Looking beyond the nation state: a Baltic vision for national minorities between the wars

Hiden, J. and Smith, D.J. (2006) Looking beyond the nation state: a Baltic vision for national minorities between the wars. Journal of Contemporary History, 41(3), pp. 387-399. (doi: 10.1177/0022009406064646)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022009406064646


The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union have again brought minorities in Central and Eastern Europe to the forefront of international attention and have generated renewed interest in the region's history between the two world wars. For all this, the continuing focus on conflictual aspects has obscured the efforts made at the time to build genuinely multicultural societies on the ruins of the old empires. This article examines an idea which was central to this endeavour, namely the principle of non-territorial cultural autonomy. The idea, originating with the Austro-Marxists Karl Renner and Otto Bauer, was uniquely adopted in the New Europe after the first world war by the Baltic countries, most notably Estonia. The doctrine recognized that the complex patterns of historical settlement in Central and Eastern Europe precluded a solution to nationality conflicts through the redrawing of territorial borders alone. Instead, it provided for a non-territorial expression of national identity, whereby minorities were allowed to constitute themselves as public corporations within their host states, enjoying full autonomy in the spheres of education and culture. The idea, taken up by the Congress of European Minorities from 1925, had far-reaching implications for the project of building a ‘United States of Europe’. It looked towards a Europe as a collection of nationalities rather than nation states. What was dismissed as utopian in an era beset by extreme nationalism has fresh resonance in today's ‘New Europe’, where West and East have finally been united within the supranational framework of the EU.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Professor David and Hiden, Prof John
Authors: Hiden, J., and Smith, D.J.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
J Political Science > JZ International relations
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Journal Name:Journal of Contemporary History
ISSN (Online):1461-7250

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
349421Ending nationalism?The quest for cultural autonomy in inter-war EuropeDavid SmithArts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB)AN10102/APN1623Central and East European Studies