Across the Lines: National Self-Determination in the Baltic between the Russian, German and Allied Conceptions

David J Smith


This article offers a comparative analysis of how the First World War affected emerging Estonian,Latvian and Lithuanian nationalisms. There has been a clear tendency to treat the three statesdeclared by these national movements in 1918 as a single ‘Baltic’ grouping created as a result ofcommon factors and processes. Yet, such a characterisation downplays differences which arise dueto the position of the region at the very frontline of the war in the East, which brought a variety of jurisdictionsand political contexts. A further tendency has been to retrospectively portray the nationstateframework ultimately created in all three cases as the realisation of the long-cherished goal ofthe pre-1918 national movements. Such an understanding of national self-determination, however,only emerged much later, and federalist thinking continued to shape both external and internalconceptions of sovereignty during and immediately after the war. How statehood was conceived,moreover, had a lot to do with which side of the line a region was located during the conflict, withkey points of difference being discernible between the Estonian and Lithuanian cases in particular.

Key words: Baltic States, federalism, statehood, autonomy, self-determination, national minorities.



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