Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Published by The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park and London, 1978.

Edited by V. Stanley Vardys and Romuald J. Misiunas

The contributors are an international group of scholars including, along with Professors Misiunas and Vardys, Edgar Anderson, Olavi Arens, David M. Crowe, Jr., Alexander Dallin, Dennis J. Dunn, Michael Garleff (West Germany), David Kirby (England), Boris Meissner, Julius P. Slavenas, Aba Strazhas (Israel), and Charles L. Sullivan.

Introduction: The Baltic Peoples in Historical Perspective

This book examines the rise, the struggle for life, and the fall of the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The immensely rich and tense drama of Baltic nation building – from birth to death – was played within a single generation between the two world wars of 1914–1918 and 1939–1945. The Baltic peoples themselves, however, are of ancient lineage, their roots going back into the early history of the Christian era.

The Differences and Similarities of Historical Development

A historical survey of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania is faced with the question of diversity and similarity. Until recent times, observers tended to assert the diversity of the area almost as an expression of the obvious. The British authors of the prewar survey The Baltic States (Royal Institute of International Affairs, The Baltic States, London, 1939.) deemed “the grouping together of the three Baltic states [as] to some extent arbitrary” in that their differences were at least as striking as their similarities. Most German Scholars used to classify Estonia and Latvia alone as “Baltic provinces” or “Baltic” countries, and it was only in 1970 that Georg von Rauch, the dean of German Baltic historians, crossed the Rubicon with the publication of Geschichte der baltischen Staaten (Georg von Rauch, Geschichte der baltischen Staaten ( Stuttgard, 1970; English translation, Berkeley, Calif., 1974). In the book he felt it necessary to explain why he chose the “unusual” approach of tying together Lithuania’s history with that of the other two countries. The old separation has become inoperative. The Baltic identity has been forged by fate. The interwar political and social experiences, the wartime occupation by great-power belligerents, and the postwar imposition of the Russian embodiment of Marxism have illuminated the existence of past bonds. The new sense of community, of a distinct culture bloc, has been reinforced by a self-perception of differences from the rest of the Soviet Union. The one unalterable difference lies in ethnic and linguistic diversity. The Finno-Ugric Estonians speak a language radically different from those of their two neighbors to the south. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only living varieties of the Indo-European Baltic family.

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