The three Baltic republics—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania—are the only units of the former Soviet Union to deal effectively with the complex challenges of transitioning to free market democracy with advancing levels of human development. These countries have developed high levels of societal fitness—defined in complexity science as the ability to cope with multifaceted challenges and opportunities. What are the sources of these achievements? Many factors intertwined to produce what some call the “Baltic miracle.” One key element has been the three revolutions stemming from the Protestant mandate to read and discuss the Bible: mass literacy, free thought and repression, and respect for individual dignity. Protestant influences were strongest in what is now Estonia and Latvia, but they reached Lithuania as well. Religiosity in now low in the Baltic republics, as in the Sweden that once nurtured both Christianity and literacy in its Baltic provinces. But the sparks it ignited in centuries past have shaped the rationalist and humanistic ethos of the region. Religion, of course, is just one of the European influences that conditioned economic and other cultural development in the region. But the dates when the Bible reached all of Europe in the vernacular are strong predictors of human development today. Balts also gained from not being occupied by the Golden Horde. On the other hand, they had to overcome several centuries of Russian and then Soviet domination. Fifty years of Communist rule dimmed but did not extinguish the positive qualities that reemerged with great vitality in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The Baltic transformations were not "managed" from above or from outside—not from Brussels, not from Washington. They were encouraged and supported by Sweden and other European powers, but each transformation emerged from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down or from outside-in. Balts acted synergistically to contribute to the self-organization that is crucial to meeting complex challenges.
Keywords: Complexity Science, Societal Fitness, Baltics, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania