Zwischen Kooperation und Konfrontation: Die Adelspolitik Polen-Litauens und Schwedens in der Provinz Livland 1561-1650

Jürgen Heyde


The present essay deals with the relationship between the Livonian nobility and the Polish and Swedish crowns during the first Century after the decline of Old Livonia. So far, the focus of historiography has been almost exclusively on the denominational policies of the two supreme powers and the resulting alienation of the Livonian nobility from the Polish crown, as well as their turning to Sweden. In this context, however, little attention was paid to the fact that the economic Status of Livonia's nobility was clearly more favourable under Polish rule than under Swedish supremacy.
A closer look at the crowns' policies towards the Livonian nobility shows several parallels, which can be explained as a result of the diverging roles the respective sovereigns attributed to the possession of the province:
Sigismund Augustus and Charles of Södermanland needed the Support of Livonia's corporations of the landed nobility (Ritterschaften) in order to conquer the province and therefore complied with their political demands as far as they could. Stephen Bathory and Gustavus Adolphus regarded Livonia as a conquered country. Their military victory was mainly achieved by means of their own weapons rather than with the aid of the Livonian nobility; accordingly, they feit free to push through their ideas against the nobles' resistance, and rewarded many of their own followers with Livonian estates.
Under Sigismund Vasa, as well as during the tutelage government for Queen Christine, Livonia was reduced to a subsidiary land. This phase is characterized by a lack of political concepts on Livonia: only a few years after the open discrimination of the Livonian nobles at the beginning of Sigismund Vasa's reign, they were given full parity with the Polish and Lithuanian aristocracy in the province, and Livonia was included as an equal member in the constitutional structures of the Royal Republic.
The policy of Sweden's Chancellor Oxenstierna, which was aimed at separating the province from the mother country in order to prevent Livonia's nobility from exerting influence on Imperial politics, later resulted in the crown's withdrawal from the provincial administration and thus allowed the Livonian nobility to gain a leading role there.