From Mare Germanicum to Mare Anti-Sovieticum: Concepts and Uses of the Baltic Sea Region in German Political-Academic Discourse in the Third Reich and Cold War West Germany.

Field: Historia
Project leader: Marco Nase
Starting year: 2018
Project type: Project

The project aims to study the development of concepts of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) in German academic-political discourse, between the Third Reich and Post-War West Germany. The project starts from the preliminary observation that the invocation of the Baltic Sea as a historical region served different purposes in different countries, in this case interwar Poland and Germany. While Polish scholarship originally invoked the BSR for domestic regions, the concept also served to attract attention from other riparian states forPoland ?s territorial conflict with Germany. In response state-funded German scholarship soon adopted the concept and charged it with its own interpretation of the region ?s historical inertia. Existing interpretations of the BSR as a space of German dominance were gradually adapted to allow for a stronger role of other nations, creating a sense of common interest among the riparian peoples. This process was accelerated further after the 1940, when German scholarly propaganda aimed to gather Scandinavian support for the conflict with the Soviet Union. The new interpretation of the BSR was one of Germanic, rather than German, dominance, in a struggle against Slavic elements. A further shift in the interpretation of the BSR came after the end of the war, when the involved scholars continued their careers, and adapted to new political realities. Aligning with the political interest of the Heimatvertriebene-movement, the re-interpretation of the BSR created the vision of a common historical development of the riparian states, only disturbed by the “unnatural” presence of the Soviet Union.The project aims to study the sketched development, following ideas and their creators as much as the political and social circumstances that shaped them. It starts from the assumption that regional ascriptions carry a multitude of implications for present and future, and that the shaping of historical landscapes thus helps shape political spaces of opportunity. For a fuller understanding of the BSR as a historical region, an understanding of its past use is of paramount importance. The present project thus aims to deliver insights into the process of creating and shaping historical regions in general and the BSR in particular. It also hopes to strengthen a view of historical regions as created in interplay between different national traditions and historical opportunities.