Nationalism, State Consolidation and the Politics

Nationalism, State Consolidation and the Politics of Identity in Post-Communist Europe

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This course discusses concepts and issues around the political management of ethnic diversity in contemporary Central and Eastern Europe, with particular reference to the relationship between nationalising states, national minorities, `external national homelands` and the emerging `minority rights regime` promoted by the EU, OSCE, Council of Europe and other international agencies

This course discusses concepts and issues around the political management of ethnic diversity in contemporary Central and Eastern Europe, with particular reference to the relationship between nationalising states, national minorities, `external national homelands` and the emerging `minority rights regime` promoted by the EU, OSCE, Council of Europe and other international agencies. The re-established Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are used as core case studies, with opportunities for comparative discussion of other states and societies in the region. Classic exemplars of the `nationalising state` model, the Baltic States nevertheless have a unique profile within post-communist Europe: sovereign states for more than two decades between the wars, they were the only countries of Central Europe to be completely absorbed into the USSR, whose fifty-year rule in the region brought profound ethno-demographic changes to Estonia and Latvia in particular. The course examines this particular historical experience, before focusing on how its legacy has informed a `restorationist` approach to state and nation-building in post-Soviet Estonia and Latvia, predicated on the political exclusion of Russian-speaking Soviet-era settlers and their descendents (one third of the population in both countries at the time they re-established their independence). This approach has exacerbated problematic external relations with the Russian Federation and been a source of internal political tension, yet the experience of these societies since 1991 has belied initial external predictions of profound political instability and even violent ethnic conflict along Yugoslav lines. Indeed, all three Baltic States were notable for their rapid progress towards the European Union, which they joined in 2004 along with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Subsequent developments, however, cannot be equated with drawing a line under the Soviet past - indeed, the salience of history within the region seems, if anything, to have grown over the last few years. In this respect, the course gives particular attention to how history and memory are being employed as part of efforts to build forms of collective identity and `imagined political community`.


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