Coordinates: The Baltic states, also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations or simply the Baltics (Estonian: Balti riigid, Baltimaad, Latvian: Baltijas valstis, Lithuanian: Baltijos valstybės), is a geopolitical term used for grouping the three sovereign countries in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The term is not used in the context of cultural areas, national identity or language. The three countries cooperate on a regional level in several intergovernmental organizations.
All three countries are members of the European Union, NATO and the Eurozone. They are classified as high-income economies by the World Bank and maintain high Human Development Index. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are also members of the OECD.
The term "Baltic" stems from the name of the Baltic Sea – a hydronym dating back to the 11th century (Adam of Bremen mentioned Latin: Mare Balticum) and earlier. Although there are several theories about its origin, most ultimately trace it to Indo-European root *bhel meaning white, fair. This meaning is retained in modern Baltic languages, where baltas (in Lithuanian) and balts (in Latvian) mean "white". However the modern names of the region and the sea, that originate from this root, were not used in either of the two languages prior to the 19th century.
Beginning in the Middle Ages and through the present day, the Baltic Sea appears on the maps described in Germanic languages as German: Ostsee, Danish: Østersøen, Dutch: Oostzee, Swedish: Östersjön, etc. In English "Ost" is "East", and in fact, the Baltic Sea mostly lies to the east of Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. term was historically also used to refer to Baltic Dominions of The Swedish Empire (Swedish: Östersjöprovinserna) and, after, the Baltic governorates of Russian Empire (Russian: Остзейские губернии, translit. Ostzejskie gubernii). The terms related to modern name "Baltic" appear in ancient texts, but had fallen in disuse until reappearing as adjective "Baltisch" in German from which it was adopted in other languages. During 19th century "Baltic" started to surpass "Ostsee" as the name for the region. Officially its Russian equivalent "Прибалтийский" was first used in 1859. This process was a result of the Baltic German elite adopting terms derived from stem "Baltic" to refer to themselves.
The term "Baltic states" was, until the early 20th century, used in the context of countries neighbouring the Baltic Sea - Namely Sweden and Denmark, sometimes also Germany and the Russian Empire. With the advent of Foreningen Norden, the term was no longer used for Sweden and Denmark. After World War I the new sovereign states that emerged on the east coast of the Baltic sea - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and during the Interwar period, Finland - became known as "The Baltic states".
In the 13th century pagan and Eastern Orthodox Baltic and Finnic peoples in the region became a target of the Northern Crusades. In the aftermath of the Livonian crusade, a crusader state officially named Terra Mariana, but also known as Livonia, was established in the territory of modern Latvia and Southern Estonia. It was divided into four autonomous bishoprics and lands of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. After the Brothers of the Sword suffered defeat at the Battle of Saule, the remaining Brothers were integrated into the Teutonic Order as the autonomous Livonian Order. Northern Estonia initially became a Danish dominion, but it was purchased by the Teutonic Order in the mid-14th century. The majority of the crusaders and clergy were German and remained influential in Estonia and most of Latvia until the first half of the 20th century – Baltic Germans formed the backbone of the local gentry, and German served both as a lingua franca and for record-keeping.