LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 20, No.2 - Summer 1974
Editors of this issue: Thomas Remeikis
Copyright © 1974 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Arvids Ziedonis, Jr., Rein Taagepera, Mardi Valgemae, PROBLEMS OF MININATIONS: BALTIC PERSPECTIVES, San Jose, Calif., Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, Inc., 1973.
The developing world, consisting to a significant degree of small countries of under ten million in population, is critically beset by problems of economic development, state and nation building, problems of identity and integration. Can the earlier experiences of mini-nations like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania offer any meaningful lessons to the mini-nations of the contemporary world? Some answers to this question is the professed goal of this collection of papers, presented at the Third Conference on Baltic Studies at the University of Toronto in 1972.
The seemingly relevant goal of this collection is only partially achieved; actually only the first four or five articles deal with problems of smallness and how to deal with them. The most relevant and to the point is part one of the book, which deals with mini-nation economies. The introductory essay by Nicholas Balabkins, "Some Hypotheses on Small and Underdeveloped Countries," is a good primer mainly on the disadvantages of smallness in economic development. Prof. Balabkin's proportions are in a way tested in the essays by Zbigniew M. Fallenbuchl, who writes on the economy of Guyana, and Elmar Jarvesoo, who discusses the problems of independent Estonia. Somewhat relevant are the articles by Janis Silenieks, who compares the writers of national awakening in Latvia and Martinique, and Peter R. Prifti, who writes on the situation of Albania and the Baltic Republics. The rest of the papers do not address themselves to the problems of mini-nations directly, but merely consider various aspects of the contemporary scene in the Baltic area.
Among the best papers on the contemporary Baltic situation are Rein Taagepera's article on "Dissimilarities Between the Northwestern Soviet Republics" an essentially empirical comparison of social, economic and political development of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Byelorussia and Karelia. Also highly significant and useful study is that of Yaroslav Bilinsky, entitled "The Background of Contemporary Politics in the Baltic Republics and the Ukraine: Comparisons and Contrasts" a consideration of the differential impact of modernization on the ethnic identity of these republics. Bilinsky concludes that the Baltic republics are less subject to acculturation and assimilation trends than the Ukraine. Also notable are the articles by Gundar King and Jursis Dreifelds (on Latvian demography) and Benedict Mačiuika (on political socialization in Lithuania).
For some reason the editors also included abstracts of four papers, which really just take up space. There are also articles, which have no relevance to the direct and indirect aims of the book (i.e., the article of Povilas Mažeika on "Russian Objectives in the Baltic Countries," which really deals with abstract formulas or models for predicting the disintegration of the Soviet state under stress, and that of Nicholas Balabkins, which attempts to answer "What is Socioteratology?" "the study of social monstrosities"). All in all, the collection obviously does not live up to the aims implied in the title and expressed in the introduction. Outside of several excellent articles, the rest is a ballast. Obviously, there is no justification for putting these articles into a thematic collection.
However, even if the bulk of the book were devoted to seeking some of the answers to the problems of mini-nations, a question may be raised as to what extent the Baltic experience of the 1920's and the 1930's is relevant to the developing mini-nations today. The Baltic countries attained statehood at an advanced stage of modernization, possessing high rates of literacy and a well-developed infrastructure of society. Most significantly, the task of nation-building did not burden the young republics, for their nations had a well developed identity and were culturally integrated. This is exactly one of the most pressing problems of the developing world. Also there are differences in technology. Today mass communications can create instantaneously demands even among illiterate masses, and technology can produce a rapid cultural change, leading to a much greater disequilibria than ever before. The contemporary mini-nations are thus in a qualitatively different world, in a situation which could be dealt with effectively only under almost total mobilization of populations. I am afraid that the lessons which the Baltic experience can offer to the mini-nations of today are of limited scope and utility.
Calumet College, East Chicago, Indiana