Defining Latvia

Recent Explorations in History, Culture, and Politics
$85.00 / €71.00 / £61.00
Kindle edition $9.99
Publication date: 
270 pages, 4 maps

In just over a century, Latvia has transitioned from imperial periphery to nation-state, then Soviet republic, and finally following the collapse of the Soviet Union to an independent republic. Defining Latvia brings together the latest research on the multiple social, political, and cultural contexts of Latvia throughout this turbulent period. Its ten chapters are written by leading political scientists, historians, and area studies specialists from across Europe and North America.

The volume moves beyond an exclusively political context to incorporate a variety of social and cultural perspectives, ranging from the experiences of Latvian mapmakers in the Russian Empire, to the participation of Latvians in the Wehrmacht and Red Army during World War II, Latvian national communism, and the development of extremist politics following Latvia’s accession to the European Union. Other chapters address developing trends in the fields of history and political science, including the history of antisemitism, memory, language politics, photography, and political extremism.

Based on the book’s temporal span from the nineteenth century to the present, the authors and editors of Defining Latvia understand the construction of Latvian identity as a continuous and interconnected process across significant political and ideological ruptures.

Introduction: Latvia and Latvian Identity in Historical Perspective
Siobhán Hearne

1.1 Mapping Latwija: Matīss Siliņš and Latvian cartographic publishing in the 1890s
Catherine Gibson

1.2 The Sokolowski Affair: Testing the Limits of Cultural Autonomy in Interwar Latvia
Christina Douglas and Professor Per Bolin

1.3 More than a Means to an End: Pērkonkrusts’ Antisemitism and Attacks on Democracy 1932-1934 
Paula Oppermann

1.4 My Home and My Family Are Now Our Regiment’: National Belonging and Familial Feelings in Latvian Units during World War II 
Harry Merritt

2.1 The Economic Program of the Latvian National Communists – Myth or Reality?
Daina Bleiere

2.2 Latvia goes Rogue: Language Politics and Khrushchev’s 1958 Soviet Education Reform
Michael Loader

2.3 Latvian photography of the 1960s: Between Art and Censorship
Ekaterina Vikulina

3.1 Onwards and Upwards! Mainstreaming Radical Right Populism in Contemporary Latvia
Daunis Auers

3.2 Gaming the System: Far Right Entryism in Post-Soviet Latvian Politics
Matthew Kott

“Empirically rich and analytically astute, this volume illuminates the constitutive tensions of modern Europe through the lens of Latvia. These include establishing and securing national states in multi-ethnic contexts, negotiating the competing ideologies of liberalism, nationalism, and socialism, and fighting wars that threaten the very existence of peoples and states. Located at the eastern border of some editions of the ‘Western World’ and the western border of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, the small state of Latvia has seen these tensions rip through institutions, families, and individual lives. It is for this reason that this book should be read by all those interested in Europe’s present and future.”
“Emerging from a joint scholarly effort to mark the centenary of Latvia’s independence, this collection does precisely what its editors claim: in nine essays, we are presented with the most up-to-date research in English on Latvia’s historical experience since the late nineteenth century. By exploring the evolution of what it meant to be Latvian, Defining Latvia marks a major milestone in Latvian historiography.”
"A focus of this collected volume was motivated by the centennial of Latvia’s independence in 2018, but surely has not lost relevance afterward. The contributions to the book can be connected to three thematic fields: nation- building before 1940, national identity under the adverse conditions of the Nazi and the Soviet rules, and the right-wing nationalism."
“Defining Latvia offers a multilayered, multidisciplinary analysis of Latvian identity from the nineteenth century to the present. The volume contributes to understanding the construction of Latvian identity as a continuous and interconnected process across significant political and ideological ruptures. This argument is meaningful not only for scholars and policy makers of Latvia but also has relevance for understanding historical and contemporary debates on national construction in Europe more broadly.”
"The strength of the book is the spotlight it places on the overlooked or underappreciated episodes in the modern era of Latvian history. Indeed, the collection is full of fresh insights and interpretations regarding the development of Latvian identity and statehood."