Category Archives: 1-Thursday

The Baltic Countries in a Globalizing World: The Next Twenty Years

Moderator:   Bradley D. Woodworth (University of New Haven / Yale University) with panelists that include:

The Ambassadors to the United States-

Marina Kaljurand (Estonia)

Žygimantas Pavilionis (Lithuania)

Andrejs Pildegovics (Latvia)

They will be joined by

Benjamin Rhodes (Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting to the President of the USA)

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall (Senior Director for European Affairs National Security Council, The White House)

Why the Baltic States in 1917-1921? The Role of International Politics


Chair:               Olavi Arens (Armstrong State University), with participants:

Karsten Brüggemann (University of Tallinn)

Vėjas Gabriel Liulevičius (University of Tennessee)

Eero Medijainen (University of Tartu)

The panel will discuss the establishment of the Baltic States in the post-WW I world from the perspective of international politics of the period.  While the perspectives of the major powers (Germany, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and United States) differed, we will address some of the common features, as well as difference, in their views and policies toward the Baltic States.

Keyword: Bruggemann

Keword: Liulevicius

Keyword: Vejas

Getting Published


Chair: Terry D. Clark (Director of the Graduate  Program in International Relations,  Creighton University and Editor,  Journal of Baltic Studies)

with participants:

Rasma Kārkliņa (University of Latvia, and Professor Emerita,
University of Illinois at Chicago)

Žaneta Ozoliņa (Professor of International  Relations,  University of Latvia)

Michelle Phillips (Managing Editor for Security Studies and International Relations,  Routledge)

The roundtable proposes to bring together a cross-disciplinary group of senior scholars and a representative from Routledge, a major international publishing company, to discuss issues related to getting published.

Keyword: Karlina

Keyword: Karlins

Keyword: Zaneta

Keyword: Ozolina

Werner Hasselblatt on Cultural Autonomy: A Forgotten Manuscript

Jörg Hackmann (University of Szczecin, Poland)

During the years Werner Hasselblatt spent in Estonia, while pushing the well known project of cultural autonomy for Estonia’s national minorities he was also working on an accompanying book project.  It would seem that the manuscript remained unfinished in Estonia, and Hasselblatt headed for Berlin in 1931 to take up new responsibilities in Germany as secretary of the association of German national groups in Europe.  The manuscript was rediscovered only in the 1990s.  Although the text was far from finished, it offers an opportunity to examine Hasselblatt’s notion of cultural autonomy first against the background of Baltic German politics in Estonia, and second with regard to Hasselblatt’s own shift towards Nazi minority and nationality politics after 1933.  This paper gives a critical assessment of the manuscript and of the Baltic German discourse on cultural autonomy.

Keyword: Jorg

Ethnographic and Racial Studies in Nazi-Occupied Estonia

Anton Weiss-Wendt (Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Oslo, Norway)

Racial discourse was commonplace in wartime Europe. What makes Estonia stand apart from the rest of the Nazi-occupied countries of East Central Europe is that many Estonian academics and scientists not only spoke of racial science but also acted it out, without subscribing to Nazi ideology.  In retrospect, Estonians proved simultaneously the object and the subject of Nazi racial grand designs.  This paper argues that the local discourse concerning the biological health of the Estonian nation was far more attuned to the views of German, and later Nazi, racial experts than has previously been assumed.  The relatively lax occupation regime introduced by the Nazis in Estonia and the idea of Finno-Ugrian ethnographic order influenced a substantial number of Estonian scientists and scholars to both intellectually and practically contribute to the Nazis’ radical reshaping of Europe.  By advancing racial research and participating in population transfers, prominent members of the Estonian scientific and academic elite unwittingly contributed to the building Hitler’s “New Europe.”

“Who owns the soil should also sow”—Building the Racial State: Eugenics, Sterilization and Race in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania under Authoritarian Rule, 1934-1940

Björn Felder (University of Göttingen, Germany)

The authoritarian statehoods in the Baltics put in place by Päts, Ulmanis and Smetona not only contributed to the trend in Western and Central Europe towards fascism, they also provided an important aspect of totalitarianism: bio-politics.

Baltic authoritarianism aimed not only to construct a monolithic and mono-ethic state, but it also sought to form the nation biologically: to create a racial state.  Besides creating racial identities through the rhetoric of “blood and soil,” race and racial hygiene, the national bio-political programs were expected to overcome the alleged demographic crisis, strengthen the “national vitality” for a Darwinian struggle among nations, and “enhance” the genetic value of the nation.  The aim of biological homogenization was also due to the current discourse of racial anthropology; with their racial identity as “Nordic” nations belonging to the “Nordic” race, bio-engineers were to create a racially homogeneous nation.  Even if these states had no official xenophobic or racist agenda, national bio-politics necessarily included a racial utopia.

National eugenics contributed the largest part of authoritarian bio-politics.  Both Estonia and Latvia established national eugenic projects (in 1936 and 1937, respectively), including eugenic legislation that included eugenic abortion and sterilization, the goals of which were to reduce the number of “inferiors” and “improve” the nation genetically.  Even Catholic Lithuania had a hidden eugenic agenda.

This paper seeks to illustrate the building of the racial state in the Baltic region, the implementation there of practical eugenics, and the racial agendas of Baltic authoritarianism, putting these in the context both of contemporary concepts of race and eugenics and of bio-politics.

Keyword: Bjorn

Is Lithuanian Identity (Post)modern?

Linas Venclauskas (Vytautas Magnus University)

This paper discusses the development of modern Lithuanian identity in the second half of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century, though the focus is on the last twenty years of independence.  What we have inherited from the past?  Have we modified our concepts of identify through new perspectives, or are we still dealing with the identity that was formed in the mid-twentieth century?  Sources for this paper include public discussions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, primarily from newspapers.  For understanding concepts of identity over the past twenty years, attention will be given to Lithuanian history textbooks; these help us understand what kind of history is being taught in contemporary Lithuania.  Important questions arise: Is Lithuania presented in these textbooks as a nation-state or there are signs of intercultural perspective?  Is Lithuania presented as part of a global world, or as a separate country with its own separate past, history and destiny?  What symbols and language are used when speaking about Lithuania?  Are they civic or national based?  Is identity perceived as an unchangeable structure, or can it be deconstructed, reconstructed and changed in answer to new global challenges?  To help compare primary narratives and their perception, some survey data of Lithuanian students will be presented as well; this will help us grasp changes in the consciousness of the generation born after 1990, in an already independent Lithuania.

Controlling the Past through Cinema in the Baltic Region

Vesa Vares (University of Turku)

This presentation examines historical films made after the break of 1989 and investigates how they present national struggles for independence and other periods which are considered important to national identity and sovereignty.

In countries with experience with socialism, films tend to represent the case of national liberation—examples include the Estonian film Tuulepaelne maa (“The Wind-Ribboned Land”) and the Latvian film The Struggle of Riga.  In the Polish film Katyn, it is not a question of victory, but of martyrs essential to Polish identity.  In these films, the struggle is described as a brave and necessary one, and the enemy—the Bolshevik Russians or German nobility—is depicted as repulsive in many ways.

In Finland, on the other hand, the image of the Independence / Civil War of 1918 is quite closely parallels the Western European genre of war films; the aspect of independence is taken into account hardly at all, and instead the focus is only on “White” terror and tragedy.  However, films about the Winter War and Continuation War represent a heroic struggle, which preserved Finnish independence.  The only major difference in comparison with the Baltic and Polish films is the almost total absence of the “evil enemy” image.

In this presentation I also include Norway and the film Max Manus.  This film describes the struggle of the resistance movement against the Germans in 1940-1945 and interestingly combines the “cruel war” genre and the aspect of a battle which was heroic and not futile.

Memory of the Latvian SS Voluntary Legion: The Personal, the Public, and the International

Mara Lazda (Bronx Community College of the City University of New York)

More than fifty years after the end of World War II, the memory of the Latvian SS Voluntary Legion remains a controversial part of Latvia’s past under the Nazi occupation, both within Latvia and globally.  In particular, the annual commemoration ceremony on March 16 elicits protests and press coverage.  The unresolved memory—and insufficiently written history—continue to shape European politics in the twenty-first century.  In March 2006, the Latvian Foreign Minister was called on to respond to concerns voiced in the European parliament about “Nazi tendencies in Latvian governmental institutions.”

This paper examines the politics and history of the Latvian Legion through an analysis of Latvian memoirs, oral history interviews, and the Latvian and international press.  Many Latvians saw, and continue to see, the Legion as the only opportunity to participate in the battle against the Soviet Union—and saw a fight against Germany as the next step that would free Latvia.  Outside observers, however, including both the Western and Russian press, raise concerns that the Legion commemoration is a sign of the rise of the extreme right.  Furthermore, extremists on opposite sides of the political spectrum—extreme Latvian nationalists on one hand and Russian nationalists on the other—manipulate the commemoration to serve as a platform for their organizations.

Creating the Prehistoric and Historical Past and the Formation of Modern Identity

Valter Lang (University of Tartu)

This paper discusses the role of social order (or the public’s desire) for the “right” interpretation of the past and its impact on both academic research and the creation of modern identities.  Social order with respect to the past comes from dominant societal groups and must correspond to the possibilities of scholarly interpretation of past events.  Changes in general treatments of both history and prehistory are caused by changes in social order, which in turn are caused either by alteration in the social context (e.g. state formations) or new discoveries in archaeology and history.

There have been four stages in the historiography of Estonian prehistory and early history: the so-called Baltic German School and pre-Estonian interpretations (late nineteenth century- early twentieth century), Estonian interpretations I (the 1920s-1930s), Soviet interpretations (the 1940s-1980s), and Estonian interpretations II (since the 1990s).  This paper demonstrates that there are two equally important parts in the formation of our understandings of the past: 1) society with its general ideology; and 2) archaeology and history with their scientific tools for the scholarly investigation of the past.  When one of these components changes, the interpretation of the past changes as well.  It should be remembered, however, that the social order provides only a general framework for interpretation, whereas thousands of details are left for specialists to study.