The reason Scandinavia is one of Earth's most distinctive peninsulae is the Baltic Sea, which is actually the result of glacial retreat during the Last Ice Age, so it wasn't a geologically ancient body. Indeed, evidence has found that before the Pleistocene, the Baltic Sea was actually the Baltic Plain.

In this alternate scenario, the geological timeline of the Baltic Plain is as follows:

  • 250 million years ago, Scandinavia collided with mainland Eurasia, resulting in a mountain range as tall as the Himalayas today. Since then, the rocks had been crumbling.
  • 5 million years ago to today, repeated ice ages smothered Scandinavia, yet unlike ours, the Baltic Plain still stood strong.

So if the Baltic never became a sea, if we still have the ancient Baltic Plain, would it have any major differences to European climate, landscape and culture?

  • $\begingroup$ That's pretty broad. The political implications alone are staggering. (from a modern border consideration). But would the same countries even exist in this alternate universe? Unlikely. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jan 28 '16 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Very broad, possibly too broad as the effects are massive and far reaching. Removing a sea that the great powers went to war over access to completely redraws the map. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 28 '16 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ Eastern and Northern Europe would be completely different: more arid, hence even less densely populated. Although there would be great lakes in the Baltic Plain, there would probably never have been significant amber trade (one commodity the mediterranean cultures lacked, besides blonde slaves). The Roman conquest of Germania would have been different, but I’m not sure whether more or less successful. The Migration Period (Visigoths, Langobards etc.) certainly would have been different and maybe hadn’t happened at all. The 2000 years afterwards are hence mere speculation (except for climate). $\endgroup$ – Crissov Jan 28 '16 at 21:16

The historical differences would be too large to estimate. The Baltic has been a major economic route since the middle ages. Not having it would almost certainly have major effects on the culture. Grain from Poland was one of the more important trade goods for centuries and not having would have caused all kinds of effects. It might have, for example, slowed down urbanization in the Western Europe since there would have been less food surplus.

Then again being close to the Baltic and Atlantic trade routes is a big part of why England and Netherlands became commercially important in the first place. Without the Baltic, both of those areas probably would never have become important. So you are in a way asking if a world where neither England nor the Dutch were major trade powers would differ culturally.

Climate-wise the Baltic has a moderating effect on the climate in the countries surrounding it. Countries North and East from Germany would have more continental climates. Drier and hotter summers, colder winters. The effects of the Baltic actually reach to the Siberia, so pretty much all of Poland, Russia, and Ukraine would be significantly more arid.

This would also affect culture, Poland and Russia that were less habitable would have been less able to spread Christianity and resist Islam — or more specifically the Ottoman Empire. Considering how close the Ottomans came to conquering Vienna in our world, I think we can safely say it would have made a difference.

Similarly the mongols might have reached farther west if Ukraine had a different climate. Especially since the more continental climate can also be expressed as more similar to Central Asia and Mongolia.

The landscape would be more arid, so yes it would differ as well, but with the Atlantic still strong influence I doubt it would be a simple and predictable change.

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Without going into speculative climatology, I'd figure that the Baltic Plain would be covered with forest, much like North Russia now. What is now the Russian forest would be drier and colder, so more like Central Russian steppe. The major rivers could still have been used by Scandinavians to create "Rus" states in the area, but like Russia in real history these would be somewhat backward due to distance and issues with steppe nomads.

So it would be like pushing Russia west over Poland, Finland, and the Baltics from the very beginning rather than after WWII. Vikings might have pushed west more than east, making England and France Norse. England in particular might have been like a displaced Sweden and less of a mix of influences.

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Access to the Baltic is immensely valuable.

Peter the Great of Russia went to war to get access to the Baltic. Having taken the land from Sweden, he proceeded to build St Petersburg and made it his new capital.

By removing the Baltic you massively change the trade routes out of Eastern Europe. Apart from removing Russia's access to the western seas you've just landlocked all of:

and possibly even Sweden
along with a few of the Germanic states.

This is going to make trade much harder across Europe and bias the wealth and empires even more towards the western nations (Netherlands, England, France, Spain, and Portugal).

A few of your smaller newly landlocked powers are going to vanish into empires never to be seen again. Norway would probably remain a Swedish Imperial territory rather than the prize to be traded every time they lost/won a war with Denmark as the ports would be too valuable.

Onto the new wars

This section requires a list of East European Empires that are now landlocked, which I don't have right now. Though I know there was a Polish-Lithuanian Empire, there will be more.

These empires are going to want access to open waters and will push westwards to get it.

In short, you're looking at a massive redrawing of the borders of Europe. Different countries surviving, different powers in Northern Europe, possibly Sweden remaining one of the greater and geographically much larger powers. Smaller countries being eliminated and even more wars and empires.

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