- Baltic States
- The Protestant faith in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia dates to the first years of the Reformation. Andreas Knopcken (1468-1539) came to Latvia in 1521 to spread Lutheran ideas using the Church of Saint Peter in Riga as his platform. Latvian leaders signed the Peace of Augsburg (see Augsburg,Peace of) in 1555; Lutheranism subsequently became the majority religion.Lithuanian nobles studying at Wittenberg and Leipziz in the 1520s returned home eager to institute reforms. Lutheranism spread quickly through the countryside, and by the middle of the century the country was predominantly Lutheran; the Reformed church had also made its appearance and was growing. Progress came to a radical halt in 1564, however, when Polish-Lithuanian King Sigismund II (1520-72) instituted the Counter-Reformation at various levels in the country. The subsequent entry of the Jesuits in force pushed Protestantism into the western and northern parts of the country.Lutheranism reached Estonia in 1524. Its rise to dominance was aided by the publication of a prayer book and catechism in 1535 and a new Bible translation in 1539. Over the centuries, other Protestant groups arrived. Moravians began to migrate into Estonia in 1727. Though the German contingent was expelled in 1745, they made some converts who later played important roles in the development of the Moravian movement as well as the development of Estonia.A spectrum of Protestant groups arrived in the region in the mid-19th century - Baptists, Methodists, and Seventh-day Adventists. The first Baptist congregation was established in Riga in 1860; a union of Baptists churches was formed in 1879.After the Russian annexation of Lithuania at the end of the 18th century, the Lutheran and Reformed Churches aided the struggle for cultural and linguistic survival alongside the Catholic Church. Russian rule did not stop the arrival of a variety of churches. By the time Lithuania regained its independent status in 1918, the New Apostolic Church and Pentecostalism had established their initial congregations. The Roman Catholic Church resumed its privileged position, with Russian orthodoxy as its most prominent rival.Following World War II, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania were incorporated into the Soviet Union. All three countries suffered from soviet policies that included the repression of religion and the attempt at Russification. In 1990-91, the three countries withdrew from the disintegrating Soviet Union. They all now have constitutions that recognize religious pluralism. Lutheranism currently vies with Roman Catholicism for dominance in Latvia and with Orthodoxy for dominance in Estonia. It remains a small but important church in Lithuania, where Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy predominate. Tallinn, Estonia, has become the center of the United Methodist Church in the region and the site of its new seminary. Pentecostalism has had it greatest response in Latvia, where it reports some 10,000 members.Further reading:■ Ilmo Au and Ringo Ringvee, Kirkud ja kogudused Eestis (Tallinn, Estonia: Ilo, 2000)■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ Nikandra Gillis, Religija, Vesture, Dzive: Religiska dzive Latvija (Riga: Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Latvian Academy of Sciences, 1993)■ Donatas Glodenis and Holger Lahayne, eds., Religijos Lietuvoje (Siauliai: Nova Vita, 1999)■ D. Krueger, Lutherans in Latvia and Estonia (Lansing, Ill.: the author, 1984)■ A. Musteikis, The Reformation in Lithuania: Religious Fluctuation in the Sixteenth Century (Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 1988)■ World Methodist Council, Handbook of Information (Lake Junaluska, N.C.: World Methodist Council, 2003).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.