Images and Realities and the Baltic States

Νοέ 27th, 2006 | | Κατηγορία: English, Κόσμος | Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post |

By Dimitrios Giannakopoulos

Science without philosophical view is just a technique
(The echo of an imagined scientific-community at the beginning of 21st century)

The second half of the 20th century, in the West, seems to be characterized as the reign of the disciplinarian orthodoxy in the humanitarian sciences. The scientific boundaries among the most scholars had been well mapped out – at least by definition. The notions: nation, national, international and on the other hand culture and identity had been treated as if their core meaning and interaction were self-evident. The meaning of power had been theorized as non-problematic as well. In general, all political phenomena were understood to be either derived from liberal individualism or class. The ‘less disciplinary’ scientists, who felt uncomfortable into the stranglehold of their own scientific field, and were compelled by the necessity to express phenomena beyond of the outworn ‘normality’, had been forced to follow a solitary way – often away from their scientific club – deeply respecting an interdisciplinary, scientific approach that was impregnated of a more or less philosophical view.

It seems rather dangerous for scientists to think by conceptualizing phenomena as ‘defeated’, ‘deleted’ or ‘disappeared’

Probably, their interdisciplinary, scientific culture led them to conceptualize that in an increasingly fluid, hybrid, and polyethnic world, traditional depictions could only camouflage and further aggravate political, social, cultural, and even economic problems, since the same conditions – notions, factors, scientific variables – in different environment bring out dissimilar outcome (Cybernetic theories and the theory of Games-by John Nash). Thus, the most brilliantly conceived political concepts appreciated the complexity of culture-driven politics, and furthermore brought out the synthetic character of the political science reputing it into socio-cultural level.

Why far too many political scientists failed by projecting the ‘new realities’ which took place in Europe in the 1980’s? Why from the ‘Western Europe as a unity’ in the 1970’s they passed – without much difficulty – to the current approach by considering ‘Europe as a whole’, by the second half of 1990’s? Why, at last, they jumped at the chance to theorize the European Union’s concept ‘unity in diversity’ as the new politico-ideological parameter in ‘new’ Europe? The questions above are maybe pertaining to the outstanding problem of many modern scholars who tended to theorize phenomena, such as the bipolar World, out of their multiplicity and the internal logic of their construction that included a wide spectrum of both contradictions and discrepancies of identities and powers. After all it seems rather dangerous for scientists to think by conceptualizing phenomena as ‘defeated’, ‘deleted’ or ‘disappeared’. For instance, the comeback of identity politics may have resurrected the potential of nationalism as a contemporary strangeness, but by no means as historical farce. Actually or constructively, if the political science retains the power to define phenomena, instead of following the politicians’ agenda and/or political marketers’ mottos, then humanity can look forward to far-sighted and more emancipated scientific approaches.

My aim is, by no means, to condemn the dominant trajectory of the political science, but only to point out that the absence of philosophical view pari-passu the lack of a inter-disciplinary approach could drive it to a technocratic level just as a theoretical or/and applied technique of policy-making.

I argue that if the social sciences instead of explicating phenomena turned to measure or estimate the results of politics – and some times these of petty politics – then it could loose their ‘pure’ scientific orientations. Truly, phenomenon is not the outcome of a political decision, but rather the causality or the socio-political complexity that generates a specific policy-making process, which tends to a particular decision.

In other words, the cause-nexus relationship is not structured between decision-making and the effect of it, bur rather on the interaction’s field of both interest-groups and national-state, as well as international or/and supranational institutions, and economic actors.

I felt the need to clarify all these above, first, since I am going to research the question how the impact of images and realities or their sociological analogs identities and powers, influence the Baltic states’ transition, and second just to describe the orientations of this paper.

A community of ‘imagined communities’

The latest 15 years it seems as Europe have been re-discovered by its own inhabitances. After the collapse of state-socialism in Central-Eastern Europe, it is true that the continent enters in a new era or, as some others like to say, in a ‘New Order’.

Although, this paper argues that such ideological concepts just reflect the politico-ideological orientations of their ‘spiritual fathers’, it is useful one to study the impact of them throughout the Europeanization process. Obviously, the former (new era) characterizes the historical transition, while the latter (New Order) emphasizes the new European national as well as supranational politico-economic structure in the framework of globalization.

In this sense, Europeanization takes the mental form of a new course of the post-communist European countries within the European Union, in order to cohere with the mature, old, or West European Democracies. Thus, the Centre-East European countries passed from Sovietization to Europeanization. Now, it is argued that Europe is re-united – at least in principle, and its re-unification principles are free-market economy and democracy (A. Ägh, 1998: 1- 10).

The same period, as a ‘new European miracle’, numerous books, essays and articles published as studies of nations, nationhood and nationalism. For instance, almost all the books that have been circulated researching various aspects of political, social or historical phenomena in Baltic states, are driven through a national dimension.

The question that now arises is relating to the association of both new European structure and function, and on the other hand national-state and nationalism.

If it were judicious to generalize, I could point out three stages of nationalism in the modern European history: 1st. National-question and national building.
2nd. Nationalism as a support-element of authoritarian or semi-authoritarian-régimes.

3rd . The 1980’s nationalism as a currier of cultural and ethnic identities sprinkled by democratic ideals’ rhetoric in order to be secured the preconditions of re-building national-states in central-eastern Europe. The stake for the post- communist European states and regions was – and still for some is – the European Union, as an economic giant and as a political institution that could support their economic, social and political existence. On the other hand the economic and political accession’s criteria of the EU that had been taken an obligated form reinforced, and still enhance, Centre and East European countries’ – plus Baltic states – transition-effort to the Single Market as well as to a kind of Western type political system. In other words, the Europeanization process boosts their course towards European integration. Thus, the modern European structure incorporates national and sub-national interests as well as supranational and individual ones throughout the Single European Market. These interests are being harmonized or at least regulated through a policy-making system that disperses on intergovernmental, supranational, national and sub-national (regional) levels of decision-making.

Thus, the driving force of the contemporary nationalism is rather not the idea of ethnic-pureness or a cleavage between natives and colonist – as it was the case 100 years ago -, but mainly a sense of common interests that are articulated in the same language and in the same state-institutionalized framework. In this aspect, it is useful to follow the footprints of Thomas Lunden who writes “In a regulated society boundaries are necessary, and particularly in a democratic society it is extremely important to define the area of validity for the legal decision-maker”. Furthermore the same author notes, “The state boundary is rarely or never an absolute boundary between individuals with totally different histories, cultures and opinions” (T. Lunden, 2004: 210,211).

Thus, nowadays, the different in kind, boundaries in Europe, in regard of those 20 years ago, may lead us to recapture the concepts of ‘national-state’, nationalism and identities.

only the power that can be articulated as common interests embodies the qualities of a strong link between the partial elements of an ‘imagined political community’

Truly, the European Union has gradually extended its authority over matters historically regarded as within the exclusive preserve of state. Hence, nowadays talking about national-state in Europe, we depart from the type of polity that had have been established the 17th century. The sovereign territorial states that were associated with the Westphalian settlement of 1648 seem practically belonging to the European past. However, ideologically this type of polity remains deeply rooted in each European ethnic-consciousness. What makes Westphalian polity as sure as fate is its unique feature to recreate ‘imagined political communities’ – and imagined “as inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of them lives the image of their communion” (B.Anderson, 1983: 6). Actually this process of constructing national-identities in order to distinguish peoples, territories, cultures, behaviors and life styles could be defined as ‘learning by mental pictures’ process. There is no nation without national myths, with no imagined exceptionality. In fact, this learning process which recreates ‘imagined communities’ is characterized by a short of national-ideology, which by having as a core an accentuated ‘imagined identity’, ever and again it is closely akin to nationalistic ideals . However, “nationalism is not the awaking of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist” (E. Gellner, 1964: 169).

Hence, although nationalism can not be hypostasized as political ideology, it is easy to mime the part of the ‘soul of a nation’. (B. Anderson, 1983:4,5,6).

Furthermore, if we accepted the approach above that nation, nationalhood, identity and nationality – as the personal and cultural feeling of belonging to a nation – constitute ‘imagined communities’, then we would have to find out the ‘reality’ which could epitomize all those mental pictures – or cultural artifacts – in the framework of a state. I argue that only the power that can be articulated as common interests embodies the qualities of a strong link between the partial elements of an ‘imagined political community’. Briefly, the potential of power seems to be the single reality on which states are institutionalized. The hideous aspect of power is camouflaged by ethnic-myths and national achievements. In my humble opinion, the current, different in kind boundaries in Europe are pertaining to the different in kind pattern of power that is involved in the EU’s member-states, since the structure of power allocates the (real) features of a polity.

If one wanted to realize the character of a concrete state-power, he would have to focus on the imagined qualities of this national-state and vice-versa, in a long term period. However, it seems out of our scope to examine how images may support powers, or to inspect the long term process in which cultures, powers and ‘imagined communities’ interact with each other. It is just enough to be concurred that national-states, boundaries and identities have got as variable the potential of state-power, and in the same time to go along with the assumption that ‘imagined communities’ is not an ‘imagined phenomenon’, it is , in fact, a dynamic reality – as real as the air we breath. However, to be perceived as reality an ‘imagined community’ ought to be blended with an analog power. This process transmutes imagined communities into authenticities. It means that if political forces and imagined identities coexist in harmony in the national-state framework, then common ideals and universal values can be easier reproduced enhancing national orientations.

Post-communism in Baltic

The idea of converting a dozen countries into democracies in the space of a few years was a risky undertaking

In historical terms, post –communism is one of the most daring enterprises of the 20th century. The idea of converting a dozen countries into democracies in the space of a few years was a risky undertaking. Particularly for the Baltic states the Europeanization process, as their path to West, seemed as more problematic since they, as republics of the Soviet Union, did not possess even formal independence from their annexation in 1940 to their liberation in 1991.Thus, they had not only have to build democratic-state’s structures, but at the same time to create a unique national image that could distinguish them from each other and as a whole from their neighbors.

The peoples of the three new Baltic democracies felt as if history had deprived them from membership of their elusive Europe, so that their primarily goal was to join the ‘community of western democratic countries’, because they believed that democratization means automatically welfare. The central political tool of their national integration was the concept of ‘ethnic-pureness’, which was supporting by the ‘national language’ of each of the three states. Obviously, in a democratic environment ethnocentric behaviors does not befit with the democratic principles of citizenship, fellowship. Thus, ethnic-stances can easily be baptized patriotic in order to be by-passed negative impressions of the Western mature democracies. But do not forget that the crucial actor, at determining behaviors as nationalistic or patriotic ones, is the absorber of them. European Union and EU’s member-states constitute the main perceiver of the Balts’ behaviors. They are the key system that creates ‘Gestalten’ of the Balts, this is to say they knead and transform facts to make them usable for themselves – like a person (Koόhler, 1959).

As Zaneta Ozolina notes Ethnic natives of the Baltic states believe that they have always been a part of western European culture, and there is a strong desire to anchor this in every way possible for the future. Since independence, the dominant public organizations, lifestyles, and publicly approved values of the majority societies in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have identified themselves with western culture; and this has naturally had the effect of strengthening the desire to join western institutions”(Z. Ozolina, 2003: 207). It is true, but it would be without a particular importance, if it were not faced as objective fact by the Western countries.

This is exactly what I have already termed as ‘authenticities’, which are associated with the power of the new national-elite in each of the three Baltic states.

The catalytic power of their new economic actors with their global links synchronizes with the political power which is close related with the high European Union’s interests (B. Deacon, 2000: 159). Hence, globalization could be seen in a parallel way with Europeanization. So, a multi-power ‘game’ have been flowered in Baltic that in some degree may help us to explain the enthusiastic respond of the local leadership to any offers of cooperation from the international arena and in joining any available international bodies.

Balts build up their national-identity in regard to the Western paradigm, which preconditions social and economic reforms in a very short period of time for overcoming economic risks and for establishment a ‘modern’ market economy

It expresses, also, pari-passu the anxiety of the majority of Balts to move decisively out of the Russian sphere of influence, and since these three democracies had been forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union , are on Russia’s borders, and contain large Russian-speaking minorities, this feeling was even stronger there than in the other Central-Eastern European countries. However, the imagined identities in Baltic states have as main constant both anti-Russian nationalism and on the other hand the beyond economic, material, cultural, and political prestige of the West compared with that of Russia. Thus, Balts build up their national-identity in regard to the Western paradigm, which preconditions social and economic reforms in a very short period of time for overcoming economic risks and for establishment a ‘modern’ market economy (H. Grabbe, 2003: 72-74). Obviously, all those involve an extremely rapid process by changing most of their cultural characteristics in order to values, behaviors, attitudes and economic means be synchronized. And, there is no doubt that this is exactly the most problematic aspect of the Baltic states integration into the European Union ( Z. Ozolina, 2003: 214-228).

All in all, there is common ground in social-science that history as learning process creates a justification framework, in which national identity can be reproduced. In fact, this is not the scientific object of history, but rather the main characteristic of a ‘populist study’ that seeks to hue with its own colors historical events. It shall be clear that to give a nation history one must never begin from the pragmatic aspect of history, and as J.G.von Herder points out “that that history is best in which what is history in it and what doctrine structure are, as quite different sorts of things…what the author has drawn up as history and what he has added in though as doctrinal structure” (Herder, 2002: 267).

Nowadays, Baltic states are facing with the national dilemma how they could formulate the content of the history textbooks in order to be offered an interpretation cause convenient to a kind of national-ideology that could actively serve their ‘new’ identity in the ‘New Europe’. The Baltic-tragedy could be started with the ascertainment that all the region’s conquerors – particularly Germans and Russians – behaved as Balts had not have got their own discrete history as Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians.

Germans had developed three kind of historical approaches (theories) to explain the historical status of the Balts: Volksgeschichte, Landesgeschichte, and Kulturträgertum. In the other side, Russians formulated a theory relating to the historical materialism more or less modulated in the historic particularities of each Baltic state, and so that it was ‘offered’ as ‘real history’.

As Jüri Kivimäe notes “it is hard even to draw a clear line between professional and popular approaches to the writing of the history of the interwar period and indeed recently much of it was driven more by emotion and political bias than by objective and professional criteria.” (J. Kivimäe, 1999: 206). Furthermore, the same author by examining the historiography in Estonia as a national strategy in the time space since 1991, writes “ it is the revival of national history – in contrast and refutation of the falsifications of the textbooks of the Soviet period – which best satisfies both political needs and the pressure of public opinion…it is characterized by a strong emphasis on the historical survival of the Estonian people…[ and furthermore by giving ] emphasis on national history creates its own problems in a country where a substantial part of the population is of Russian origin”( J. Kivimäe, 1999: 207).

That being so, it is true that new boundaries are developing, nowadays, in the Baltic with the ethnic criterion be prevailed. Thus, it is more difficult one to distinguish between ‘national’ and ‘nationalist’, since national or/ and ethnic identity constitute synonymous in the cognitive system of the contemporary Balts.

The context of both European and local cultural history, or both European and national identity is more problematic in Latvia. There, as Aija Priedite notes “The sense of ‘unauthentic lives’ was heightened by the rapid social and economic transformations set in motion in Latvia after the restoration of its political independence; these, too, were not conductive to the development of a national culture” ( A. Priedite, 1999: 229). Actually, the lack of that I have, already, conceptualized as ‘authenticities’ or ‘national authenticities’ tends to drive Latvians to a more or less nationalistic approach of their identity, since there are non-wide-accepted cultural features that could distinguish them from their neighbors. I argue, by no means, that the Latvian’s cultural characteristics are ill, instead , I just like to make mansion that the crucial issue is not whether or not a national identity is well-based on a awareness of a common geographical and linguistic territory, but rather on whether a common historical view is structured within citizen’s cognitive system. Only so a massive, collective, national identity can be arisen. And by that time there is plenty of space for varied kinds of nationalistic expressions of those nationalistic or pseudo-nationalistic groups which are in love with authority. Thus, nationalism can be masqueraded to national-authenticity. In short, it is useful to highlight the proposal by A.Priedite, who concludes that “the evaluation of national history and cultural heritage…has to be interpreted in its broadest sense and it has to treat the development of culture and society on the territory of Latvia as one inter-related, continuing process” (A. Priedite, 1999: 232).

The political and the social system – less the economic one – in Baltic states have not passed from the communism to liberal democracy

Obviously, it is easier for an ethnic group to build up national consciousness throughout the heroic or/and admirable past of its ancestors, when the rest of the World reveres the achievements of their civilization. But, Balts have only little to say on that score. “They become pert of history through no action of their own. But when that happens, they manifest themselves in a truly noble and heroic manner” (Brastins, 1936: 12). Thereafter the essential elements were available in order their own, discrete ‘imagined community’ to be well based, by assessing Balts among the three countries as Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. Truly, what the three Baltic states have in common derives almost entirely from shared unhappy expediencies imposed upon them from outside: occupations, deportations, annexation, sovietization, collectivization, russification. But, from maybe happy ones as well: Europeanization, liberalization, and democratization. What these countries do not share is a common identity. As Toomas Hendrik Ilves notes “It is time that we recognize that we are dealing with three very different countries in the Baltic area, with completely different affinities. There is no Baltic identity with a common culture language group, religious tradition. For almost four years now, Lithuania has been correctly pointing out that it is a central European country. Its Catholicism, architecture, history all links it to Poland and the other Vishegrad countries” (T.H.Ilves, 1999 ).

Is it true or just a political rhetoric? No disrespect, but I think that it is not a definitive question. Unfortunately, the absorber identifies always one’s images and not the sender. To be an ‘imagined community’ a reality shall be absorbed as such. Equivalently, each of the Baltic states in order to project its separate identity may have to draw a borderline between the genuine and the artificial – between ourselves and themselves, between each Baltic homeland and the other two area’s countries.

But, this strategy involves a lot of risk that shall be estimated into the frame of the contemporary globalized and europeanized environment. In this context, one can observe more ‘defiant’ attitudes in Baltic. For instance, that that by propagandizing Lithuania as Christ-Redeemer has been contributed to an even stronger feeling here (in Lithuania) than in the other Baltic states that they have sacrificed themselves for the West, are morally better than the West, and therefore have an automatic right to the West’s support ( just like a part of Greeks believes that the West is in duty bound with them, because of their donation to the Western civilization, many Lithuanians identify themselves as Christian-Catholic neo-martyrs within the Western religion ). “In this mood Lithuanians tend of course to be particularly impervious to Western advice. The curious thing is that when a Lithuanian rejects Western criticism with the often-used words, ‘this is the Lithuanian way of doing things’, what he is describing is usually in fact the classically Soviet way of doing things”. (A. Lieven, 1993: 31).


Hence, the Baltic states are characterized by two salient features, as George Schöpflin points out: the first is that with the extinction of Leninism, the post-communist states are in a ‘ Genesis environment’, the second is that they are in a state of liminality. Genesis implies that the nature of the new order is very fluid and all shorts of options are possible. Liminality suggests that elements of the new are mixed with elements of the old; the combination makes the determination of rules extremely difficult” ( G. Schöpflin, 2000: 174).

The crucial hypothesis for the Balts is rather to make their democracies more functional by giving them an authentic character than to stay hooked in their ‘imagined communities’ of the past

I agree that, so far, Baltic States involves the post-communist character, which is democratic in form and nationalist in content. In this sense I argue that post-communism is sui generis. It means that the political and the social system – less the economic one – in Baltic states have not passed from the communism to liberal democracy. They are in a transition space where national identities, ideologies, ideas, utopian ideals and nationalism are being shaking both in their national framework and in the EU’s level. Their ‘imagined communities’ have the heavy task to hybridise as ‘national-authenticities’ into the new ‘imagined European-community’. Since, to be one part of the new European identity he must first authenticate his own identity as fundamental element of it. However, to be an ‘imagined community’ respected as an authentic state, it is required to posses an appropriate quality of power which would be appreciated by a wide-spread group of countries. Only so that the images of the Baltic states can be metamorphosed to realities throughout the EU and the rest of the glob. Their transition phase – as sui generis- coincident with an analogue phase that transmogrify Europe as a whole. Thus, nowadays the crucial hypothesis for the Balts is rather to make their democracies more functional by giving them an authentic character than to stay hooked in their ‘imagined communities’ of the past. The ‘imagined communities’ are not stable and fixed into people’s cognitive system. They must be able to change in order to be adjusting into the framework of the new global system. In this sense can be evaluated the ability of the local political powers, and be appraised their authenticity by creating redistribution and re-stratification within their societies. Furthermore, the intellectual, political and economic leadership in the Baltic States have the duty – several liability – to transfer or better saying to transmute the local images to the wide-ranging realities.

All in all the theoretical model of this paper could be drawn up under the Sequence: potential of local-power creates imagined community -> nationalism, imagined identities (symbolic phases) -> national state, applied power, a kind of polity (Westphalian) –> national-state-authority and sovereignty generate political authenticity -> national identity, institutional power, international state-physiognomy, predominated interest groups (authentic phases). Once universal adult citizenship rights and a sense of fellowship have been socially secured, democratization comes to characterize national-state-authenticity (authentic democracy) –> struggle of interest groups to gain power builds up new conditions in the ruling-parties correlation -> redistribution, re-stratification, new political formations -> new potential of power->…tendency to create new images in order to be well-served the new realities. Obviously, the whole concept is faced as open system; this is to pass from one phase to the other (->), it involves, as catalyst, global powers in all possible forms.



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