Category Archives: 2-Friday

Sprachkultur as Manifestation of Power: A Case of Soviet Lithuania

Nerijus Šepetys (Vilnius University ) and Loreta Vaicekauskienė (The  Institute of Lithuanian Language, Vilnius)

The presentation provides empirical evidence on how the soviets manipulated language standardization turning it gradually into an overall regulation of “correctness” of national language. The research is based on a case of Soviet ruled Lithuania, which today can serve as an example of one of the most developed systems of language supervision in Europe.

The comparison of present Lithuania with other speech communities makes one wonder where the power-employing institutionalisation of language comes from. Some similarities can be found with late-standard communities, dominated by other languages and established during the 19th century (Subačius 2002), where the idea of Sprachkultur was a part of national(ist) ideology (cf. Spitzmüller 2007). However, in independent Lithuania (1918–1940), even during the years of authoritarian nationalist regime, tendencies of liberalization and modernization became apparent. In 1940/1944–1990 this development was terminated by Soviet occupation.

Keyword:  Sepetys

Keyword: Vaicekauskiene

Sajudis and the Lithuanian Catholic Church

Miranda R. Zapor (Baylor University)

In the late 1980s, waves of popular nationalism swept across the Socialist Republics. In this context of nascent revolution, the Lithuanian Popular Front, Sajudis, was born.

The relationship between Sajudis and the Lithuanian Catholic Church (LCC) is worthy of particular scrutiny.  In contrast to Church-nationalist unities in other Socialist Republics, Sajudis had to actively incorporate the Lithuanian Catholic Church into its agenda, rather than simply assuming that an established foundation of religio-nationalist sentiment would result in a tacit alliance.  This task was made more complex by the well-established alternative sources of Lithuanian national identity that powerfully defined the national consciousness of Sajudis members; folk culture and religion, language, and history were all strong loci of national pride.  These sources proved sufficient to motivate the elite minority, but the majority of Lithuanians identified more readily with Catholic religious culture.  Moreover, the Lithuanian Catholic Church lacked a conscientiously nationalist agenda that would organically provide the nationalist movement with popular majority support.  Thus Sajudis had to work towards incorporating the Church into its political platform.  Sajudis, recognizing the potential for nationalist influence by the Church, encouraged clergy participation and espoused Catholic concerns in an effort to gain its support and constituency.

Latvia Between the Centers of Gravitation of Soft Power – the USA and Russia

Andis Kudors (Centre for East European Policy Studies, Latvia)

As a democratic country, Latvia is open to the influence of different foreign actors. Two countries – United States and Russia have better opportunities to implement soft power policy toward Latvia than others. According to the soft power theory of Joseph Nye, soft power can be implemented through the use of public diplomacy. Nye identifies three dimensions of public diplomacy: daily communication, strategic communication, and work with opinion leaders. Since the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991, the political elite has traditionally been pro-American, and the same applies to the majority of ethnic Latvians. A significant characteristic is the difference of attitudes toward the USA and Russia between ethnic Latvians and the Russian speaking part of society. Previous studies show that the U.S. “loses” to Russia in daily communication. The latter has many more chances to comment on events in Russia and in the world on a daily basis to the Latvian audience. Russia’s daily and strategic communication influences the political socialization of Latvian citizens, as well as social integration processes. Besides that, the securitization of culture in Russia completely changes the assessment of Russian soft power. If the United States is interested in the future support of Latvia for its global foreign policies, then it is important to comprehend the attitudes of Latvian citizens toward the U.S. and Russia and the factors that form these attitudes.

Prelude to Baltic Linguistics: Baltic Languages and Nations in Renaissance Europe

Pietro U. Dini (Università di Pisa)

In my speech, I intend to draw up the guidelines of an inquiry into
linguistic historio­graphy within Baltology. The 16th century has
notoriously been the saeculum mirabile in the field of Baltistics because
written languages emerged at that time. Linguistic ideas, however, were
already present in the Baltic area before the first written monuments.
Balticists have investigated the documents, but have disregarded the
contemporary linguistic ideas which were well diffused both in the
Central-Eastern and in Central-Western Europe.

The speech draws attention to the linguistic theories on the Baltic language
known and circulating prior to the 16th century during the so-called
pre-scientific linguistics (Paleocomparativism and/or Pre-comparativism). It
focuses on the origin of Baltic Linguistics and comments on the
multiplicity, variety, simultaneousness and sincretism in linguistic
theories. The speech covers each specific aspect and the relationships
among them. I will present a comparative synopsis of each of the three main
theories about the Baltic languages expressed by authors of the 16th
century, namely: 1) the Slav and the Illyrian theories; 2) the Roman theory
and its variants, 3) the so-called Quadripartite theory. I also mention
minor theories as the Prussian theory and the Hebrew Theory. Finally, I will draw some general conclusions.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Oral History Archives: Excerpts from Testimonies about the Holocaust in Lithuania

Ina Navazelskis (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Most of the 12,500 Holocaust-related oral history testimonies in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) were conducted with Holocaust survivors. However, some 1450 are interviews also with non-Jews, who provide direct eyewitness testimony to many aspects of the Holocaust. In my presentation I will highlight those witness testimonies that relate to the Baltics, including how the some 350 interviewees from the Baltic countries were identified and interviewed.

In addition, I will show excerpts from some interviews relating to Lithuania. Among the interviewees will be Ada Gens, daughter of Vilnius ghetto police chief Jakubas Gensas, who witnessed key events in the Vilna ghetto from 1941 until 1943. Another will be excerpts from an interview with Algimantas Gureckas, a long-time member of the US branch of Lithuanian World Community, a non-governmental organization that brought together Lithuanians living outside of Lithuania. Gureckas witnessed some of the repression that led to the eventual murder of Jews in northeastern Lithuania in the summer of 1941. Questions relating to how these oral histories inform Holocaust scholarship will be addressed. What do they contribute? How should they be used? What are the limitations of these individual testimonies?

Finally, I will briefly describe the digitized collection at the USHMM of about 100 million documents from the International Tracing Service (ITS), established after the war to help reunite families separated by the war and to trace missing individuals. Three quarters of these documents relate to non-Jewish refugees. I will provide samples of these ITS documents from some Lithuanian refugees to illustrate how they can augment oral history testimonies.

On the Masculinity Crisis in the Literary Works of A. H. Tammsaare: The Master of Kõrboja (1922)

Mirjam Hinrikus (Under-Tuglas Centre for Literary Research, Estonia)

In  his essay „Literary Style“ (1912), critic Friedebert Tuglas (1886-1971), a leading figure in the Young Estonia movement, made the following claim about modernity and Estonian life: „the city, a new tempo of life, and a new psychology…have not neglected to make their appearance here “. Tuglas summarizes these three factors as „the intellectual urbanization of the country“. The writer who most deeply articulated the dynamics behind this statement was A. H. Tammsaare (1878-1940). A crucial thematic line both in Tammsaare´s short novel The Master of Kõrboja (Kõrboja peremees, 1922), and the first and last volumes of his epic novel Truth and Justice (Tõde ja õigus) was the penetration of  technology, capitalism and urban mentality into the countryside, with the resultant profound alienation of humans from nature and agrarian society more generally.  These problems are, in turn, fraught with shifts in gender relations, specifically, a crisis in masculinity.

Anna, the  female protagonist of Tammsaare`s short novel The Master of Kõrboja, is an emancipated woman whose behaviour is marked by both the new tempo of life and urban „nervousness“, features perceived as are alien in the rural village to which she returns as the unmarried sole heir of the prosperous Kõrboja farm.  Her chosen, Villu, heir of the Katku farm,  is disabled due to an accident. Villu`s masculinity is constructed according to the gender expectations of the rural society, but it falls short of the full measure of physical health; the crisis of Villu`s masculinity leads eventually to his suicide. This paper will analyze the disintegration of representations of gender in the novel.

Four Baltic Proposals for European Unification in World War II

Pauli Heikkilä (University of Tartu)

During World War II, the general trend in post-war planning by the Western allies was to create a permanent system for European international politics.  This meant federations for the entire continent or, less ambitiously, on a regional basis.  The work of governmental offices was supported also by exile politicians. This paper will present four Baltic proposals for European (and Baltic) reconstruction and compare them with each other and with the overall plans in general.

The best-known proposal, by the Lithuanian Kazys Pakštas, was outlined in his book Baltoscandian Confederation, published by the Lithuanian Cultural Institute in Chicago in 1942.  The Latvian legation in Washington, D.C., had a similar intention when in 1943 they published Alfred Bīlmanis’ Baltic States in Post-War Europe.  Behind closed doors, Estonian Alexander Warma handed his plans for consolidating European peace to an American official in Helsinki in December 1942.  Lastly, Jānis Volmārs finished his book on European customs union in Göttingen as late as 1949, but as his premises apply explicitly to the situation preceding the war, it is justified to include his book here.

A comparison of these proposals shows that the plans differed not only in their concept of the Baltic but also how it was related to the expected forthcoming European federation.  They also disagreed on the tasks and duties of their proposed union.  However, the proposals agreed on maintaining peace and stated that the purpose of a Baltic union was to assist in avoiding the conflicts of the greater powers.

Keyword: Heikkila

Letters and Correspondences: Thresholds of the Private and the Public


Chair: Tiina Kirss (Tallinn University)–CANCELLED

Arvydas Pacevičius (Vilnius University)

Giedrius Subačius (University of Illinois at Chicago)–chaired

Aurelija Tamošiūnaitė (University of Illinois at Chicago)

This roundtable will consider the use of epistolary sources– letters and correspondences for the study of various research problematics with respect to the Baltics.  Topics to be discussed include the usefulness of the concept of „ego-documents“ and the situation of correspondences within such a conceptual formation; various methodological approaches to the use of epistolary sources; practical limitations of the epistolarium and potential inclusion of letters and correspondences as public/private sources at the juncture of personal and public spaces for interdisciplinary inquiries.

Keyword: Subacius

Keyword Kivimae

Negotiating Nation, Locality, and Gender in Exile: Latvian Refugees and Deportees 1940-1953

 Irēne Elksnis Geisler (Grand Valley State University)

The concept of locality is paramount to scholarly discussions confronting the relationship between territory and identity. Contemporary discourse frequently encourages us to refine the concepts of “nation” and “collective belonging” relative to territory and cultural entity. For Latvians who were deported to Siberia, and who fled to the West, the path into exile was a journey of border crossings. This was not only a physical experience, but an emotional passage into multiple unknowns. Many Latvians in diaspora and former deportees now living in Latvia continue to self-identify with origins linked to a distinctive rural Latvian homeland. Accordingly, to lose one’s dzimtene (native place) is analogous to losing one’s personhood. As Latvian women and men self-reflect on dzimtene, they reveal the centrality of gender and locality in the basic construction of Latvian national identity.

This paper utilizes the lens of gender to explore and interpret oral narratives of former Latvian refugees and deportees of Second World War and Post-war Latvia, specifically in relation to concepts of locality and identity. It finds that women, because of their social roles and gender constructs, identified with these ideas differently than did men. Throughout the chaos and suffering of war and deportation, women often sought to preserve tradition, social norms and customs. During Summer Solstice, refugee women picked Jāņuzāles, flowers with healing properties rooted in Latvian folklore. Some deportees made great efforts to bring along folk costumes to Siberia. In the narratives of survivors, particularly women, locality shaped experiences and memories, reinforcing the notion of loss of national belonging.

Keyword: Irene

Baltic Focused Graduate Research Opportunities and Challenges


Moderator/ participant:   Amanda Swain (Doctoral candidate,  University of Washington)

with participants:
Jordan Kuck (Doctoral  candidate, University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
Delaney Skerret (Doctoral candidate,  University of Queensland /  Lecturer, University of Tartu)

Graduate students working in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania face various opportunities and challenges in doing research in-country.  The roundtable will feature three graduate students who have recently conducted research in one of the Baltic countries.  Each student will speak for 15 minutes about his/her experience, with time in the session for questions and discussion with attendees.  The participating graduate students represent a variety of fields, methodologies and experiences.  The roundtable will provide an opportunity for graduate students and others planning research trips to the Baltics to discuss practical and methodological issues related to archives, oral interviews, and funding.