Intellectual Conceptions of Baltic “Peoples” in Times of Cultural and National Awakening: The Case of Johann Woldemar and Harry Jannsen

Konrad Maier (Institute of Northeast European Studies, Lüneburg, Germany)
 At the beginning of the nineteenth century the preconditions for a common development of the peoples of the Russian provinces on the shores of the Baltic Sea (i.e. Estonians and Latvians) were quite positive: they lived in a unified state (the Russian Empire) with similar social and economic structures, similar political framing conditions, and structural dependencies between the Baltic German upper strata and Russian bureaucracy.
 From the mid-nineteenth century, the disparities widened between the poor strata on the one hand and the rich upper class and powerful tsar on the other.  This could be seen first of all in agrarian property relations.  Urgent reforms came too late and did not reflect the real needs of the peasantry.  Growing inability to communicate with each other and lingual separation created regional unification movements; a movement combining all three provinces had no chance of success.  But in times of Russian cultural-administrative centralization, both new options and new images of who constituted the enemy appeared.  Johann Woldemar Jannsen dreamt of a settlement between indigenous strata and the Baltic German population, and the idea of his son Harry—Baltentumas a conglomerate of all Baltic populations—created hope that a poly-national concept for the Baltic provinces was possible.In this paper I describe the Janssens’ idealistic conceptions, but I also outline, more importantly, the reasons why their ideas for a Baltentum were doomed to fail.

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