The history of the idea of Latvians as a civic nation, 1850-1940

Germane, Marina (2013) The history of the idea of Latvians as a civic nation, 1850-1940. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis challenges the customary approach of studying the latent ethnic conflict in Latvia exclusively through the prism of post-Soviet studies, looking for the causes of societal disaccord in Latvia’s recent past as a Soviet Socialist Republic, when numerous traumas were induced on the eponymous nation, from the deportations of 1940 which robbed the nation of its intelligentsia, to Russification policies that threatened the very existence of the Latvian language and culture, and to mass labour immigration that radically changed the country’s demography and ethnic composition.

While recognising that this approach has its own merits, this thesis focuses on another important factor contributing to the present ethnic discord, namely the historical development of the idea of the Latvian nation, especially vis-à-vis ethnic minorities, who have always been present in significant numbers on Latvian territory through the course of modern history. More often than not, the interwar period of Latvian independence and nation-building is discarded by political scientists as bearing purely symbolic meaning and having no real impact on the present. This thesis challenges this widespread assumption and argues that, on the contrary, both the genesis of the idea of the Latvian nation and its interwar experience of statehood are vital to understanding the present-day dynamics.

My thesis encompasses the period of Latvian history from the mid-19th century, when Latvians’ national awakening began, to 1940, when the country lost its independence as a result of Soviet annexation. The aim of this thesis is three-fold: first, to challenge the widespread (and historically inaccurate) assumption prevalent in modern Latvia that the idea of the civic nation is something intrinsically alien and unsuitable, imposed on Latvia from above; secondly, to examine the long-forgotten original contributions made to the concept of civic nationalism, and to the whole universalist-particularist dilemma, by Latvian thinkers at the beginning of the 20th century, and to place them in the wider framework of European interwar history and nationalism studies; thirdly, to identify the key issues in majority-minority relations that contributed to the eventual deterioration of minority rights in Latvia prior to World War Two, and, to a certain extent, to the demise of parliamentarian democracy in 1934. These issues (divided into three principal clusters: citizenship, language, and education) are then compared to the remarkably similar challenges faced by Latvian society since 1991.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Latvia, ethnic minorities, nationalism, civic nation, interwar period, cultural autonomy, citizenship.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Prof. David J. and Swain, Prof. Geoffrey
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Ms Marina Germane
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4382
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2013 10:20
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2016 15:36

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