The emergence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as independent states was one of the least expected outcomes of the Great War. It required both the surrender of the Central Powers and the collapse of the Russian Empire as preconditions. Even then, this power vacuum alone was not sufficient for Baltic statehood to emerge. For the Baltic, the war did not end in November 1918. The Baltic region became a theatre of war, both conventional and ideological, involving two kinds of Russians (Whites and Soviets), two kinds of Germans (remains of the regular army and the Freikorps), a mixture between Germans and Russians (the so called Bermontians), Poles, the nascent armies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the British Navy, as well as volunteers from different countries. Economically, the nascent Baltic states were in dire need of capital and manufactured goods. In 1919-1920, collapse of any of the Baltic states, whether militarily or economically, was a constant possibility.

Dominant narratives in the historiography of the emergence of the Baltic states so far tended to emphasize the role of those nations themselves, telling the story from the inside. Little is known, however, about the role of the external factors that made Baltic states’ independence possible. The contribution of the German state loans, German Freikorps, the British Navy, the American Relief Administration, the American Red Cross, the League of Nations, various Western capital institutions and other actors, to the survival of the new Baltic states cannot be underestimated. This online symposium will bring together leading historians in the field to discuss these external influences on the Baltic state-building after the Great War. The event will start with three short papers, followed by a discussion.

Panelists and papers:

Dr. Tomas Balkelis (Lithuanian Institute of History), ‘The forgotten constitution of the Lithuanian monarchy, 1918

Prof. Ēriks Jēkabsons (University of Latvia), ‘American governmental and non-governmental relief in Latvia, 1919-1922: an overview

Dr. Mart Kuldkepp (University College London), ‘The League of Nations and the security policies of small states in the Baltic Sea region after the First World War

The discussion will be chaired by Dr. Donatas Kupčiūnas (University of Cambridge)