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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 social changes.

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 shadows.

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 they shipped 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 ...........


Driving through the Baltic Sea States

The Baltic Sea States are known to foreign drivers 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 car insurance rates and rental pricing, it is comparable to the United States. Sometimes, car insurance is available on a similar basis to UK policies and it is even sometimes possible to buy 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.

Do bear in mind that it is very important to carry all necessary car documentation, including your International driving permit, the car's registration documents, the original insurance certificate and your 'green card' documents. Failing to do so can result in the car being impounded and you may have to buy a local insurance policy. In this case you may find that insurance for an impounded car can be very expensive!

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 go smoothly.

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 business development 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 security system for the rental car. This can provided an added layer of security.

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