Article | Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research | Soviet Lithuanians, Amber and the "New Balts": Historical Narratives of National and Regional Identities in Lithuanian Museums, 1940–2009

Title:
Soviet Lithuanians, Amber and the "New Balts": Historical Narratives of National and Regional Identities in Lithuanian Museums, 1940–2009
Author:
Egle Rindzevičiute: Department for Studies of Social Change and Culture, Linköping University, Sweden
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.10237665
Read article:
Full article (pdf)
Year:
2010
Volume:
2
Theme:
Theme: Uses of the Past – Nordic Historical Cultures in a Comparative Perspective
Pages:
665-694
No. of pages:
30
Publication type:
Article
Published:
2010-12-17


In the twentieth century Lithuania emerged from the crumbling Russian Empire as a post-colonial nationalising state. Its short-lived independence (1918–1940) featured attempts to assemble the material foundations for an imagined community of Lithuanians, however in 1940 this nationalist project was disrupted by Soviet occupation. However, this article argues that regardless of the measures taken against political nationalism by the Soviets, the material work of assembling the Lithuanians as a historical and ethnic nation was not abandoned. The study analyses the ways in which Northern and Baltic categories were used to regionally situate the ethnic identification of the Lithuanian population in Soviet and post-Soviet Lithuanian museums. The cases of the Historical-Ethnographic Museum and the Museum of Amber reveal that Northern and Baltic dimensions had to be reconciled with the Soviet version of the Lithuanian past. The resulting assemblage of Lithuania as a synchronic and diachronic community of inhabitants who defined themselves through shared Baltic ancestors and centuries-old uses of amber was transmitted to the post-Soviet museums. The most salient post-Soviet changes were, first, the rewriting of the relations between Lithuanians and the Nordic countries in positive terms and in this way reversing the Soviet narrative of Lithuania as a victim of aggression from the North. Second, the Soviet construction of amber as a material mediator which enabled Lithuanians to connect with each other as a synchronic and diachronic imagined community was somewhat pushed aside in favour of the understanding of amber as a medium of social and cultural distinction for the ancient Balts and contemporary Lithuanian elites.

Keywords: Baltic identity; Lithuania; amber; national museums; Soviet material culture

Volume 2, Theme: Theme: Uses of the Past – Nordic Historical Cultures in a Comparative Perspective, Article 37, 2010

Author:
Egle Rindzevičiute
Title:
Soviet Lithuanians, Amber and the "New Balts": Historical Narratives of National and Regional Identities in Lithuanian Museums, 1940–2009
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.10237665
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  • Volume 2, Theme:: Theme: Uses of the Past – Nordic Historical Cultures in a Comparative Perspective, Article 37, 2010

    Author:
    Egle Rindzevičiute
    Title:
    Soviet Lithuanians, Amber and the "New Balts": Historical Narratives of National and Regional Identities in Lithuanian Museums, 1940–2009
    DOI:
    10.3384/cu.2000.1525.10237665
    Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
    Citations:
  • Anita Zariņ & KristÄ«ne Krumberga (2016). Territoriality of signs: amber in the State’s semiotics in Latvia. GeoJournal, : . DOI: 10.1007/s10708-016-9759-2
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