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Aleksanteri Conference
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Stöcker, Lars Fredrik

Networks across the Baltic Sea - The activities of Polish and Estonian political émigrés in Sweden during the Cold War era

In the aftermaths of the Second World War, a vast number of refugees from the south-eastern parts of the Baltic Sea Region had formed institutionally well organized exile groups in neutral Sweden. A considerable part of the exiles became, as in the West in general, engaged in outspoken anti-communist political activities. Poles and Estonians formed the politically and culturally most influential of these activist groups, which managed to maintain a high level of political activity during the Cold War decades and challenged the Swedish neutrality policy by the means of publications and attempts to influence the public and political discourse about the eastern bloc in Sweden. From the mid-1960s onwards, the liberalisation of passenger traffic across the Baltic Sea, a result of the increased interstate cooperation between Sweden and its communist neighbours, facilitated the émigrés’ political work for democratization and, in the case of the Balts, independence. Direct contacts and exchange between individuals and groups of the Swedish, Polish and Estonian societies were possible on a larger scale than before and the exchange of uncensored information increased considerably. The paper aims at investigating the emerging “networking” activities of the exile activists who, as mediators, contributed to the entangling process across the Baltic Sea on an informal level which influenced the societies on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In addition to the level of official interstate relationships, a dialogue emerged underneath the state policy level between an increasing number of Swedish individuals and political and cultural institutions and Polish and Estonian dissident groups. The reconstruction of the cross-Baltic networks and their impacts, the range of material support for dissident groups and the influence on the Swedish public and political discourse in Sweden, will form a contribution to the attempts of writing a transnational history of the Baltic Sea Region during the era of the Iron Curtain.

Saturday 31 Oct, 9.30-11.30 SESSION 7
Panel: Intellectual and Dissident Activism