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The struggle for Baltic history

Abstract

The attitudes of Western powers toward the Baltic states were in 1945-1990 steadily affected by how they perceived Baltic history: whether it even existed and if so, what did its most recent phase represent - occupation or voluntary union? The Baltic refugees were initially poorly prepared for the struggle about history, because they lacked not only English language skills but also understanding of democratic societies. Their books were printed by little-known publishers, and studies in scholarly journals were almost completely absent. A breakthrough took place in the 1960s. Major figures were Vytas Stanley Vardys, who was first to publish articles in top journals and books with major publishers, and J-nis Gaigulis, who initiated and kept going the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) and its Journal of Baltic Studies. Support for scholars was strong in the Latvian exile community, while hesitant in the Estonian and Lithuanian ones. By the time of the 'Singing Revolution' the struggle for Baltic history had been won in the Western world. It had become widely accepted that the Baltic peoples and their histories existed, and Moscow's attempts to rewrite Baltic history could not take root in the West. Winning the struggle for the past helped in the struggle for the future of the Baltic peoples. © 2009 Journal of Baltic Studies.

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