Module Introduction

This module will give you a broad introduction to the history and culture of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during the Soviet occupation and the countries’ fight for independence. This module will also include short surveys of Baltic folklore, literature, music, and theatre to demonstrate how Baltic culture strengthened the nations’ dream of sovereignty. Since very little information about the three countries is available to high school students, every part will include date on each country’s history, geography, general politics, economics, and culture. The narrative is placed in a wider context of the 20th century history and culture. At the end of each section, there will be several general questions posed, based on the previously presented material.

Before you start this module…

  1. Please read the recommended reading materials that are noted throughout, which are essential for your understanding of the history and culture of the Baltic countries. The bibliography page lists all the citations and links that you will see referenced throughout text in parentheses (#). We’ve also directly embedded into the text the link to the resource/citation where possible.
  2. Use the menu at the top to navigate between the sections – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Bibliography
  3. General background context to understand – Firstly, all three states were a part of the Russian Empire until the Socialist Revolution in October 1917. The Russian Empire, like other European states, tried to impose her own religious and political norms on national and religious minorities, who were living within her borders. During the Russian revolution of 1905, a series of revolts took place in the Baltic Provinces as well. All three countries obtained their independence from Soviet Russia between 1918 and 1939. However, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939 (1) divided Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. The three Baltic countries were re-occupied by the Soviets in 1944, closer to the end of WWII.  In 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev’s slogans GLASNOST and PERESTROIKA (2) (remember these terms, they are important!) initiated the reforms that later led to the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) (3) and the three Baltic countries regained their independence in 1990.

Now you are ready to start the first section with an exploration of the country of ESTONIA!