Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

By Marko Lehti; David J.Smith | Go to book overview

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Possessing a Baltic Europe: Retold National Narratives in the European North

MARKO LEHTI


INVENTING A BALTIC WORLD

In the early 1990s two historians, David Kirby and Matti Klinge, separately introduced a new term, the Baltic World, to define a novel scene of history. 1 In their use of the term Baltic, reference was made not only to the three Baltic states but to the whole Baltic Sea Area (BSA), including also Scandinavia and Finland as well as parts of Poland, Germany and Russia. In their use of the word world, the Baltic Sea Area was described as a whole setting, if not a uniform area, for human activity that had existed at least in the past. The model for this new term was taken from the idea of a Mediterranean world introduced by Fernand Braudel in the 1940s. The question arises as to why an idea of this kind was borrowed and adapted to the European North in the 1990s. No scientific activity can be isolated from the trends of its own time and this statement holds good in the case of historiography, too. Seemingly, in the early 1990s there emerged a strong need to imagine new kinds of spatial images to rise above the old East-West division. Thus, the invention of the Baltic World was not only an issue of historiography but also part of a much wider process of reacting to the drastic changes that followed the disappearance of the Soviet zone and thereby the disappearance of the old East.

Larry Wolff has shown in his stimulating book Inventing Eastern Europe. The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment that the invention of a new spatial image is not a sudden process and that signs of a change can be found in several fields-travel accounts, novels, scientific books and cartography. Wolff writes about a great turn that took place 200 years ago. Then, it was a question of replacing the old North-South division by a new East-West division at the moment when Europe's political, economic and intellectual activity was shifting away

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