Russians in Soviet Lithuania: Rethinking Stereotypes after Twenty Years of Independence

Andrius Marcinkevičius (Lithuanian Social Research Center)

An important task of the modern state is to ensure the integration of ethnic minorities, to enable them to maintain their ethnic and cultural identity. This is not always an easy task due to political, ideological, historical and other considerations. It is difficult for the ethnic majority to pursue a policy of integration for minorities without knowing their history, identity and expectations. This is particularly true as this identity is changing through various political, economic, and social processes.  In addition, long-held stereotypes remain. Soviet leaders tried to destroy the identity not only of Lithuanians but of Russians as well. Their declared intention was to create “Soviet society” on the base of Russian language and culture and that culture was to be purged of bourgeois elements. In fact, there was no place for variety of ethnic cultures in Soviet Lithuania, though ethnicity as form without content remained in the discourse until the collapse of the Soviet Empire. For this reason, Russians have had difficulties integrating into the society of independent Lithuania.  During the Soviet period negative images were formed of Russians both in Lithuania and in other Soviet Baltic republics. While these stereotypes were to some degree based on real facts, on the other hand they did not reflect the variation of identity, culture and expectations that were typical of Russians. Thus, in order to understand the identity of Russians and their future expectations it is very important to explore the ideological and historical basis on which their identity was built.

Keyword:  Marcinkevicius

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