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Citizenship, Europe and ethnic boundary making among Russian minorities in Latvia and Lithuania

Natalka Patsiurko, Claire Wallace


This article uses Andreas Wimmer’s model of ethnic boundary making to examine ethnic boundaries among the Russian-speaking minorities in Lithuania and Latvia, two countries with contrasting integration policies. We argue that the exclusive integration policies of Latvia, particularly with regard to citizenship, result in the ‘hardening’ of ethnic boundaries for Russian-speaking minorities in the country, while the more inclusive policies of Lithuania lead to the ‘softening’ of ethnic boundaries for the Russian-speaking minorities. The article considers exogenous factors of boundary making for Russians in Latvia and Lithuania, such as the influence of national policies, the policies of the Russian government and the European integration, but also examines endogenous factors such as the role of civil society, sense of identification and the different experiences of generations. We conclude that whilst endogenous and exogenous factors have shaped ethnic boundaries in different ways in the two countries, these boundaries are blurring because Europe opens up wider possibilities for work and study and younger generations are less likely to be excluded from participation by language or citizenship. In both countries, increasingly hybrid and fluid identities are replacing reified and essentialist ones that are based upon the previous Soviet-style constructs.


Russian minorities; Baltic countries; Identity; Ethnic Boundaries; Civil Society, Nationalising States

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