Saturday, April 21, 2012

Soviet Colonialism in the Baltic Again

Scholars that actually study the Baltic States such as Violeta Kelertas and Karlis Racevskis and in an earlier era V. Stanley Vardys have long maintained that Soviet rule over Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia definitely qualified as colonialism. Likewise scholars of colonialism and postcolonialism such as David Chioni Moore have also noted its colonial nature. But, now it appears that a substantial number of western intellectuals with a presence on the Internet now cling to a variation of the old Soviet line on this issue. They claim that by having given Soviet citizenship to the Baltic peoples that there was no difference between Soviet rule over Latvia and the incorporation of Vermont into the US. This unwanted grant of  Soviet citizenship is supposed to mean that there was equality between the population of the occupying power and the Baltic peoples and thus no colonial relationship. This argument is even stupider than the old Soviet claim that the Baltic States voluntarily joined the USSR. But, it is evidently the mainstream view of left-wing western intellectuals on the Internet now. I think the summary by Racevskis is appropriate here.

There are indeed excellent reasons why the Baltic countries should be and always should have been seen as the victims of colonization. It is a conclusion made inescapable in terms of some basic definitions. Colonialism involves, after all, a condition of domination, of territorial occupation and control. As Stephen Slemon puts it, "colonialism oppresses through direct political and economic control." This control materializes in the form of an "ideological regulation of colonial subjects, of subordination through the manufacture of consent." The manufacture in turn, can take many forms. It can be more or less subtle and its strategies can be carried out on various levels of coercion. Generally speaking, however, the fabrication of consent involves such areas of contention as language, history, and education. In this regard, if the Soviet form of colonialism differed from other kinds it was perhaps in the brutality and thoroughness of its oppression (pp. 167-168).
He sums up the basic argument pretty well. But, the intellectual work of burying Stalinism appears to be something that will never end. The corpse keeps coming back in zombie form.

Source: Karlis Racevskis, "Toward A Postcolonial Perspective on the Baltic States" in Violeta Kelertas Baltic Postcolonialism (NY: Rodopi, 2006), pp. 165-186.

1 comment:

Tanja Nyberg said...

It is again same story Nazi planned -Stalin did. A significant part of population in the Baltic has been killed or deported and the territories were populated with Soviets.