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Aleksanteri Papers 6:2000

Aleksanteri Papers

Sannamaaria Vanamo:
On Citizenship and Identity: The Case of the Baltic States and the Problems in Nationalism Today


The purpose of this Master’s Thesis is to examine citizenship and identity and to evaluate the kind of citizenship policies that the three Baltic states; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania adopted after having declared their independence from the Soviet Union. The aim is to find conceptual clarification to the complex notion of a citizen and his/her relation to a political community. The aim is also to find reasons why Estonia and Latvia excluded the Russian-speaking population from citizenship and to argue that even though these policies were/are ”understandable” and ”needed”, they have been concrete expressions of the kind of nationalism and nation-state -building that may no longer work in today’s Europe and the western world.

The study is based on conceptual-historical approach and it applies the temporal dimension of identity as well. This means that the central concepts and the case of the Baltic states are examined through past, present and future. The study is composed of two central parts; theoretical and empirical. The theoretical part examines the views of J.G.A Pocock, Ernest Gellner and Jürgen Habermas presented in The Ideal of Citizenship Since Classical Times (Pocock, 1995), Nations and Nationalism (Gellner, 1983) and Citizenship and National Identity (Habermas, 1996). The empirical part is based on textual approach and it examines Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian citizenship, language and minority laws. The laws date between 1991-1996. In addition, two shorter layers are added inbetween the main structure. This emphasizes the temporality aspect of this study in the sense that the past of the Baltic states (time under the Soviet Union) and future aspirations (the will to become western liberal democracies and members of the European Union) are also reflected.

The study comes into the conclusion that there are mainly two ways to approach citizenship and identity: political and national. Our contemporary understanding of citizenship includes both approaches and identities. Citizenship has been greatly affected by the emergence of nation-states and nationalism and yet we much value the classical idea of political citizenship too. In post-totalitarian societies like Estonia and Latvia, nationalism and nation-state -building have been playing a major role. This can be understood when considering them as tools of modernization and when taking into account the historical context in which the citizenship laws were written. The problem is however, that western societies have moved away from modern industrial societies towards post-modern information societies, in which nationalism no longer has an important nor justifiable role to play. Estonian and Latvian nationalist citizenship policies are thus in contradiction with future aspirations. On the other hand, nationalism has been on the rise again in western societies too. When it comes to Lithuania, citizenship policies have been liberal and more defined through the future. The study points out that Estonian and Latvian citizenship policies have been problematic from the EU enlargement perspective and that these policies damage good relations with Russia too. Keywords: citizenship, identity, nationalism, Russian-speaking population, Baltic states.

Full text: On Citizenship and Identity: The Case of the Baltic States and the Problems in Nationalism Today (pdf)