The Diaspora-Kinstate Phenomenon and Controversies over Soviet Era History in the Baltic States

Rita P. Peters (University of Massachusetts at Boston)

The diaspora-kinstate phenomenon has been an acrimonious part of Russian-Baltic state relations. In effect, Russia – as the kin-state of the ethnic Russian diaspora in Estonia and Latvia – uses ethnic identity politics to exert pressure on the Baltic States in various contexts and over a range of security and sovereignity issues. The diaspora-kinstate phenomenon has also been a factor in the European Union and NATO accession processes and continues to be an aspect of Baltic security considerations. The diaspora –kinstate phenomenon can be most clearly understood as a part of the conflict over historical interpretations of Soviet era history in the Baltic countries. In that sense the phenomenon and the historical controversies are closely linked. On both issues Moscow and the Baltic States have sought to enlist international support, notably of the European states and the US. The Baltic States and Russia have engaged in diplomatic confrontations in international organizations, including the United Nations and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Following a review of Mascow’s use of diaspora-based pressure on Estonia and Latvia, culminating in the most broadly defined claims to protect “compatriots” in the course of the Georgia-Russia conflict, this paper focuses on the link between the diaspora-kinstate phenomenon in Baltic-Russian relations and their conflicting interpretations of Soviet era history. It is the link, embedded in concepts of national identity for the Baltic States as well as Russia, that make both the historical controversies and the diaspora-kinstate phenomenon more intractable parts of Russian Baltic relations.

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