The Politics of Contact: The Émigré Debate over Cultural Exchanges and the American Leningrad Consulate

Jonathan H. L’Hommedieu (Armstrong Atlantic State University)

During the late 1950s and 1960s, a new generation of politically active Baltic émigrés residing in the United States reassessed their predecessors’ strategies in the fight against the Soviet occupation of their homelands. While many strategies were reaffirmed, such as ensuring the continuation of the non-recognition policy, many émigrés pursued new initiatives, notably establishing contacts in the Baltic Soviet republics.  Members of the older generation who pursued an exclusionary policy towards the Soviet republics were adamantly opposed to such contacts.  This intergenerational dynamic created a small, but noticeable level of tension within the Baltic émigré communities.  The decisions by the United States Department of State to begin cultural exchanges with the Baltic Soviet republics in 1968 and to open a consulate in Leningrad in 1972 not only elevated the debate over contact within the Baltic émigré communities, but also helped to define the nature of relations between American officials and their Baltic constituents during this period.  This paper will examine the following questions: How did the American proposals influence the debate within national Baltic organizations over the question of contact? How did American officials react to pressure applied by their constituents over this issue?  To what extent did the interpretation of the non-recognition policy evolve as a result of these proposals?  Finally, how does this demonstrate levels of evolution between two generations of Baltic émigrés?

Keyword: LHommedieu

Keyword: Hommedieu

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