The Baltic Region

2015 Issue №2(24)

Back to the list Download an article

The Role of Political Elites in the Development of Politics of Memory in the Baltic States



The article focuses on multiple cases of the politicization of history by the Baltic political elites. Three states of development of politics of memory in the Baltic States are identified. Problems of political exploitation of the past are scrutinized in the context of political life and international relations. It is concluded that the narratives of the past where nazi and Soviet legacies are equated are actively promoted on the pan-European level. Elites of the Baltic States play a salient role in this process and enhance ties with the elites of the Eastern Europe, expert and political communities of the Western Europe and USA. The dominant trends in the development of the historical politics in the Baltic countries are the administrative and legislative instruments for approval of the preferred narratives of the past, as well as an active political work at the international level aimed at the inclusion of the Baltic narratives of the past into the European politics of memory. Historical politics of the Baltic States shows the Baltic countries as the victims of "two totalitarianisms" ("Nazi and Soviet occupation"), and this point of view is widely used as a foreign policy tool. The politicization of the "anti-totalitarianism" issue is now a popular foreign policy tool that not only serves the interests of the Baltic and Eastern European politicians, but also finds ideological supporters in Western Europe and the United States.


1. Astrov, А. 2009, Jestonija: politicheskaja bor'ba za mesto v istorii [Estonia: the political struggle for a place in history], Pro et Contra, no. 3—4, p. 109—124.
2. «Atmoda» skvoz' «perestrojku»: sjuzhety latvijskoj (anti)sovetskoj istorii v period raspada SSSR ["Atmoda" through "restructuring": The story of the Latvian (anti) Soviet history during the collapse of the Soviet Union], Zhurnal rossijskih i vostochnoevropejskih istoricheskih issledovanij [Journal of Russian and East European Studies History], no. 1 (3), p. 124—133.
3. Achkasov, V. А. 2013, "Politika pamjati" kak instrument stroitel'stva postsocialisticheskih nacij ["Politics of memory" as a tool for the construction of the postsocialist nations], Zhurnal sociologii i social'noj antropologii [Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], no. 4, p. 106—123.
4. Bogaturov, A. D. 2002, «Strategija peremalyvanija» vo vneshnej politike SShA ["The strategy of grinding" in US foreign policy]. In: Ocherki teorii i metodologii politicheskogo analiza mezhdunarodnyh otnoshenij [Essays on the Theory and Methodology of Political Analysis of International Relations], Moscow, p. 364.
5. Gaman-Golutvina, О. V. 2003, Politicheskaja jelita — opredelenie osnovnyh ponjatij [The political elite — the definition of the basic concepts], Polis, no. 3, p. 97—103.
6. Gellner, М. 1991, Nacii i nacionalizm [Nations and Nationalism], Moscow.
7. Gellner, М. 1992, Prishestvie nacionalizma. Mify nacii i klassa [The advent of nationalism. Myths of nations and classes], Put': mezhdunarodnyj filosofskij zhurnal [Path: international philosophical journal], no. 1, p. 9—61.
8. Djukov, А. R. 2008, «The soviet story»: Mehanizm lzhi [«The soviet story»: The mechanism of lies], Moscow.
9. Djukov, А. R., Simindey, V. V. 2011, Gosudarstvennaja istoricheskaja politika Latvii: materialy k izucheniju [The state historical policy of Latvia: the study of materials], Moscow.
10. Zepa, B., Supule, I. 2005, Latvijskaja submarina [Latvian submarine], Jekspert Severo-Zapad [Expert North-West], 12—18 September, no. 34, p. 9.
11. Miller, А., Lipman, М. (eds.), 2012, Istoricheskaja politika v XXI veke [Historical policy in the XXI century], Moscow.
12. Kasyanov, G. V. 2010, Danse macabre: Golod 1932—1933 rokіv u polіticі, masovіj svіdomostі ta іstorіografії (1980-tі — pochatok 2000-h) [Danse macabre: The famine of 1932—1933 in politics, mass consciousness and historiography (1980s — early 2000s)], Kiev, p. 209—212.
13. Laurinavičius, Č. 2011, Kak sosedi stanovjatsja vragami [As neighbors become enemies], Rossija i Baltija [Russia and the Baltics], no. 6. Dialog istorikov raznyh stran i pokolenij [The dialogue of historians from different countries and generations], Moscow, p. 123—130.
14. Miller, А. I. 2008, Istoricheskaja politika i ee osobennosti v Pol'she, Ukraine i Rossii [Historical policy and its peculiarities in Poland, Ukraine and Russia], Otechestvennye zapiski [Notes of the Fatherland], no. 5 (44).
15. Miller, А. I. 2013, Rol' jekspertnyh soobshhestv v politike pamjati Rossii [The role of the expert community in the memory of Russian policy], Politia, no. 4, p. 114—126.
16. Miller, А. I. 2009, Rossija: vlast' i istorija [Russia: the power and history], Pro et Contra, no. 2, p. 51—52.
17. «Plohie predchuvstvija». Telemost s istorikom Alekseem Millerom ["Bad feeling." Teleconference with historian Alexei Miller], 2015, Hefter, available at: http://gefter. ru/archive/14325 (accessed 26.02.2015).
18. Safronovas, V. 2009, O tendencijah politiki vospominanija v sovremennoj Litve [About memories policy trends in contemporary Lithuania], Ab Imperio: Studies of New Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Space, no. 3, p. 424—458.
19. Simonyan, R. H. 2009, Rossija i strany Baltii. Dve modeli social'nogo razvitija [Russia and the Baltic countries. Two models of social development], Moscow, p. 131—139.
20. Smirnov, V. A. 2014, Politicheskoe razvitie postsovetskogo prostranstva: k voprosu o roli politicheskih jelit [Political development of post-Soviet space: the question of the role of political elites], Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Serija 12. Politicheskie nauki [MSU Vestnik. Series 12. Political sciences], no. 6.
21. Smirnov, V. A. 2011, The formation of the political elite in Lithuania at the turn of the 1980s—1990s: the role of “moral politicians”, Balt. Reg., no. 4, p. 15—25. DOI: 10.5922/2079-8555-2011-4-2.
22. Anderson, B. 1991, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London.
23. Babilčiūtė, L. 2015, Amoralūs bandymai perrašyti istoriją, Geopolitika, available at: (accessed 28.02.2015).
24. European Parliament resolution on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe on 8 May 1945, 2005, European Parliament, available at: (accessed 26.02.2015).
25. Hearing on Totalitarian Regimes, 2013, EPP Group Highlights, available at: (accessed 26.02.2015).
26. Hobsbawm, E. 2012, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge University Press, p. 165.
27. Jakobson, M., Balcere, I., Loone, O., Nurk, A., Saarts, T., Zakeviciute, R. 2012, Populism in the Baltic States, Tallinn University.
28. Jankauskas, A., Žeruolis D. 2004, Understanding Politics in Lithuania, DEMSTAR Research Report, no. 18, University of Aarhus, p. 18—19.
29. Lieven, A. 1994, The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence, New Haven, London, p. 68.  
30. Luik, J. 2008, Meie kohustus, Diplomaatia, no. 54.
31. Mälksoo, M. 2006, From Existential Politics Towards Normal Politics? The Baltic States in the Enlarged Europe, Security Dialogue, Vol. 37, no. 3, p. 289.
32. Mälksoo, M. 2009, Liminality and Contested Europeanness: Conflicting Memory Politics in the Baltic Space. In: Berg, E., Ehin, P. (eds.), Identity and Foreign Policy: Baltic-Russian Relations and European Integration, Ashgate, p. 65—83.
33. Onken, E. 2007, The Baltic States and Moscow’s 9 May Commemoration: Analysing Memory Politics in Europe, Europe — Asia Studies, Vol. 59, no. 1, p. 33.
34. Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by the Russian Federation, PACE Resolution, no. 1455, available at: (accessed 26.02.2015).
35. Lehti, M., Smith, D.(eds.), 2004, Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences, Routledge.
36. Hobsbaum, E., Terence, R. 1983, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, p. 43.
37. Lebow, R., Kansteiner, W., Fogu, C. (eds.), 2006, The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe, Duke University Press.
38. Tilly, С. 1985, War Making and State Making as Organized Crime. In: Evans, P., Rueschemeyer, D., Skocpol, T. (eds.), Bringing the State Back, Cambridge, p. 169—191.
39. Truska, L., Vareikis, V. 2004, Holokausto prielaidos: antisemitizmas Lietuvoje, Vilnius, p. 270—308.
40. Turner, V. 1969, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, Harmondsworth, p. 80.
41. Verovsek, P. 2012, The Politics of Memory: a Conceptual Approach to the Study of Memory in Politics. MacMillan Center, Yale University.
42. Volk, C. 2014, Struggle, Dissent and Debate: Politics and Memory in Europe, Eutopia, July 18.