As suggested above, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990-1992, several developments in the Baltics have taken place. The first was the resurgence of old essentialist concepts of ethnicity in the Baltic countries and changes in ethnic relations. Ethnic policies were manifested in several forms - at the symbolic level, in politics, in stereotypes and in the increased activities of ethnic groups during the initial stage of articulation of ethnic “interests” by radical nationalist organizations. Conflict prevention and stability formed the backbone of policies in the Baltic States, effectively diverting attention away from integration policies.

Since the Baltic States accession to the EU and NATO and even earlier, Russia exerted considerable effort to discredit the policies of the Baltic States internationally and at home. Interethnic relations are also affected by the international situation - this was clearly evident immediately after independence and in further development dynamics after accession to the EU, when rates of naturalization increased in Estonia and Latvia.

The historical record demonstrates that the interplay of the international situation with ethnic policies must be supplemented by a nuanced understanding of the historical and cultural context in each of the countries. The histories of these countries, combined with contemporary mistrust of ethnic minorities and the inability to engage in sustained dialogue do make a difference. Minority policies in the Baltic States were a compromise formed largely as the result of international pressure and homegrown tendencies. The Lithuanian example demonstrates that less intense demands from the international community and less direct pressure from Russia did not ultimately create a favourable climate for the integration of minorities into this small country.

Although the Baltic countries started off in the 1990s with different policies towards ethnic minorities, having the Russian “ factor” as the locus of their fears and policies during the 25 years of independence brought them closer. The policies enacted abandoned extremes and pursued the common denominator of ensuring the legal equality of minority rights in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >