Baltic Postcolonialism

Baltic Postcolonialism

Baltic Postcolonialism

Baltic Postcolonialism

Synopsis

Emerging from the ruins of the former Soviet Union, the literature of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is analyzed from the fruitful perspective of postcolonialism, a theoretical approach whose application to former second-world countries is in its initial stages. This groundbreaking volume brings scholars working in the West together with those who were previously muffled behind the Iron Curtain. They gauge the impact of colonization on the culture of the Baltic states and demonstrate the relevance of concepts first elaborated by a wide range of critics from Frantz Fanon to Homi Bhabha. Examining literary texts and the situation of the intellectual reveals Baltic concerns with identity and integrity, the rewriting of previously blotted out or distorted history, and a search for meaning in societies struggling to establish their place in the world after decades - and perhaps millennia - of oppression.

Excerpt

This book on Baltic postcolonialism features the groundbreaking effort of some 15 scholars. Yet, it is still unusual to see or hear the term "postcolonial" applied to the Baltic States. Thus, the title of this introduction plays on the ambiguity inherent in the word "critics." Are such literary and cultural critics using postcolonial methodologies or are they criticizing the use of the concept itself when applied to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? I have both notions of criticism in mind precisely because applying colonialism and postcolonialism as epithets is still a matter of debate to some. Resistance to the application of these terms overlooks the facts that Russia and/or the Soviet Union were colonial empires—that Russia was a colonizer and that the Soviet Union was one as well. Soviet and post-Soviet self-descriptions have contended that both the U.S.S.R. and, later, Russia served as a liberator of workers of the world and a facilitator of emergence from other "real" colonial empires. Technically, for Marxist (later Marxist-Leninist) propaganda purposes, 20th century Russia recognizes only old "capitalist" empires like England, Germany, Spain, France, Holland, and Portugal as colonizers. It fails to acknowledge its own hegemonic, self-serving interests and actions. Yet, the U.S.S.R. was decidedly expansionist. It should be noted that since the Cold War ended, criticism of the former U.S.S.R. has been deflected, partly due to Russia's tentative new alliances with the U.S.A. There are new evils in the world to contend with, including terrorism. Nonetheless, we should not forget the impact and importance of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which divided Europe into zones of influence, nor should we obliterate the consequences of the 1945 Yalta conference at which one half of Europe was granted to Joseph Stalin. Russia never acknowledged its goal of communist world domination. Instead, when speaking of foreign diplomacy it employed rhetorical terms to speak of the "brotherhood of nations;" among other euphemisms, as Andrejs Veisbergs catalogues in his article in this collection. The self-perceptions of the former U.S.S.R. and reluctance over the application of the terms "colonial" and "post-colonial" to Baltic and other post-Soviet nations raise some concerns.

For these reasons almost all the authors published here feel compelled to begin their analyses with discussions of the validity of postcolonial criticism applied to what some Washington bureaucrats like to call "the successor states of the former Soviet Union." At the risk of some repetition, these discussions have all been included, because each has a different slant and argues his or her case with unique supporting . . .

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