Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

Cosmopolitan clusters. Minorities and national identity in Königsberg and Riga 1870-1914

Ämne: Idéhistoria
Projektledare: Rebecka Lettevall
Startår: 2005
Projekttyp: Projekt

This project will analyse how the concepts of minority, national identity, citizenship and power were constructed, transformed and communicated within several specific cosmopolitan milieus, 1870-1914.The project’s main concern is the study of the concept ”cosmopolitan”, and how this ”universal” concept was associated with different views on minorities and national identity. The nationalist awakening which characterised Europe at the end of the nineteenth century originated in early nineteenth-century German thought on the role of language and culture in constituting a people. This ideology gained particular strength in the northern borders of the Continent, where protests against existing social injustices were channelled into nationalist movements. This complicated the situation of Germans living in the Baltic area. The Baltic Germans and Russian Germans were culturally rooted in the German language and in German culture. They were, simultaneously, generally loyal subjects of the Russian Tsar. The Baltic and Russian Germans might experience their own ”Germanness” as universal and cosmopolitan. This led, of course, to tension between the Baltic Germans, and the Baltic area’s pan-Russian and nationalist movements. One might add that those Jews who fled Russia’s pogroms by emigrating to the Baltic area played an important role both in Königsberg and in the Baltic area as a whole.

The project’s guiding question is how identity is constructed and communicated in – specifically – a selection of German-language newspapers and periodicals. National identities, such as ”Baltic German”, Russian German or Reichsdeutch (Germans belonging to the German Empire), will be problematised by relating them to other possible identities, expressed in social or gender terms. The question of majority and minority will be considered in the context of Russian identity and in relation to the growing nationalist movements in Livonia and Courland. How is the relation between the particular and the universal, and between nationalist, patriotic and cosmopolitan ideals constructed, in a milieu, which has, throughout history, been characterised, by a high degree of ”multiculturalism”? Are the milieus cosmopolitan clusters? Identity is viewed, here, according to a perspective, which is inspired, by Habermas’s and Fichtes’s view of the ego as something that is formed in an ongoing socialisation process during which it posits itself.