Statehood, Nationality and Democracy: The Baltic S

Statehood, Nationality and Democracy: The Baltic States and Finland

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examines how Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland (initially categorised by some as the `fourth Baltic State`) responded to the challenges of state and nation-building during the period between their formation in 1918 and the Second World War. The leaders of all four countries were called upon to create new state institutions and forge coherent national identities on the basis of ethnically and socially diverse populations and against the background of the profound dislocation and disruption brought about by World War One and the collapse of Empire. Estonia and Latvia conducted some fascinating experiments with `ultra-democracy` during the 1920s, including a system of cultural autonomy for national minorities which continues to inspire discussions on minority rights in today`s Europe; ultimately, however, all three Baltic States went down the road of authoritarian nationalist rule. Finland`s parliamentary democracy, by contrast, was able to weather the Great Depression, despite a strong challenge from the Radical Right. The fates of Finland and the three Baltic States then diverged even more fundamentally during the crisis of 1939-40 and its aftermath: whereas Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were absorbed into the USSR for the next half a century, Finland survived the war as an independent state. The sobering experience of 1940-1944 opened a new chapter in its relations with its Soviet neighbour and allowed it to consolidate the `Nordic` identity that it had begun to cultivate during the 1930s. The course discusses the factors that lie behind these divergent paths, whilst also encouraging students to locate these countries within broader debates around statehood, nationality, democratisation and the development of inter-war Europe.

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