Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans of Europe

The live-action documentary “Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans of Europe“, available through UCM.ONE‘s B-Spree Pictures label in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, consists of historical reconstructions, live-action scenes and computer animation, complemented by voice-over narration by scholarly experts in the field.

In 2016, the film received funding from the National Film Centre’s special fund for the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Latvia. In 2018, “Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans of Europe” was nominated at the Latvian Film Festival in the categories “Best Documentary” , “Best Director”, “Best Cinematography” and “Best Make-up”.

Synopsis

Early 13th century: Religious rituals, the Battle of Saule, the battles of the Crusaders and the fiery battles for the free land. Who were the last pagans of Europe and what did they believe in? All this is revealed and experienced in this film documentary, in which the Danish merchant Lars (Kaspars Aninš) travels to the last pagan populated areas of Europe. Thus he enters the tribal area of the Balts, participates in religious rituals, gets intoxicated during the summer solstice, becomes a slave of the Kurons and finally even fights against the Crusaders. The longer Lars, a Christian, wanders along with the pagans, the more he begins to sympathize with the locals and their traditions….

Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans of Europe” is a popular science documentary that interweaves a feature film plot with many historical facts, making it a fascinating journey into a bygone era. History is usually told by the victors – “Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans of Europe” tries to set this historical picture straight.

Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans of Europe” is a fascinating live-action documentary that is not only worth seeing for those interested in history.

The Baltic Tribes

The modern term Baltic refers to the states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, in the 13th century, the period in which “Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans of Europe” is set, “Baltic” referred to the tribes whose languages belong to the Indo-European languages – among them the Latvians, Lithuanians, Old Prussians and Kurs, as well as the Sudcu-Jatvingians. Except for Latvian and Lithuanian, the Baltic languages are now considered extinct, although attempts are being made to revive them. The term “Baltic” is derived from their settlement area, the northeast of the “Mare Balticum”, i.e. the Baltic Sea.

The Estonians in the north of today’s Baltic, whose language forms the Finno-Ugric linguistic community with Finnish and Hungarian, thus belong to the Baltic only geographically and politically, but not linguistically.

Until about 400 A.D., the Baltic settlement area extended over a vast area from the Vistula in the west to about present-day Moscow in the east and far into present-day Ukraine in the south. During the Migration Period, a probably largely peaceful slavicization of many formerly Baltic-populated areas occurred.  

Thanks to the Slavs’ new techniques and larger population, the Balts were assimilated by the Slavic majority after a few generations of seemingly peaceful coexistence; only near the Baltic Sea did the Baltic tribes remain largely among themselves, preserving their language and culture.

Original title: Baltu Ciltis

Directors: Lauris Ābele, Raitis Ābele

Screenplay: Raitis Ābele, Guntis Bereis, Toms Kencis

Actor & actresses: Kaspars Anins, Kristaps Bedritis, Lauma Balode, Carl Biorsmark, Arnis Hagendorfs, Kristaps Lukasevics, Janis Pantelejevs, Andris Roze, Janis Skutelis u.a.

Producer: Kristele Pudane, Dace Siatkovska, Thom Palmen

Executive producer: Zane Kalnina

Co-producer: Dorota Roszkowska

Cinematography: Marcis Abele, Janis Indriks

Camera & electrical departement: Otomar Berzins, Viktors Besaraba, Arturs Daukulis, Kristaps Dombrovskis, Roberts Dreimanis, Andris Gilucs, Janis Indriks, Martins Jurevics, Ruta Kalvisa, Nikita Karpovs, Raivo Karro, Arturs Lurins, Gvido Puke, Jansons Reinis, Janis Senbergs, Konstantins Simonovs, Peteris Skujins, Marcis Slavinskis, Denis Sorogin, Eduards Stefanovics, iesturs Strelcs, Andis Suba, Indulis Sverns, Armands Virbulis, Janis Zeidaks, Rolands Zelders

Sound: Ernests Ansons, Verners Biters, Martins Rozentals, Anete Vanaga

Editing: Raitis Ābele

Special effects: Juris Zhukovskis

Visual effects: Maris Abolins, Wads Ex, Aigars Gercans

Animations: Krisjanis Abols, Karina Andrejeva, Kerija Arne, Aigars Gercans, Harijs Grundmanis, Nils Hammers, Cao Viet Nguyen, Arnis Zemitis

Stunts: Artjoms Grigorjevs, Nikita Grigorjevs, Artem Grigoryev, Victoria Alexandria Lele, Roman Morozov

Art director: Zanda Zeidaka

Makeup: Alina Blinkova, Una Ozola, Aija Beata Rjabovska, Santa Sandule, Ieva Sebre

Costumes: Liga Kräsone

Music: Kaspars Barbals

 

Production companies: Arkana Studio, Tritone Studio

Year of production: 2018

Country: Latvia

Language: Latvian

Synchronisations: English, German

 

Length: 103 Min

Rating: FSK 16

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: Full HD

Filmlabel: B-Spree Pictures

Distribution: UCM.ONE

 

Premiere: October 24, 2020 Arrow-FrighFest Festival, London

DVD start: November 12, 2021

VoD start: October 22, 2021

The Baltic States under the Teutonic Order

When Jerusalem was conquered by the Muslim troops under Saladin in 1187, this led to a moral and economic crisis for wide circles of the Western European elites. Fighting all pagans became the most important task of chivalry, and to this end, associations of knights, called orders of chivalry, sprang up in Western Europe. Many of their members were later-born sons of nobility without hereditary claims, but with enormous ambition. Like the monks of the ecclesiastical orders, they vowed chastity, personal poverty, obedience to the leadership of the order and committed themselves to a life according to Christian ideals. Their real task as “warriors of God”, however, was the fight against the pagans.

Since the Crusades in Palestine did not prove successful, many sovereigns and the Pope soon turned their attention to the northeast, to the last pagan territories of Europe.

In 1198 the Teutonic Order was founded, which soon spread mainly in what is now Poland. At about the same time, Bishop Albert, a native of Bremen, sailed from Lübeck even farther east and in 1201 built the fortress of Riga at the mouth of the Düna River. In order to defend his new foundation and to gain further territories, he founded the Order of the Brothers of the Sword in 1202, which as his fighting force covered the Baltic States with war. In a few decades, the Brothers of the Sword were able to bring the territory of present-day Estonia and Latvia – the historical territories of Courland, Livonia and Estonia – under their rule. 

After a heavy defeat against the Lithuanians in 1237 at the Battle of Saule, the Brothers of the Sword were united with the Teutonic Order, which thus enormously expanded its territory, the so-called Teutonic Order State.

From 1230, the Teutonic Order itself had taken up the brutal struggle of conquest against the pagan Balts, first turning against the Old Prussians, whose settlement areas lay on the coast between the Vistula and the Memel, and quickly conquering a large territory. With the takeover of the territories of the Brothers of the Sword, between 1230 and 1561 the Teutonic Order state included the territory of Old Prussia, Livonia, present-day Estonia and Latvia.

During the battles, which lasted for decades, the West Baltic peoples of the Old Prussians, Sudovians and Galindians, among others, were almost wiped out in the course of the 13th century, and the few survivors were assimilated during the Middle Ages. Around 1230, German settlers also began to immigrate to the Teutonic Order state, founding some of today’s major cities there, such as Riga and Tallinn. For centuries, the German upper class constituted the urban bourgeoisie and the large landowners in present-day Estonia and Latvia, while the “native” population were largely serf peasants.

Only the Lithuanians were able to resist conquest and forced Christianization by uniting their individual tribes into a powerful grand duchy, which later merged with Poland and eventually became part of it.

Like the crusades for Constantinople and Jerusalem, the conquests in the Baltic States were carried out with great brutality. Once subjugated and forcibly converted to Christianity, the Baltic population was reduced to the status of lawless serfs. The knights of the Teutonic Order did not see themselves burdened by moral concerns, since according to the values of the time they could invoke not only the right of the conqueror, but also the support of the church.

The brutality of the knights is described in the chronicle of Henry of Latvia: “They killed from morning to evening whom they found, both women and children … until the hands and arms of the killers finally grew tired of the monstrous murder of the people.”

Trailer (German)

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Press reviews

“The team of Raitis Abele and Lauris Abele has created something really interesting here. The film shows the 13th century in a way that makes you almost feel like you’re there. If you had told me I would enjoy a historical film this much, I would have called you crazy.” (bandsaboutmovies.com)

“If you are interested in history, this film is a must see for you! In fact, Baltic Tribes is by far the best film about history I have ever seen! Wonderful stuff!” (IMDb review)

“An exciting, amazingly educational work…”  (Elina Martha Marthison, Riga WANFS)

Features and technical data

Format: DVD | Aspect ration: WS 2.35:1 (anamorphic) | Running time: 98.51 min | Sound formats: German DD 5.1, German 2.0, English DD 5.1, English 2.0, Latvian DD 5.1, Latvian 2.0 | Bonus Materials: Original Trailer, German Trailer | FSK 16

News

“Baltic Tribes” by Lauris & Raitis Ābele available from today (B-Spree Pictures)

As of today, the film “Baltic Tribes – Last Pagans in Europe” by Lauris Ābele and Raitis Ābele is available on UCM.ONE’s B-Spree Pictures label both on DVD and digitally in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The film consists of historical reconstructions, live-action scenes and computer animation, complemented by voice-over narration by scientific experts in the…

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