Russia and the Baltic Countries: Recent Russian-Language Literature

By Bruggemann, Karsten | Kritika, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Russia and the Baltic Countries: Recent Russian-Language Literature


Bruggemann, Karsten, Kritika


Nikolai Bugai, ed., Narody stran Baltii v usloviiakh stalinizma (1940-e-1950-e gody): Dokumentirovannaia istoriia [The Peoples of the Baltic Countries under Stalinism (1940s-50s): A Documented History]. 304 pp. Stuttgart: ibidem, 2005. ISBN 3898215253.

Aleksandr Oganovich Chubar'ian and Evgeniia L'vovna Nazarova, eds., Rossiia i Baltiia [Russia and the Baltics]. 1: Narody i strany, vtoraia polovina XIX-30-e gg. X)(v. [People and Countries, Second Half of the 19th Century to the 1930s]. 174 pp. Moscow: Institut vseobshchei istorii Rossiiskoi akademii nauk (RAN), 2000. ISBN 594067013X. 2: Epokha peremen (1914-1924) [The Era of Change (1914-24)]. 260 pp. Moscow: Institut vseobshchei istorii RAN, 2002. ISBN 5940670857.3: Ostzeiskie gubernii i Severo-Zapadnyi krai v politike reform Rossiiskoi imperil vtoria polovina XVIII v.-XX v. [The Baltic Provinces and the Northwestern Territories in the Reform Policy of the Russian Empire, Second Half of the 19th Century to the 20th Century]. 280 pp. Moscow: Institut vseobshchei istorii RAN, 2004. ISBN 5940671381.4: Chelovek v istorii [The Person in History]. 296 pp. Moscow: Nauka, 2006. ISBN 5020351059.

Algemintas Kasparavichius [Kasparavicius], Cheslovas Laurinavichius [Ceslovas Laurinavicius], and Nataliia Lebedeva, eds., SSSR i Litva v gody Vtoroi mirovoi voiny. 1: SSSR i Litovskaia respublika (mart 1939-avgust 1940 gg.): Sbornik dokumentov [The USSR and Lithuania during World War II. 1: The USSR and the Lithuanian Republic (March 1939-August 1949): A Collection of Documents]. 776 pp. Vilnius: Lietuvos istorijos institutas, 2006. ISBN 9986780810.

Elena Iur'evna Zubkova, Pribaltika i Kreml' 1940-1953 [The Baltics and the Kremlin, 1940-53]. 351 pp. Moscow: ROSSPEN and Fond Pervogo Prezidenta Rossii B. N. El'tsin, 2008. ISBN-13 978-5824309096.

The spring of 2007 witnessed an escalation in Russian-Estonian political relations, mainly because of different interpretations of the countries' shared past, especially the impact of World War II. The Baltic press has noted that the "mass hysteria ... in Russia is very frightening and needs to be assessed by scholars." (1) The main problem in Russian-Baltic relations, however, may be that, apart from memories of Jurmala's beautiful beaches and crude suspicions of "Baltic fascism," (2) Russians today lack a well-balanced understanding of what the Baltic lands and peoples really are. They tend to view the region in at least two contradictory ways: positively as "our West" (nash zapad) or negatively as inherently hostile to Russia. In fact, Estonia and Latvia figure prominently in current surveys asking respondents to identify the most dangerous enemy of the Russian Federation. For most of the past 300 years the historical Pribaltiiskii krai--today's Latvia and Estonia--was part of a state ruled by Russia. Even so, the region lived an almost autonomous life well into the 19th century and broke free from Russian rule in the interwar period (1918-40) and again since the early 1990s. Lithuania, in contrast, was not historically perceived as being "Baltic" due to Catholicism and Polish influence, whereas Estonians and Latvians were predominantly Lutherans thanks to the prevalence of Germans in Pribaltiiskii krai. (3) This changed only during World War I, when for the first time Russian authors recognized parallels in the national aspirations of the three native peoples, who were seen at the same time as natural patriots of the empire simply because of their own local anti-German struggle. (4) Although Soviet discourse in the interwar period named all the former Russian provinces on the coast of the Baltic Sea from Poland to Finland "Baltic"--indeed, Finland was still designated as bahisch in the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939--only the Soviet occupation in 1940 fixed this label exclusively on the three republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (known in Russian as Sovetskaia Pribaltika), a label they still bear today.

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