Courtesy Reuters

How the Baltic Republics Fare in the Soviet Union

The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which had been independent between the two world wars, were annexed by the Kremlin in June of 1940, during the dramatic days when Paris fell to the Germans, and became republics of the Soviet Union. In thus reversing the course of modern Baltic history, Moscow separated the Baltic countries not only from Western Europe, toward which they had been oriented in international politics, but also from the nations of Central and Eastern Europe with which they shared most of their social and cultural characteristics. At present one of the main Communist propaganda themes aimed at the postwar generation of Baits is that the independence of their parents was a historical mistake, a deviation from their manifest destiny to be part of Russia. In the Soviet view, Baltic countries should not be independent; their national survival and progress can be assured only by the Leninist nationality policy of the U.S.S.R. Under Khrushchev, the goal of this policy was to establish melting-pot conditions for "the creation of a single nation with a single native [Russian] language."[i] Khrushchev's successors have continued to pursue this objective.

The purpose here is to sketch how the policy has affected the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian national personalities and how the native Communist élites have responded to the integration of their republics into the Soviet Union.


The impact of 25 years of Soviet rule in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has been very far-reaching, especially in demographic, economic and cultural respects. First, there has occurred an enormous influx of Russian settlers who came to serve in the Moscow-planned industries and thus to replace at least partially the labor of the more than half a million people deported from the Baltic States by Stalin. As a result, the percentage of Russians in Latvia has climbed from prewar 10.6 percent to 26.6 percent in the census year of 1959, and in Estonia from 8 percent to 20.1 percent. In Lithuania the Russian numbers increased more modestly,

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