The Baltics are the three countries in northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Baltic states cooperate on a regional level in several intergovernmental organizations. While the native populations of Latvia and Lithuania are known as Baltic people, those of Estonia are Finnic people together with the Finns.
The peoples comprising the Baltic states have together inhabited the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea for millennia. The Baltic States have a long history and diverse culture. The three countries were independent, then occupied by the Soviet Union, but they were among the first to break away in 1990—91 and today are proud members of both the European Union and NATO.
Despite the three nations' similarities in history, politics and geography, their languages and culture belong to two distinct language families. The Latvian and Lithuanian languages make up the living members of the group of Baltic languages, spoken by the ethnic Balts in the region, which belongs to the Indo-European language family. Therefore, the Balts are Indo-Europeans.
The Estonian language, on the other hand, is a non-Indo-European language and instead belongs to the Baltic-Finnic subgroup of the Finno-Ugric languages, sharing close cultural and historical ties with the Finnish language and culture. Also, the ethnic Estonians are related to the ethnic Finns, which both descend from the Baltic Finns.