat south of Marienwerder, but further north it picks up water from a crosslink with the Vistula, becomes a distributary of the Vistula, flowing away northeast into the Vistula Lagoon with a small delta.
The Nogat formed part of the border between interwar Poland. The other channel of the Vistula below this point is sometimes called the Leniwka. Various causes have caused many severe floods of the Vistula down the centuries. Land in the area was sometimes depopulated by severe flooding, had to be resettled. See for a reconstruction map of the delta area as it was around year 1300: note much more water in the area, the west end of the Vistula Lagoon was bigger, nearly continuous with the Drausen See; as with some aggrading rivers, the lower Vistula has been subject to channel changing. Near the sea, the Vistula was diverted sideways by coastal sand as a result of longshore drift and split into an east-flowing branch and a west-flowing branch; until the 14th century, the Elbing Vistula was the bigger. 1242: The Stara Wisła cut an outlet to the sea through the barrier near Mikoszewo where the Vistula Cut is now. 1371: The Danzig Vistula became bigger than the Elbing Vistula. 1540 and 1543: Huge floods depopulated the delta area, afterwards the land was resettled by Mennonite Germans, economic development followed.
1553: By a plan made by Da
East Pomeranian Offensive
The East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive operation was an offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. It took place in Pomerania and West Prussia from 10 February – 4 April 1945; the operation happened in four phases: Konitz-Köslin Offensive Operation 24 February – 6 March 1945 Danzig Offensive Operation 7–31 March 1945 Arnswalde-Kolberg Offensive Operation 1–18 March 1945 Altdamm Offensive Operation 18 March – 4 April 1945 It was the East Pomeranian Offensive that prevented Zhukov from reaching Berlin in February, since it became a priority to clear German forces from Pomerania first. The 2nd Belorussian Front—under Konstantin Rokossovsky—had been tasked with advancing westward north of the Vistula River toward Pomerania and the major port city of Danzig, with the primary aim of protecting the right flank of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front, pushing towards Berlin. During the East Prussian Offensive, Rokossovsky was ordered to wheel directly north toward Elbing.
This left substantial German forces intact in Pomerania, where they threatened the right flank of Zhukov's formations. As a result, once the initial phase of the East Prussian Offensive was over, the 2nd Belorussian Front was redeployed with the intention of attacking westwards into Pomerania, eliminating the possibility of a German counter-offensive; the need to secure the flanks delayed the Soviets' final push towards Berlin, planned for February, until April. Joseph Stalin's decision to delay the push toward Berlin from February to April has been a subject of some controversy among both the Soviet generals and military historians, with one side arguing that the Soviets had a chance of securing Berlin much quicker and with much lower losses in February, the other arguing that the danger of leaving large German formations on the flanks could have resulted in a successful German counter-attack and prolonged the war further: the Germans did in fact mount a surprise counter-attack in Pomerania in mid-February, Operation Solstice.
The delay did, allow the Soviets to occupy significant parts of Austria in the Vienna Offensive. As early as 13 February, German intelligence services had deduced that the Soviets would seek to clear Pomerania before advancing on Berlin; the 2nd Army—defending a large and exposed sector running through Pomerania eastward toward the edge of East Prussia at Elbing — sought permission to withdraw, but this was denied by Adolf Hitler. Graudenz, on the Vistula, was surrounded on 18 February. Army Group Vistula 2nd Army XXXXVI Panzer Corps VII Panzer Corps XXVII Panzer Corps XXIII Corps XVIII Mountain Corps Fortress garrisons of Graudenz and Danzig Eastern flank of 3rd Panzer Army III SS Panzer Corps X SS CorpsThe corps of the Second Army were understrength by this time, being composed of fragmentary or ad hoc units; the 3rd Panzer Army had been rebuilt using the korps of the formed 11th SS Panzer Army, the original formation having been destroyed in Lithuania and East Prussia, where its remnants were now defending Königsberg.
2nd Belorussian Front Eastern flank of 1st Belorussian Front 3rd Shock Army 1st Guards Tank Army 2nd Guards Tank Army Rokossovsky opened the offensive on 24 February using the fresh troops of Kozlov's 19th Army, but after an initial advance of some 20 km they were halted by intense German resistance. On 26 February, he inserted the 3rd Guards Tank Corps east of Neustettin, where they achieved a penetration of 40 km, relieved Kozlov of command; the 3rd Guards Tank Corps broke through at Baldenburg, while Neustettin on the Front's left flank fell to the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps on 27 February. Weiß had hurriedly assembled the VII Panzer Corps, including the remnants of the 7th Panzer Division, at Rummelsburg to threaten 19th Army's flank. However, after a Soviet breakthrough at Köslin on 2 March, the 2nd Army found itself cut off from the rest of its Army Group. Zhukov's right wing—a grouping of the 3rd Shock Army and 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies—went over to the offensive on 1 March, striking northward with the main force concentrated at Reetz.
The entire left wing of 3rd Panzer Army was cut off by their breakthrough, after Guderian refused Raus' request for withdrawal. On 4 March, forward Soviet tank units reached the Baltic, the German forces in Pomerania were trapped in a series of encirclements; the 2nd Army began to fall back on the Danzig fortified area, while the X SS Corps of the 3rd Panzer Army had been surrounded at Dramburg. Rokossovksy opened the second phase of his offensive on March 6; the 2nd Shock Army threatened to cut off the defending forces in the fortress of Marienburg, evacuated two days while in the east Elbing fell on 10 March. The defence of Marienburg was conducted by a Kampfgruppe under the nominal control of the staff of the 7th Infantry Division, including marine, SS and other units. Weiß, having warned that the Elbing pocket could not be held, was relieved of command on 9 March and replaced by Dietrich von Saucken; the troops of the German 2nd Army withdrew in disarray into Danzig and Gdingen, where the 2nd Belorussian Front besieged them.
Zhukov's forces meanwhile, cleared the remainder of 3rd Panzer Army from the east bank of the lower O
Rostock is a city in the north German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Rostock is on the Warnow river. Rostock is the largest city in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as well as its only regiopolis. Rostock is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Rostock, founded in 1419; the city territory of Rostock stretches for about 20 km along the Warnow to the Baltic Sea. The largest built-up area of Rostock is on the western side of the river; the eastern part of its territory is dominated by the forested Rostock Heath. In the 11th century Polabian Slavs founded; the Danish king Valdemar I set the town on fire in 1161. Afterwards the place was settled by German traders. There were three separate cities: Altstadt around the Alter Markt, which had St. Petri, Mittelstadt around the Neuer Markt, with St. Marien and Neustadt around the Hopfenmarkt, with St. Jakobi. In 1218, Rostock was granted Lübeck law city rights by prince of Mecklenburg. During the first partition of Mecklenburg following the death of Henry Borwin II of Mecklenburg in 1226, Rostock became the seat of the Lordship of Rostock, which survived for a century.
In 1251, the city became a member of the Hanseatic League. In the 14th century it was a powerful seaport town with 12,000 inhabitants and the largest city in Mecklenburg. Ships for cruising the Baltic Sea were constructed in Rostock; the independent fishing village of Warnemünde at the Baltic Sea became a part of Rostock in 1323, to secure the city's access to the sea. In 1419, the University of Rostock was founded, the oldest university in continental northern Europe and the Baltic Sea area. At the end of the 15th century, the dukes of Mecklenburg succeeded in enforcing their rule over the town of Rostock, which had until been only nominally subject to their rule and independent, they took advantage of a riot known as a failed uprising of the impoverished population. Subsequent quarrels with the dukes and persistent plundering led to a loss of the city's economic and political power. In 1565 there were further clashes with Schwerin. Among other things, the nobility introduced a beer excise. John Albert I advanced on the city with 500 horsemen, after Rostock had refused to take the formal oath of allegiance, had the city wall razed in order to have a fortress built.
The conflict did not end until the first Rostock Inheritance Agreement of 21 September 1573, in which the state princes were guaranteed hereditary rule over the city for centuries and recognizing them as the supreme judicial authority. The citizens razed the fortress the following spring. From 1575 to 1577 the city walls were rebuilt, as was the Lagebusch tower and the Stein Gate, in the Dutch Renaissance style; the inscription sit intra te concordia et publica felicitas, can still be read on the gate, refers directly to the conflict with the Duke. In 1584 the Second Rostock Inheritance Agreement was enforced, which resulted in a further loss of former city tax privileges. At the same time, these inheritance contracts put paid to Rostock's ambition of achieving imperial immediacy, as Lübeck had done in 1226; the strategic location of Rostock provoked the envy of its rivals. Danes and Swedes occupied the city twice, first during the Thirty Years' War and again from 1700 to 1721. In the early 19th century, the French, under Napoleon, occupied the town for about a decade until 1813.
In nearby Lübeck-Ratekau, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, born in Rostock and, one of few generals to fight on after defeat at the Battle of Jena, surrendered to the French in 1806. This was only after furious street fighting in the Battle of Lübeck, in which he led some of the cavalry charges himself. By the time of the surrender, the exhausted Prussians had neither ammunition. In the first half of the 19th century, Rostock regained much of its economic importance, due at first to the wheat trade from the 1850s, to industry its shipyards; the first propeller-driven steamers in Germany were constructed here. The city grew in area and population, with new quarters developing in the south and west of the ancient borders of the city. Two notable developments were added to house the increasing population at around 1900: Steintor-Vorstadt in the south, stretching from the old city wall to the facilities of the new Lloydbahnhof, was designed as a living quarter, it consisted of large single houses, once inhabited by wealthy citizens.
Kröpeliner-Tor-Vorstadt in the west, was designed to house the working population as well as to provide smaller and larger industrial facilities, such as the Mahn & Ohlerich's Brewery. The main shipyard, was nearby at the shore of the river. In the 20th century, important aircraft manufacturing facilities were situated in the city, such as the Arado Flugzeugwerke in Warnemünde and the Heinkel Works with facilities at various places, including their secondary Heinkel-Süd facility in Schwechat, Austria, as the original Heinkel firm's Rostock facilities had been renamed Heinkel-
Latvia the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states, it is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2; the country has a temperate seasonal climate. After centuries of Swedish and Russian rule, a rule executed by the Baltic German aristocracy, the Republic of Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 when it broke away and declared independence in the aftermath of World War I. However, by the 1930s the country became autocratic after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime under Kārlis Ulmanis; the country's de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II, beginning with Latvia's forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, followed by the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941, the re-occupation by the Soviets in 1944 to form the Latvian SSR for the next 45 years.
The peaceful Singing Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation from Soviet rule and condemning the Communist regime's illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990, restoring de facto independence on 21 August 1991. Latvia is a democratic sovereign state, parliamentary republic and a highly developed country according to the United Nations Human Development Index, its capital Riga served as the European Capital of Culture in 2014. Latvian is the official language. Latvia is a unitary state, divided into 119 administrative divisions, of which 110 are municipalities and nine are cities. Latvians and Livonians are the indigenous people of Latvia. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages. Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. However, as a consequence of centuries of Russian rule and Soviet occupation, Latvia is home to a large number of ethnic Russians, some of whom have not gained citizenship, leaving them with no citizenship at all.
Until World War II, Latvia had significant minorities of ethnic Germans and Jews. Latvia is predominantly Lutheran Protestant, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, predominantly Roman Catholic; the Russian population are Eastern Orthodox Christians. Latvia is a member of the European Union, Eurozone, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, CBSS, the IMF, NB8, NIB, OECD, OSCE, WTO. For 2014, the country was listed 46th on the Human Development Index and as a high income country on 1 July 2014. A full member of the Eurozone, it began using the euro as its currency on 1 January 2014, replacing the Latvian lats; the name Latvija is derived from the name of the ancient Latgalians, one of four Indo-European Baltic tribes, which formed the ethnic core of modern Latvians together with the Finnic Livonians. Henry of Latvia coined the latinisations of the country's name, "Lettigallia" and "Lethia", both derived from the Latgalians; the terms inspired the variations on the country's name in Romance languages from "Letonia" and in several Germanic languages from "Lettland".
Around 3000 BC, the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The Balts established trade routes to Byzantium, trading local amber for precious metals. By 900 AD, four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited Latvia: Curonians, Selonians, Semigallians, as well as the Finnic tribe of Livonians speaking a Finnic language. In the 12th century in the territory of Latvia, there were 14 lands with their rulers: Vanema, Bandava, Duvzare, Megava, Pilsāts, Upmale, Sēlija, Jersika, Tālava and Adzele. Although the local people had contact with the outside world for centuries, they became more integrated into the European socio-political system in the 12th century; the first missionaries, sent by the Pope, sailed up the Daugava River in the late 12th century, seeking converts. The local people, did not convert to Christianity as as the Church had hoped. German crusaders were sent, or more decided to go on their own accord as they were known to do. Saint Meinhard of Segeberg arrived in Ikšķile, in 1184, traveling with merchants to Livonia, on a Catholic mission to convert the population from their original pagan beliefs.
Pope Celestine III had called for a crusade against pagans in Northern Europe in 1193. When peaceful means of conversion failed to produce results, Meinhard plotted to convert Livonians by force of arms. In the beginning of the 13th century, Germans ruled large parts of today's Latvia. Together with Southern Estonia, these conquered areas formed the crusader state that became known as Terra Mariana or Livonia. In 1282, the cities of Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera, became part of the Hanseatic League. Riga became an important point of east-west trading and formed close cultural links with Western Europe. After the Livonian War, Livonia fell under Lithuanian rule; the southern part of Estonia and the northern part of Latvia were ceded to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and formed into the Duchy of Livonia. Gotthard Kettler, the last Master of