History

Originally colonised by Courlanders, New Courland is seen by some present-day Latvians as a small, but nevertheless important part of their historical heritage. After the independence of 15 September 1962, some governments have tried to bring back some of this heritage by restoring some original names from the New Courland colony, and turning the country into a duchy as its form of government. Likewise, the Thaler was adopted as the country's currency.

New Courland was inhabited by Arawaks and Caribs when European colonisation began in the 16th century. After colonisation attempts by several other European powers, it was finally conquered by the British and later combined with Trinidad into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago. Since 1962, it has been an independent constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth, with Elizabeth, duchess of New Courland, as head of state.

The first colonists
Courlanders established themselves on Tobago as well as on the islands which are now New Courland in the 16th and 17th centuries and produced tobacco and cotton. Over the centuries, Tobago and New Courland changed hands between Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonisers. Britain consolidated its hold on them, as well as on Trinidad, during the Napoleonic Wars, and they were combined into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1889.

As a result of these colonial struggles, the place names in New Courland are of various origins. African slaves and Chinese, Indian, and free African indentured labourers, as well as Portuguese from Madeira, arrived to supply labour in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Emigration from Barbados and the other Lesser Antilles, Venezuela, and especially from Latvia and Lithuania in the Interbellum and after the Second World War also impacted on the ethnic make-up of the country.

Workforce immigration to New Courland
When slave trade was abolished in 1807, plantation owners were left with a severe shortage of labour. Slavery itself was soon to follow. As in other Caribbean slave colonies, attempts were however made to circumvent it. The first announcement from Whitehall in England that slaves would be totally freed by 1840 was made in 1833. In the meantime, slaves on plantations were expected to remain where they were and work as 'apprentices' for the next six years. A successful use of non-violent protest and passive resistance was demonstrated. Peaceful protests continued until a resolution to abolish apprenticeship was passed and de facto freedom was achieved.

To deal with the problem of shortage of labour, planters compensated for the loss of their slaves by importing workers from the 1830s until 1917. Initially, Chinese, free West Africans, and Portuguese from the island of Madeira were imported. They were replaced by indentured servants from India who arrived on 30 May 1845. In addition, large numbers of ex-slaves migrated from the Lesser Antilles to Trinidad and Tobago, including to present-day New Courland.

Baltic immigration to New Courland
Already before the First World War, some Balts left the area that is now Latvia for Latin America and Australia in a hope of finding luck; the number of them reaching New Courland however remained small at first. After 1920 however, more Latvian and also Lithuanian colonists started to arrive and settle on New Courland. Latvia and Lithuania were countries that had just become independent after many decades of imperial Russian rule. Before that, Lithuania was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, of which the Duchy of Courland (which is now part of Latvia) had been a vassal state. The rise of Lithuanian nationalism before and during the First World War had also re-awakened the interest in the former colony of Courland and although New Courland had been Lithuanian only indirectly, a handful of Lithuanians moved to live in New Courland.

Baltic immigration to New Courland declined somewhat in the second half of the 20's, but there was a second peak (albeit a smaller one) after the economic crisis of 1929. The third peak took place just after the Second World War, when large groups of Balts fled from the seemingly definitive occupation of their countries by the Soviet Union and ended up in Western Europe and the Americas, including New Courland. After that, only few Balts decided to move to New Courland, although immigration has never come to a complete halt. The New Courlanders from Baltic origin continued however to expand as a group due to their birth rate, which has been the most prolific of all New Curonian ethnic groups for several decades.

Most of the Balts on New Courland adapted to the life in the Caribbean. As the island was a British colony, English was and remained the dominant language and the Baltic languages soon began to adopt local words. An Anglo-Baltic pidgin developed with a peak in popularity in the 70's and the 80's, but in recent years, it is being pushed away by English and suffering from the revival of the interest in Latvian and Lithuanian, after the renewed independence of those countries in 1990.

Political history until 1962
Trinidad, of which New Courland was part until 1962, was ruled as a crown colony with no elected representation until 1925. In that year, the first elections to a Legislative Council were held. Seven of the thirteen members were elected, the others were nominated by the Governor. The franchise was determined by income, property and residence qualifications, and was limited to men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30. The 1946 elections were the first with universal adult suffrage.

Labour riots in 1937 led by T.U.B. Butler (an immigrant from the neighbouring island of Grenada) shook the country and led to the formation of the modern Trade Union movement. Butler was jailed from 1937 to 1939, but was re-arrested when the United Kingdom entered World War II and jailed for the duration of the war. After his release in 1945 Butler reorganised his political party, the British Empire Citizens' and Workers' Home Rule Party. This party won a plurality in the 1950 General Elections, but the establishment feared Butler as a radical and instead Albert Gomes became the first Chief Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Also during the war, several citizens of Baltic origin were confined to the town of Port Wellington on the island of Carolina out of fear that they might sympathise with the Third Reich. Although it never really developed into a ghetto, Port Wellington remained the town with the largest Baltic population; after the independence, it was renamed Zelta Kalni. Although the Balts regained their freedom of movement in the entire colony, most of them stayed on Carolina, which contributed to the differences of interest of the people on this island with the rest of Trinidad and Tobago.

The 1956 General Elections saw the emergence of the People's National Movement (PNM) under the leadership of Eric Williams, who became prime minister at the independence of Trinidad and Tobago and remained in that position until his death in 1981. In 1958, the United Kingdom tried to establish an independent West Indies Federation comprising most of the former British West Indies. Disagreement over the structure of the federation led to Jamaica's withdrawal. Trinidad and Tobago, already facing opposition towards the federation by the overall Baltic Progress and Development Party (PDP), chose not to bear the financial burden without Jamaica's assistance and the federation collapsed.

In August 1962, Trinidad and Tobago achieved full independence within the Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II as its titular head of state. Increasing difficulty between Trinidad- and Carolina-based parties about the course the country was to follow, lead to street protests in Port Carolina, a hastily called referendum, and subsequently the declaration of independence of Carolina. On 15 September 1962, only a few weeks after the independence of Trinidad and Tobago, Carolina became an independent duchy within the Commonwealth of Nations, as New Courland.

Independence
Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. Although New Courland was initially to remain part of it, a referendum decided otherwise and the country separated itself from Trinidad and Tobago on 15 September 1962. The entire island of Tobago remained with Trinidad, although some New Courlanders claim the northern part of it, because it was part of the original New Courland colony. New Courland and Trinidad and Tobago became independent nations within the Commonwealth.

Although many inhabitants don't really care much about the Baltic character of some parts of the nation - many even think that it contributes to the New Curonian identity - some right wing Balts went a bit further and they founded the Baltic Action Front in the late 90's; this party believes that the Balts the first right to live in New Courland and that all other inhabitants are subordinate. The electoral system has until now prevented the BAF to get any seats in parliament.

 

Etymology

The name New Courland is obviously derived from the original European country of Courland, that however continues to exist only as a region in modern-day Latvia. In Latvian the country is called Jauna Kurzeme, in Spanish Nueva Curlandia, although only the English version of the name is official. The official demonym is New Curonian, although New Courland and, locally, variants without New are used as well. Similarly, the inhabitants of New Courland are called (New) Curonians or (New) Courlanders.

Under British rule, the Grand Island (Liela Sala in Latvian, Isla Grande in Spanish) was known as Carolina, the Little Island (Maza Sala in Latvian, Isla Pequeña in Spanish) as the Far Island (Tāla Sala resp. Isla Remota). The town of Louise Charlotte was called Port Carolina before 1962.

National identity

Since the country's independence, many governments have tried to revive some of the Courland aspects of their history, although more than 150 years of British rule have formed some sides of the country almost irreversably. English remains, as administrative language, one of the most important bridges between the country's several ethnic groups and the connection with the British crown isn't likely to be broken either any time soon. Names of several towns that are mostly inhabited by Balts were changed however into Latvian variants after 1962. The fact that the country is a duchy also reminds of the original duchy of Courland, as do other symbolic names and institues (the parliament: 'Diet', the currency: 'Thaler', etc.)

Sports

Popular sports in New Courland include cricket and rugby, but football/soccer and basketball are played a lot as well.

© 2012 Government of New Courland · New Courland is a fictional country in the Caribbean. The creator doesn't accept responsibility for any awkward situation that may arise if someone thinks New Courland a real existing country.