The four Baltic Noble Corporations

The Association of Baltic Noble Corporations is organized, apart from its present regional groups, into the four traditional noble corporations of Livonia, Estonia, Courland and Oesel, which after WW I lost their legal-political status in the new states of Latvia and Estonia. The oldest corporation is the Estonian, which was mentioned in historical documents as early as 1252. The island of Oesel was later politically amalgamated into the Estonian province, but retained its own noble corporation. Until WW I these four noble corporations exercised a right of self-government, which had been constitutionally recognized by the various sovereigns including the Russian Tsars. The political and administrative work carried out by members of the noble corporations was on an honourary, that is unpaid, basis.

The Baltic noble corporations never could ennoble, that is to raise a person to the status of nobility. This remained a sovereign prince's or king's prerogative. But the corporations could decide which estate owners should be admitted (immatrikuliert) onto one of the four corporative rolls of nobility. They could also decide who would be dropped from the rolls. As enrolled estate owners controlled the voting rights for the three provincial Assemblies (Landtage), this meant in effect that the corporations also decided who could become a member of an Assembly and who would be called upon to play a role in the provincial administration.

Since WW I, the corporations no longer enter new families into their rolls. Currently each corporation's most important responsibility is to keep up-to-date its current personal files (Personenregister). The four noble corporations investigate through their genealogists whether a person is born into an enrolled family and therefore has the right of inclusion in their rolls. A descendants of an enrolled family a member by birth of his or her corporation, but he or she must still formally apply for membership if desirous of joining the umbrella organization uniting the four corporations, the Association of Baltic Noble Corporations.

The corporations undertake research into their history and makes every effort to link their members more tightly together. They support charitable and other projects at home and in Estonia and Latvia. Although the four corporations no longer exercise any public legal-political functions, they remain the pillars upon which the Association rests.