With the US-NATO alliance in question and a resurgent Russia on their doorstep the Baltic states are understandably nervous.
Our tour looks at relations with their former Soviet ally, tracks tales of espionage and examines the uneasy situation with the region’s Russian minority. There will be meetings with senior politicians, diplomats and members of the intelligence community for their views throughout.
|DESTINATION||Vilnius, Daugavpils, Ignalina, Riga, & Tallinn|
Led by Leonid Ragozin
Single supplement: £TBC
We start in Vilnius where a new government has increased military expenditure and is one of the most vocal opponents of a resurgent Russia. The animosity isn’t new. Lithuanians and Russians will give us differing accounts of Soviet times.
In neighbouring Latvia we find possibly the most nervous of the Baltic nations with its large Russian minority. A visit to Daugavpils “the most Russian city in the EU” illustrates worries on both sides.
We end in Estonia one of the most web-savvy nations in the world with its beautiful Old Town in Tallinn, where explore the possibility of a different kind of relationship with Russia.
Leonid Ragozin former BBC Russian correspondent leads the tour with contributions from leading journalists in each state.
As with all of our expert-led tours, we ensure that our groups remain small and intimate, and will not exceed 14 people.
As with all of our tours the itinerary focuses on current affairs, and owing to the dynamic nature of politics means that local conditions may lead us adjust the final schedule.
Day 1: Vilnius
Day 2: Vilnius
Day 3: Vilnius - Ignalina
Day 4: Ignalina – Daugavpils
Day 5: Daugavpils – Riga
Day 6: Riga
Day 7: Flight to Tallinn
The tour is deliberately timed to coincide with our Political Tour of Russia which starts on Sunday 16th, September, the following day. There are direct flights from Tallinn to Moscow where the Russian tour starts on Sunday evening with an introductory diner. It is also possible to do the journey by train. Do let us know if you need help with flights or trains.
All of your accommodation and meals with water are included, as well as local transport (except during your free time).
Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
Following the news
Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
This tour starts in Vilnius and ends in Tallinn.
Getting to the Baltics
There is an airport in Vilnius.
You can fly from Tallinn but another option is to take the ferry across the Baltic Sea to Helsinki and fly out from Helsinki.
As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 14 people. Frequently we travel with 10-12 people. Limited spaces are available.
UK passport holders do not need a visa. Other passport holders may require a visa. It is always good to check with the embassy in your country for latest advice regarding visa requirements.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all members of the European Union. You will not require a visa if you are travelling on a passport that does not normally require a visa for travel to Europe. European Citizens do not need a visa to travel to Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. Australian, Canadian, US Citizens can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. Other nationalities may require a visa. It is best to check with the embassies for the most up-to-date information.
FCO Website – Travel Advice
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.
Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
The Euro is the currency in all 3 countries. ATM’s are readily accessible, and cards can be used for payments in a wide variety of places.
Weather in the Baltic nations is somewhat similar for each of the three countries, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Summers are warm but do not get very hot. Winters are long and cold, with below freezing temperatures. We will be travelling in autumnal weather.
What to wear
Dress is casual and comfortable. Shoes suitable for walking over cobbles are recommended. We suggest taking layers as the weather is different in the various regions. Rain showers are not uncommon too so please ensure you pack a rain jacket.
Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings.
Women: You will need smarter dress for one or two meetings.
European 2 round pin plug socket, standard 230v.
More on Leonid Ragozin
Leonid is a Russian journalist who worked for 12 years with the BBC in Moscow. He is a widely acknowledged expert on the crisis in Ukraine. Previously he was a correspondent for Newsweek. He now writes for The New Republic, Politico, Bloomberg, News Week, The Guardian and Al Jazeera and Morgenbladet. He is also co-author of the Lonely Planet Guides to Moscow and Ukraine.
The Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia)
‘As it said on the tin’, the tour gave us a fuller understanding of the political and military situation, and to some extent, the economic and social situation in the three Baltic countries, allowing us to assess Russian and other threats to the region. August, 2017
“The tour leaders: always interesting, fun, informed, one step ahead and responsive to our needs.” Baltics, 2017
“What a team you are! How you produced all those politicians, soldiers and nuclear plants I simply can’t imagine.” August 2017
“I’d never been to the Baltics before this 2017 trip. All three countries have strong concerns about their relationship with Russia. Being there, on the ground, heightened the realism of these issues.” ME
“Leonid Ragozin impressed me as he has in the past with his knowledge and understanding of how Russia and its neighbors interact.” Baltics, 2017
“These trips bring real, usually politically-connected, people to the table. All of us are free to ask whatever we want and to follow up with tough questions. Reading about situations isn’t even close to finding out things firsthand. There is nothing like being on the ground, face-to face, with people who are making or impacting policy.” August 2017
“Our visit to a family was outstanding.” Baltics, 2017
Baltics Reading List
We have compiled an extensive reading list with a wide range of books. Our experts have recommended many political, historical, non-fiction and fiction books to choose from. It is optional!
Leonid Ragozin tour expert:
2016, Baltic war fears
2014 to date, Bloomberg articles by Leonid Ragozin
19 Jan 2017, Print edition, Europe (Vilnius & Riga)
Up The Baltick: The rediscovered journey of James Boswell and Samuel Johnson to Esthonia, Livonia and Kurland in the year 1778 – Mike Collier (Miks Koljers)
In the year 1773, James Boswell and Dr Samuel Johnson travelled to Scotland, a trip which in 1775 produced Johnson’s classic account A Journey To The Western Islands Of Scotland. The book was an immediate success and the pair discussed where they should venture next, eventually settling on a plan to go “up the Baltick” to Empress Catherine the Great in St Petersburg. Yet the northern tour never took place… or so it was thought until now. Two and a half centuries later, thanks to the diligent efforts of Mike Collier to locate and publish Boswell’s lost account of the journey, the sequel to the Scottish expedition is finally available.
2017, PAPER, 332 PAGES, Independently published ISBN-10: 1520597908 ISBN-13: 978-1520597904
The Fourth Largest In Latvia- Mike Collier
Fiction by a British author who lives near Riga. Viktor Draaks is a leading scholar in his field – courtesy of generous sponsorship by a rabidly anti-Communist sausage magnate – and a permanent fixture on the geopolitical conference circuit. However, due to circumstances entirely within his own control, he is cruelly robbed of his comfortable world of pillow menus and goody-bags and finds himself dumped in the middle of the Latvian countryside: disoriented, penniless and with trouser problems. Can Viktor make it back to civilization or will he forever be trapped in a world of egomaniac mayors, creatively frustrated porn stars, uncommunicative mushroom pickers and first ladies worried about their culinary abilities? And can he solve the most perplexing problem of all – the riddle of The Fourth Largest In Latvia?
2017, PAPER, 205 pages, Independently published ISBN-10: 1520588372 ISBN-13: 978-1520588377
The Baltic, A History – Michael North
In his erudite history of the “Nordic Mediterranean,” North covers over 1,000 years of trade, politics, architecture, cultural exchange and conflict in the Baltic. His main point: the Baltic’s coastal nations have always been an interconnected economic unit.
2016, PAPER, 448 PAGES, Harvard University Press, ISBN-10: 0674970837 ISBN-13: 978-0674970830
Everything Is Wonderful, Memories of a Collective Farm in Estonia - Sigrid Rausing
This memoir provides a glimpse into Estonian life at the beginning of post-Soviet Europe (1993), a time when locals had enjoyed only 19 years of independence in four centuries. From 1993 to 1994, Sigrid Rausing completed her anthropological fieldwork on the penninsula of Noarootsi, a former Soviet border protection zone in Estonia. Abandoned watchtowers dotted the coastline, and the huge fields of the Lenin collective farm were laying fallow, waiting for claims from former owners who had fled war and Soviet and Nazi occupation. Rausing’s research focused on the loss of historical memory during the Soviet occupation, and the slow revival of an independent Estonian culture, including the recognition of the minority Swedes in Estonia. She lived and worked amongst the villagers, witnessing their transition from repression to independence, and from Soviet neglect to post-Soviet austerity.
2016, PAPER, 240 PAGES, Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN-10: 0802122965 ISBN-13: 978-0802122964
The Edge of the World, A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe – Michael Pye
Profiling the saints and spies, pirates and philosophers, artists and intellectuals who crossed the gray expanse stretching between Scandinavia and the British Isles, Pye illuminates the epic history of the North Sea.
2016, PAPER, 360 PAGES, Pegasus Books, ISBN-10: 168177206X, ISBN-13: 978-1681772066
War With Russia Paperback – General Sir Richard Shirreff
‘You fail to read this book at your peril’ – Admiral James G Stavridis, US Navy, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Closely modelled on his NATO experience of war gaming future conflicts, 2017 War With Russia is a chilling account of where we are heading if we fail to recognise the threat posed by the Russian president.
Written by the recently retired Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and endorsed by senior military figures, this book shows how war with Russia could erupt with the bloodiest and most appalling consequences if the necessary steps are not taken urgently.
President Putin said: ‘We have all the reasons to believe that the policy of containment of Russia which was happening in the 18th, 19th and 20th century is still going on…’ And ‘If you press the spring, it will release at some point. Something you should remember.’
Like any ‘strongman’, the Russian president’s reputation for strength is everything. Lose momentum, fail to give the people what they want and he fails. The President has already demonstrated that he has no intention of failing. He has already started a lethal dynamic which, unless checked right now, could see him invade the Baltic states.
Russia’s invasion and seizure of Georgia in 2008 was our ‘Rhineland moment’. We ignored the warning signs – as we did back in the 1930s – and we made it ‘business as usual’.
Crimea in 2014 was the President’s ‘Sudetenland moment’ and again he got away with it. Since 2014 Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Baltics could be next.
Our political leaders assume that nuclear deterrence will save us. General Sir Richard Shirreff shows us why this will not wash.
2016, PAPER, 464 pages, Coronet ISBN-10: 1473632250 ISBN-13: 978-1473632257
Vladimir Putin has a master plan to destroy Europe, divide NATO, reclaim Russian influence in the world, and most of all to marginalize the United States and the West in order to achieve regional hegemony and global power. Putin’s unified strategy and vision for Europe has not been thoroughly discussed or articulated in any meaningful way until now. Putin’s Master Plan is the first comprehensive attempt to systematically explain Putin’s global strategy, which could inevitably and inexorably lead to the breakup of the NATO alliance, and potentially to war with the West. Currently, the West has no strategy, no plan, and no tactics to confront Putin’s master plan other than imposing limited economic sanctions, which have done little to deter Putin’s aggression–and may well have encouraged and facilitated it.
The viewpoint taken here is not just alarmism, but an accurate and, for the first time, clear and sober portrayal of a frightening situation that, more and more, serious observers of European and Russian politics are openly recognizing and acknowledging. Putin’s Master Plan makes the case that it is essential to wake up to Putin’s strategy to destroy Europe, divide NATO, and build a new empire in the former Soviet Union. Russia has demonstrated an extraordinary level of aggression, most boldly in its outright invasions of Georgia and Ukraine. American weakness and a divided Europe have left Russia’s terrified neighbors without an alternative to Russian domination, and even once-stalwart American allies such as the Republic of Georgia are on the brink of becoming part of Putin’s new empire in Europe. Putin has made it clear that he sees NATO expansion as a fundamental threat to Russian nationhood, and he is systematically challenging the NATO Alliance as well as the United States. So far, he is winning.
2016, Hardcover, 200 pages, Encounter Books,USA (27 Sept. 2016) ISBN-10: 1594038899 ISBN-13: 978-1594038891
Baltic Lenin: A journey into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s Soviet past Paperback – Keith Ruffles
The fall of the Soviet Union marked a new era of independence for the Baltic states. But what remains of the former Soviet Union in this tiny corner of northeastern Europe?
With humor and compassion, travel writer Keith Ruffles tells his story of visiting the little-known countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. On his quest, he discovers how Soviet rule impacted the infrastructures, environments, and cultures of these areas. Travel highlights include the medieval capital of Tallinn, Lithuania’s baroque-style capital of Vilnius, the Estonian island of Saaremaa, and the cities of Narva and Nida, which border Russia. Along the way, Ruffles meets quirky characters—from academics to alcoholics—and truly discovers what life is like in the region today. Perhaps, most importantly, he discovers the legacy of the Soviet Union. What does it mean for the future of this region, as tensions reminiscent of the Cold War increase between Russia and the West?
2016, PAPER, 318 pages, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform ISBN-10: 1530169399 ISBN-13: 978-1530169399
Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II – Prit Buttar
The Baltic States suffered more than almost any other territory during World War II, caught on the front-line of some of the war’s most vicious battles and squeezed between the vast military might of the German Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army. From an expert on the Eastern Front of World War II, this book chronicles the cataclysmic experience of the region that includes modern-day Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Combining new archival research and numerous first-hand accounts, this is a magisterial description of conquest and exploitation, of death and deportation and the fight for survival both by countries and individuals.
2015, PAPER, 416 pages, Osprey Publishing ISBN-10: 1472807499 ISBN-13: 978-1472807496
The Edge: Is the Military Dominance of the West Coming to an End? Paperback – Mark Urban
The size of western armed forces, their stocks of weaponry and their readiness for combat are declining. Meanwhile, growing nationalism is hampering international cooperation and fuelling conflict everywhere. The west’s will – as well as its capability – to shape the world is ebbing away.
Beset by economic woes, western countries are continuing the post-Cold War process of disarmament at the very moment that many believe a new Cold War is starting. NATO members have compared Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy to that of Adolf Hitler, newly empowered groups such as ISIS, not to mention some governments, are tearing up the rulebook of acceptable international behaviour, and the military prowess that the western world once regarded as its prerogative is being dwarfed by countries like India and China.
Tightly argued by Newsnight’s diplomatic and defence editor Mark Urban, THE EDGE is a sharp polemic that breaks new ground in examining the workings and consequences of these geo-political tectonics, and shows just how rapidly the balance of power has been upended.
2015, PAPER, 176 pages, Abacus, ISBN-10: 0349140510 ISBN-13: 978-0349140513
Cross and Scepter – Sverre Bagge
From the Vikings to the Reformation, Sverre Bagge spends little time with myths in his scholarly Scandinavian history, instead focusing on the development of northern European societies and their rise from the Dark Ages. Cross and Scepter provides an essential introduction to Scandinavian medieval history for scholars and general readers alike, offering vital new insights into state formation and cultural change in Europe.
2014, PAPER, 336 PAGES ISBN-10: 069116150X ISBN-13: 978-0691161501
The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia- Angus Roxburgh
Drawing on dozens of exclusive interviews in Russia, where he worked for a time as a Kremlin insider advising Putin on press relations, as well as in the US and Europe, Roxburgh also argues that the West threw away chances to bring Russia in from the cold, by failing to understand its fears and aspirations following the collapse of communism.
2013, New Upd edition, PAPER, 368 PAGES, I.B.Tauris, ISBN-10: 1780765045 , ISBN-13: 978-1780765044
Red Gas: Russia and the Origins European Energy Dependence- Per Högselius
This book provides an alternative approach to analyzing Western Europe’s much-debated dependence on Russian natural gas. The author investigates how and why governments, businesses, engineers and other actors sought to promote – and oppose– the establishment of an extensive East-West natural gas regime that seemed to overthrow the fundamental logic of the Cold War
2013, PAPER, 296 PAGES, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN-10: 1137293713 ISBN-13: 978-1137293718
Change or Decay: Russia’s Dilemma and the West’s Response- Lilia Shevtsova, Andrew Wood
In a series of lively and candid conversations, Lilia Shevtsova and Andrew Wood discuss how the Russia of Putin and Medvedev emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union and the trajectory of Russia’s relations with the West.
2011, 259 PAGES, Brookings Institution Press, ISBN-10: 0870033476, ISBN-13: 978-0870033476
A History of the Baltic States (Palgrave Essential Histories Series) – Professor Andres Kasekamp
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been the battleground for neighbouring powers and the site of intense rivalry, but also interaction, between East and West. A History of the Baltic States masterfully traces the development of these three Baltic countries, from the northern crusades against Europe’s last pagans, and Lithuania’s rise to become one of medieval Europe’s largest
states, to their incorporation into the Russian Empire and the creation of their modern national identities.
Drawing upon the most recent scholarship, Andres Kasekamp pays particular attention to the tumultuous twentieth century, during which the Baltic States achieved independence, but also endured occupation by both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Finally, he explores how the Baltic States recovered their statehood and transformed themselves into members of the European Union. Clearly and accessibly written, this is one of the first English-language books to provide a comparative survey of Baltic history.
2010, PAPER, 264 pages, Palgrave Macmillan ISBN-10: 0230019412 ISBN-13: 978-0230019416
The Dogs of Riga – Henning Mankell
Swedish detective Kurt Wallander travels from Ystad to Latvia on the shadowy trail of a grisly murder in this second book, steeped in Baltic ambiance.
2004, PAPER, 352 PAGES, Vintage, ISBN-10: 0099570556 ISBN-13: 978-0099570554
Among the Russians – Colin Thubron
The marvelous account of a 10,000-mile journey by car from St. Petersburg and the Baltic States south to Georgia and Armenia in 1981. A gifted writer and intrepid traveler, Thubron grapples with the complexities of Russian identity in this lyrical book.
2001, PAPER, 224 PAGES
The Baltic States and Their Region: New Europe or Old? – David J. Smith
With EU and NATO membership for the Baltic States now a reality, this volume examines the relationship of the three countries, their constituent peoples and their surrounding region to the wider Europe, both historically and in the period since 1991. In particular, the contributors seek to locate the Baltic area within the manifold debates surrounding the concepts of new and old Europe, including those occasioned by the current conflict in Iraq. Covering issues of identity, sovereignty, minority rights, security and relations with Russia the work assesses the likely contribution of this region to an enlarged Euro-Atlantic community. It will appeal to specialists and students in the fields of area studies, history, politics and international relations.
Series: On the Boundary of Two Worlds Identity, Freedom, and Moral Imagination in the Baltics
2005, PAPER, 328 pages, Rodopi, ISBN-10: 9042016663, ISBN-13: 978-9042016668
The History of the Baltic States- Kevin O’Connor
The Baltic states-Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania-are nestled in northeastern Europe, where they lie at a crossroad of European culture. This is the most recent and up-to-date narrative history of the Baltic states, providing readers with an ideal starting point for research on the area. It includes a timeline of major events, biographic sketches of noteworthy historical figures, a glossary, and a bibliographic essay.
Collectively, the Balkan states have been both a transmitter of culture and a victim of larger, more powerful nations’ aspirations. Their ethnically and religiously diverse natives continue to struggle with the question of identity, yet the Balts have had relatively peaceful relations with each other for some 600 years. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Baltic states returned to Europe and seem intent on preserving the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that emerged during their struggle for independence more than a decade ago. The Baltic states’ survival and recovery during the late Soviet and early post-Soviet era is an inspiring and fascinating tale. This concise history takes readers from the ice ages through the Cold War, telling the tale of these small but important countries and their role in the history of Europe.
2000, Hardcover, 246 PAGES Praeger Publishers ISBN-10: 0313323550 ISBN-13: 978-0313323553
The Baltic Nations and Europe: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Twentieth Century – John Hiden, Patrick Salmon
Of all the Soviet Union’s subject nationalities, the three Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were the most determined and best organised in seizing the opportunities created by glasnost and perestroika to win freedom from Moscow’s grip.
At the time of first publication, in 1991, the final section of the book was speculative. Now for this revised edition, the authors have provided a new final chapter which brings the story up to date — and the three republics to political independence again.
1994, 240 PAGES, Routledge; 1 edition (24 Oct. 1994) ISBN-10: 058225650X ISBN-13: 978-0582256507
Devils in Amber: The Baltics – Phillip Bonosky
“Amber and devils – gintaras ir velnis. These may well be the unofficial symbols expressing the irrepressible spirit for survival and endurance of the three Baltic nations tucked away in northern Europe, especially of Lithuania. Amber is the petrified resin from the pine trees of prehistoric times in which, reading the insects, fragments of leaves and even coins caught in it, one can detect the presence of Man before he himself knew how to record his existence. Christianity, which came late to the Baltics, also brought in the Devil. Christianity was forced on pagan Lithuania at the end of the 14th century. To compensate for the loss of their pagan god, Perkunas, the Baltic people seized on the devil in whom to deposit their sense of rebellion, preserve their irreducible, ultimate refusal to bow to the Christian god. All through the Baltic countryside one comes upon little shrines devoted to Christ and Mother Mary. In the log homes, sharing the same living space as Christ and Mary, one will also encounter the leering, pagan, gargoylish face of the Devil: united in opposition, forever the opposite poles of the same faith. One can almost paraphrase the entire history of the Baltics in these two images. There is a perversity, stubbornness, paganism in their histories that shapes them still. In this book we see evidence of all three qualities, which has guaranteed their survival, even though several times they have brought them almost to the edge of extinction as well. The period which has now just begun is the period of greatest peril. This history tells us why.”
1992, PAPER, 305 pages, Intl Pub ISBN-10: 0717806995 ISBN-13: 978-0717806997
The Compromise – Sergei Dovlatov
Based on Dovlatov’s experiences as a journalist in the Soviet Republic of Estonia, this is an acidly comic picture of ludicrous bureaucratic ineptitude, which obviously still continues. Born to an Armenian mother and a Jewish father, Sergei Dovlatov (1941 – 90) grew up in Leningrad. Because of his writings, which he could not publish in Russia, he was persecuted by the authorities, and ultimately forced into exile in the US, where he developed his talent as a comic writer. Since his death in 1990, Dovlatov has become one of the most popular and widely read authors in Russia.
1990, PAPER, 151 PAGES, Academy Chicago Publishers, ISBN-10: 0897333535 ISBN-13: 978-0897333535
Public broadcasting of Latvia, English
Re:Baltica is a non-profit organization that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Founded in August 2011, we focus on in-depth investigations of socially important issues in the Baltic region, such as corruption, crime, finances, entrepreneurship, health and human rights. Our journalism encourages transparency and reform. We are based in Riga, but work all over Baltics and beyond. We give away our work for free and encourage other media to steal it, just, please, notify us at [email protected]