The Baltic Sea Region 1918-1945
After the First
World War many regions of the former Russian Empire
broke off from the new Bolshevik nation, including
Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The new
Soviet Union would try to retake these regions lost in
the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but after several
brief wars between 1919-1921, these nations successfully
repelled the Soviets, and Poland and Finland also gained
territory. Lithuania also had disputes with Poland that
were ended by 1921. Sweden remained neutral, and was
busy building a comprehensive welfare state.
For this region, the 1920s were relatively tranquil.
Most of the Baltic nations became staunchly anti-Soviet
republics, though as time went by, many of them became
more authoritarian. Meanwhile the Soviets themselves
became more preoccupied with internal matters and forced
The 1930s were a tense decade for this region. Sweden
watched with growing concern the rise of both Nazi
Germany, and the growing power of the Soviet Union. The
smaller Baltic Sea nations were trapped in the middle,
and clung to a desperate neutrality. Their economies and
culture were thriving, but they lived under terrible
The Soviets were now collectivizing their agriculture,
which led, in cases like the Ukraine in the early 1930s,
to government-engineered famine. Millions died of
starvation in these years, and many more who refused to
give up their land also died. The infamous political
purges also began in the mid-1930s, seeing the deaths
and exile of another several million opponents to
Stalin. There were also increased tensions and border
incidents with several of their neighbors.
After the Anschluss of Austria in 1938, Germany turned
next toward Czechoslovakia. After the Munich Pact was
signed Germany was given the Sudetenland, and Poland
would receive the border district of Teschen. Soon
afterward, Germany demanded and received the Lithuanian
region of Klaipeda, making them more dependent on
Germany than ever before.
When World War II began in 1939, Germany and Russia both
received sections of Poland. Sweden was neutral, though
iron ore to Germany. In late 1939, the
Winter War against Finland was launched, and by its end
in March 1940, Finland was forced to concede large
amounts of territory. In the summer of that year
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were forcibly annexed by
the USSR, an action never recognized by the west.
In 1941 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, with the
Finns assisting in the north. After major battles such
as the siege on Leningrad between 1941-43, Stalingrad in
late 1942-early 1943, and Kursk in late 1943, the
Soviets were able to defeat the Germans in the east.
Millions of Jews and other minorities in these regions
were murdered in concentration camps.
When the war ended the Baltic States were in Soviet
hands, Poland had lost territory in the east, and gained
former German regions such as Silesia and Pomerania in
the west, and the Soviets were establishing a satellite
state there. Finland would be placed under heavy Russian
pressure, and Sweden would remain in relative calm.
The next stage
the Baltic Sea States
The Baltic Sea
States are known to travelers for beautiful scenic
routes, and the best method of seeing these views are
through road trips. To make a successful trip, it is
best to make preparations and become knowledgeable of
the Baltic state’s laws and their driving culture. As
for the choice of vehicles, expect to drive a
Volkswagen, Audi, Opel, or Ford. These vehicles are
common in Europe in general, but countries like
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia prefer these brands
because of their dependability and safety. In regards to
insurance rates and rental pricing, it is comparable
to the United States. Sometimes,
car insurance is
available on a
basis for visitors; it is even sometimes possible to
car insurance for one day only. Typically, there are
a wide range of prices, so the best recommendation is to
prepare for the trip as far in advance as possible to
ensure you can get the most available choices, rates
locked, and stay within budget.
Fuelling is not a problem in the Baltic States. More
developed countries such as Sweden and Norway are
increasing availability for alternative fuels like
ethanol and electric stations for electric cars. Gas
stations as quite accessible in every country and almost
any station can accept credit cards for payment. It is
also regular to find the price of fuel cheaper in
Eastern Europe than in Western Europe.
Being aware of the speed limits through the Baltic
States is crucial, as local law enforcement throughout
strictly adhere to the laws of the road, regardless if
you are local citizens or visitors. While it may vary
slightly from each country, it generally common to see
the speed limits as follows: within city limits are 50
kph (30 mph), highways are 90 kph (55 mph), and
motorways are 110 kph (70 mph).
Local drivers in the Baltic States are known to observe
and obey the driving laws mainly due to the potential
price of hefty fines, compared to throughout the world.
Furthermore, states like Sweden, Russia and Norway have
harnessed technology to capture anyone breaking laws on
the road, but the roads throughout are equipped with
advanced speed cameras. It is crucial to understand that
there is a low tolerance for drunk driving; almost every
state’s blood-alcohol limit is 0.05% or lower, where
Estonia has a zero tolerance.
Be attentive when crossing between countries. Border
patrol and law enforcement are incredibly strict, and
these areas are more heavily surveillance for speeding,
but most notably they will not be lenient for
insufficient document or paperwork. Have passports and
identification ready beforehand, and the process should
Lastly, as a foreigner to the areas, be conscious of
crime. Some countries in the Baltics, such as Estonia
and Latvia, are struggling economically and
is sluggish. To decrease the chance of any incidents,
simply be aware of your surrounds and travel in groups.
When preparing for your trip, take as little as
possible, and If possible, opt in for a
for the rental car. This can provided an added layer of
in the Baltic
Is the Baltic Sea
the most dangerous region for navigation in the world?
article and make up your own mind.
Baltic21.org 2013, All Rights Reserved