Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

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

3

Past Politics in North-Eastern Europe: The Role of History in Post-Cold War Identity Politics

JÖRG HACKMAN

During the last decade historical discourses have undoubtedly assumed a growing importance in debates about the Baltic Sea region. Since Björn Engholm introduced his already historic concept of a New Hansa, historians-and also to some extent ethnologists and philologists-have been ascribed the function of contributing to a common (Baltic, Nordic, northern or north-east European) identity that might provide a solid fundament to Baltic Sea co-operation. 1 Such a historical or cultural basis for region-building is a common feature of many political speeches and statements. Its range comprises history as well as linguistic kinship and elements of folk culture, which are used to support such different kinds of regionalizing projects as Norden, Baltoscandia or even Yule-land. 2 With regard to the Baltic Sea Area as a whole, the image of the Hanseatic trade exchange between West and East has a certain logic, inasmuch as it coincidences with contemporary mappings of the region. Furthermore, the Hansa image evokes cultural landmarks, such as cityscapes, that still impress almost everyone travelling across the Baltic or along its shores. 3 This impact of the Hansa legacy is already noticeable in the writings of Johann Gottfried Herder, who stated in his Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man:

What the Mediterranean had been to the south of Europe, the Baltic was to the north; an early incentive to the pursuit of navigation, and a means of intercourse between different countries. Beside the Gael and Cimbri, we have seen the Prisons, the Saxons, and more especially the Normans, traversing all the seas of the West and North, nay even the Mediterranean, and effecting much good, and much evil… Amber in particular was the costly bauble, that attracted Greeks, Romans, and Arabians, and brought the north and the south acquainted with each other… After the Slavians became possessed of a great part of the Baltic shores, they established a range

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