The Livonian War begins

to map

22. January 1558

After the negotiations between the Livonians and the Russian czar Ivan the Terrible had failed, Russian forces crossed the Livonian border on January 22. At first, the assaults were mainly done to pillage, but few months later, systematic conquest began.

By the end of the year, both Eastern and South-Eastern Estonia had fell to Russians. Livonian Order could not offer serious resistance, and panic gripped the land. Soon, all the little states in Livonia begun to look for a new master, and in the fall of 1558, so did the Order. Some members still supported independence, for example the Master Wilhelm Fürstenberg, but in autumn of 1559 he was removed and replaced with Gotthard Kettler, a Poland minded man.

Perhaps Kettler was to naive in laying all his hopes on Poland; latter wanted the Livonia to fall into such a state, that it was left with nothing else but to fully subject itself to Poland-Lithuania. Kettler had probably hoped to create a vassalage similar to Prussia, but king Sigismund August was not interested. That is why in 1560 and 1561 things worsened for the Order: Viljandi, one of the most important forts, was lost, and soon both Tallinn and Northern Estonia subjected themselves to Sweden.

Soldier's field bottles from the Livonian War.

Image source: A.Pajur, A. Kriiska, A. Tvauri, A. Selart, B. Kibal, A. Andersen "Eesti Ajaloo Atlas" Avita 2006


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