Interwar Statehood: Symbol and Reality

  • Nicholas Hope


Some twenty years — between 1920 and 1940 — which mark the lifespan of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as independent republics, are not long for a fair assessment. There is a touch of the unreal in the egalitarian colour of democracy which appeared overnight after centuries of feudal servitude, and in constitutional provision of a very generous kind for national minorities and religious denominations. Our view of independent statehood is also influenced by interwar crisis. This caused apparently in these three republics, swift popular rejection of liberal democracy and market economics, and brought to power authoritarian governments of a corporatist stamp, which lasted in substance until formal annexation by the Soviet Union in August 1940. This sudden beginning, mid-term crisis, and abrupt end, can nevertheless mask continuities discussed in the previous chapter, which help to explain why ethnic self-expression and egalitarian democracy have survived all systematic attempts at suppression by Great Powers so far. Without wishing to repeat or change the argument of the previous chapter, or to deny the element of pure chance involved in the new constitutional and social order which emerged between 1918 and 1920 in what was both a war for national independence and a civil war, a slightly different perspective is adopted in this chapter. It might be considered a mild heresy in view of Russian and German rule before 1918, and the continuing influence exerted by these powers before 1940.


Scandinavian Country Presidential Government Land Reform Baltic State Dairy Farming 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • Nicholas Hope

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