Narrating Independence - A Narrative Analysis of Contemporary Estonian and Latvian Narratives about Independence
Abstract: In 2018, several European nations celebrated their centennial anniversaries of independence. Two of them, Estonia and Latvia, had never been independent before 1918, and for these nations, the events surrounding independence therefore have a special meaning. This is not least made evident by the historical development that they have gone through over the course of the past century, having been incorporated in the Soviet Union for fifty years before regaining independence in 1991. This study sets out to explore how historical narratives about independence told in predominately commemorative speeches, given by political leaders in Estonia and Latvia in the period 2017-2020, are constructed in relation to historical consciousness. Other points of interest are the stories’ abilities to justify Estonian and Latvian relations to external actors such as Russia, EU and NATO as well as their abilities to construct national identity. The project was done by applying a narrative analysis based on William Labov’s elements of a narrative, focusing on three elements where expressions of historical consciousness were most likely to be manifested. As a theoretical framework, theories about historical consciousness and historical narration have been used to explain the sense-making functions of the studied narratives. The results show that the identified narratives show proof of historical consciousness, with extensive connections to metanarratives dominating in Estonia and Latvia, drawing on references about the live-through period of suffering during the Soviet era and a period of thriving in the post-Soviet era, using historical narration to justify relations to Russia, EU, and NATO, with varying degrees of optimism. The dominant view is that the respective nation has and must pursue the ability to act independently, regardless of external actors. The Estonian and Latvian narratives are to a large extent similar in terms of historical consciousness but differ most of all in the way the issue of how unity between ethnic groups is treated.
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