“Germanness and Baltic Borderlands: The Discourse on ‘Kulturträgertum’ in Nineteenth-Century German-Baltic Literature”

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


This contribution will pursue the question as to how the geo-political and ethnic tension between the German, Baltic and Russian cultures was dealt with in the scarcely researched German-Baltic literature of the 19th century. Attention will be drawn primarily to the way in which the literature on the one hand reflects the idea of the Baltic-German as a bearer of culture and on the other hand sees in the process of Russification a threat to the German-Baltic identity. The history of German language literature in the Baltic shows that both the emancipation and the strivings for autonomy of the Balts and the Russification of the Baltic in the second third of the 19th century were indeed predominantly perceived as a threat. In this context the nationalistic currents emanating from the Tsarist Empire and the desire of the Estonians and Latvians for national self-presentation around the turn of the century played a significant role. The position of the Baltic Germans between three poles of tension - Germany, Russia and the native Baltic population - was complicated and led to fundamental problems of self-determination and a fluctuating identity which could not be balanced out either by a vague sense of "Balticness" or by an awareness of the duty to serve as a "German outpost". All of this can be traced not least in the Baltic German belles letters of the second half of the 19th century. These novels provided an opportunity to represent and sustain the fiction of Germandom as a homogeneous social organism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUniversity of Luxembourg (20-22 november 2014): “Living in European Borderlands”
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
EventUnknown -
Duration: 1 Nov 2014 → …


Period1/11/14 → …


  • German-Baltic literature
  • 19th Century
  • nobility


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