Voluntary associations and region building. A post-national perspective on Baltic historyAbstract
May 30, 2020
Voluntary associations are a major topic of historical research on nation building and civil society in Europe. This paper focuses on the associational sphere in the Baltic provinces of Tsarist Russia and tries to outline the impact of associations on modern societies in this region. The first section addresses the legal and social frameworks of voluntary associations, followed by a sketch of developmental trends in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The next sections discuss the role of voluntary associations within the concepts of civil society and cultural nation building. Slightly different from conventional functionalist national discourses, it is argued here that, in the perspective of cultural history, voluntary associations contributed considerably to the emergence of the region of North Eastern Europe, a region shaped by close cultural contacts and inter-ethnic relations within the Baltic Sea region as well as by the strivings of the small nations to integrate with larger European structures.