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216 × 138 mm
208 pages
07 Jun 2012
Contemporary Worlds

Baltic Facades Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since 1945 Aldis Purs

The three so-called ‘Baltic states’ – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – are commonly regarded by outsiders as a single entity. But in reality they are quite distinct countries, each one struggling to find its own place within Europe while preserving a personal identity and local traditions.

Baltic Facades presents a radical new reading of these states, with a fresh and up-to-date examination of their individual politics, economies and social and cultural trends. By dispelling the myth of a single, coherent Baltic identity, Aldis Purs is able to take account of the uniqueness of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, while examining the anxieties that their peoples feel about their own identities and how others see them.

Giving equal weight to developments in politics, economics, and social and cultural trends, Purs develops a thematic framework that places contemporary events in a longer perspective than traditional Cold War inspired views of the region. His book will appeal in particular to intellectually curious readers, those who seek an account of the Baltic nations that provides a strong sense of place and reaches beyond the restrictions of traditional political history.

‘This book is the first and so far the only monographic exploration of the historically omnipresent and continuing tension between an externally imposed regionalism and three internally generated national identities in which the ‘Baltic’ concept is perhaps useful in times of crises but not descriptive of their sense of self; it is also the first to explore in great detail the difference between substance and image in the region . . . very satisfying to read . . . [a] well-written and informative essay’ – History

‘The author shifts easily between the broader analysis and the telling details that make each country's experience distinctive. Overall, this is a lucidly written introduction to the region and its peoples. Recommended’ – Choice

‘Purs examines in a sweeping narrative the repeated transformations of these lands and peoples in politics, economics, and questions of national identity . . . . Purs’s text is illuminating and engaging, most of all when he recounts his own personal observations from the quickly changing countries in telling anecdotes. There is no better introduction to these lands and their realities.’ – The Historian

‘Aldis Purs offers a solid, if brief, examination of post-war Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with attention to political, economic and social transformations. The incorporation of the three different countries into one volume is a fine introduction to the contemporary history of the region . . . The book proves an ambitious project by connecting three linguistically and culturally different nations, and it looks at their common suffering that shaped their diverse developments. Purs shows how the countries, despite having similar fates under Nazi and Soviet occupation, dealt in different ways with the occupiers and transformations since the Second World War.’ – Journal of Contemporary European Studies

‘a useful, provocative text which deserves an interested readership. Certainly travellers and students should appreciate it, but researchers working on the region might also enjoy the zest with which the text has been written.’ – Slavonic and East European Review

‘the book is pleasant to read, the language is rich and flowing, the text is clear . . . scholars could also benefit from this book and not only those just entering the field of Baltic studies . . . the book is valuable for drawing the lines of similarity across time and space, and because of its orientation to reproduce the established narratives rather than criticize them.’ – Journal of Baltic Studies

‘[an] excellent study . . . enjoyable to read . . . Purs has written a lucid and stimulating account of recent Baltic history with an emphasis on identity which can be warmly recommended for students, travellers, businessmen, and indeed anyone interested in understanding this neglected corner of Europe.’ – European History Quarterly

‘This brilliantly written book tells the prominent history of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, stressing political, social and economical aspects. It is a story of great changes during the 20th century and of new challenges after 1990/91.’ – Jens E. Olesen

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Aldis Purs is Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Washington. He has published widely on the Baltic region including The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (co-authored with Artis Pabriks et al., 2002).