The Livonian Noble Corporation
Livonia was the name for that area which today includes the northern part of Latvia and a large part of southern Estonia. With the dissolution of the old Teutonic Order and the Roman Catholic bishoprics in 1561-52, the knightly feudal groups of that territory which became Livonia united into a noble corporation. Currently this corporation still functions as the institutional framework for families registered in the Livonian roll of nobility (immatrikuliert).
The Reformation was associated with what became known as the Livonian wars. These wars began with the ill-fated invasion of Russian forces under Tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1558. Subsequently the territory fell under various sovereigns - the kings of Poland (1561-1629), then of Sweden (1629-1710), and finally to the Russian Tsars (1710 - 1918). The Livonian nobles' and their corporation's traditional rights and privileges, including their German language, the Lutheran character of the region populated mainly by Latvians and Estonians, as well as their self-government were generally recognized by the various rulers, except for a short period in the 17th century when King Charles XI of Sweden abolished their self-government. However, Peter the Great in 1710 again recognized all their traditional rights and privileges and their local self-government was fully restored.
As a result, the Livonian aristocracy and its corporation enjoyed far-reaching autonomy within the Russian Empire, although after 1880 it under came pressure during the russification programme of the Tsarist government.
At the end of WW I, the Livonian Noble Corporation, like the other Baltic noble corporations, lost its legal-political functions in the newly-established states of Estonia and Latvia. The corporation continued its existence as a purely private organization to support its charities and traditional values. At present , together with the other three Baltic noble corporations, it is united within the Association of Baltic Noble Corporations.