In this lecture, Stephen Kotkin will explore the geopolitical forces that buffeted the Baltic states during the 20th century and the strategies that these countries have used to preserve their independence. In the aftermath of World War I, the Baltic states, lacking any external security guarantees—and in the absence of Western partners willing to help defend them— were crushed between Hitler and Stalin, leading to a half century of Soviet occupation.
How did the Baltic states preserve their identity within a Soviet state that would have preferred that they did not exist? Why were the Baltics successful in demanding the Soviet Union recognize their independence? What policies have the Baltics pursued since independence to build strong Western alliances and ensure protection from Russia?
Stephen Kotkin is a Eurasia Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the John P. Birkelund Professor of International Affairs and History at Princeton University. He is author of several critically acclaimed books, most recently two volumes in a trilogy-in-progress on Stalin. His book Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1928-1941, won the Council on Foreign Relation’s 17th Annual Arthur Ross Book Prize. He writes periodically for Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times (London). He is also a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution and author of Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment.
Thanks to the JJ Medveckis Foundation and the Audrey and Martin Gruss Foundation
for support of FPRI’s Baltic Initiative.