Livonia (Ger. Livland), a W. government of Russia, bounded N. by Esthonia, E. by Lake Peipus and the government of Pskov, S. E. by Vitebsk, S. by Courland, and W. by the gulf of Livonia or bay of Riga; area, 17,801 sq. m.; pop. in 1867, 990,784. It includes the islands of Oesel, Moen, etc, lying at the entrance of the gulf. The surface is generally level or gently undulating, but in the E. portions a number of hills reach an altitude of from 500 to 1,000 ft. A considerable proportion of the land is occupied by forests and marshes. The soil on the seacoast is very sandy; in the interior, sand, clay, loam, and moorland alternate; but there are many very fertile tracts. There is a large number of lakes, the principal of which is the border lake Peipus (about 1,300 sq. m.), united by a narrow channel with Lake Pskov (about 150 sq. m.) on the southeast, and by the Great Embach with Lake Wirz (about 100 sq. m.), in the middle of the government. The principal river is the Dtina, which is the boundary toward Courland, and receives from Livonia the Ewst and the Oger; there are more than 300 smaller streams, among which are the Embach, Aa, Salis, and Pernau. The climate is cold and raw till the end of May, but very hot in the three summer months. Agriculture is the chief industry.
The country produces rye, barley, flax, hops, hemp, and linseed. The live stock is generally poor, but some good stock is owned by the nobles. Bears, wolves, lynxes, and foxes are numerous; and on the islands and coast seals are taken, and fish of various kinds are abundant. Potters' clay and limestone are obtained. Coarse woollens and cloths are made, and there are numerous distilleries. The rural population consists of Letts, Livs or Livonians proper, a people of Finnic race, and Esths, of the same race, while Germans, Swedes, and Russians form the nobility, clergy, and burghers; there are also a few Jews. The great majority of the people are Lutherans. The principal towns are Riga, the capital, Pernau, Wenden, Dorpat, which has a university, and Arensberg in the island of Oesel. - Livonia was first made known to western Europe by Bremen merchants about the middle of the 12th century. At the beginning of the 13th the order of knights sword-bearers was founded there, which in connection with the Teutonic order gradually subdued all the territories surrounding the gulf of Riga. The possession of the province was subsequently long disputed by Russians, Poles, and the knights, and finally also by Sweden, to which it was ceded by the treaty of Oliva in 1660. The treaty of Nystadt in 1721 annexed it to Russia.