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Albert, Martin, and Peter too: Their roles in creating the Estonian and Latvian nations

Abstract

What has enabled the Finnic and Baltic slivers east of the Baltic Sea to survive in the midst of a Germanic-Slavic Northern Europe for the last 1000 years? Such an outcome was not foreordained - it is the result of a succession of lucky circumstances, on top of the strength of native cultures. Favorable factors include geopolitical location, worldwide main currents such as Protestantism and Romanticism, competition among would-be assimilators, and the unintentional positive impact of personalities extraneous to the Baltic area, such as Bishop Albert, Martin Luther and Peter the First. The latter occupy only a part of this overview, but as partly counter-intuitive examples they highlight the contradictory vagaries of the process of nation-building east of the Baltic Sea. While the focus is on Estonia and Latvia, some observations apply to Lithuania and Finland as well. Sustainability during the last 1000 years has implications for future national survival, but with marked reservations in a demographically imploding Europe. Nations without children have no future. © 2011 Journal of Baltic Studies.

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