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What the membership has taught? National identity construction in Lithuanian public discourse after accession to the European Union

Author(s): Andrius Švarplys

Journal: Revista Româna de Studii Baltice si Nordice
ISSN 2067-1725

Volume: 4;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 151;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Lithuania | national collective identity | public discourse | Central Eastern Europe | European Union | Russia | civilizational identity | integrational identity

Abstract:‘Europe’ and ‘Russia’ have historically been the most remarkable landmarks, playing geopolitical, cultural, and moral guide-role in the construction of national collective identities in the Central Eastern European countries, including Lithuania. This ‘civilizational identity’ helped to unite Lithuanian political elites as well as society towards the direction to West and Europe after the collapse of Soviet Union. The question article addresses is: does the factual belonging to the European Union after the 1st May, 2004 give the impulse to re-define ‘Europe’ and ‘Russia’ as the old essentials of collective identity of Lithuanians? The article presents the research based on monitoring of national public discourse (five Lithuanian national newspapers) in 2004-2007, i.e. enjoying three years of membership in the European Union and NATO.The main result is that the role of Russia in the Lithuanian collective identity has not changed and still continues to play the major threat. The membership in the European Union and NATO has not solved Lithuanian security problem. According to the perceived threat, Russia has started to penetrate softly into Lithuania’s economy (especially energy sector) and has silently begun to make an impact to the domestic political parties and political elite. The traditional role of Europe, however, is slowly but gradually shifting from mythical ‘Paradise’ image to more critical understandings about divided Europe and selfish member-states. Already being in the EU and NATO, Lithuania should balance sometimes unfriendly westerners’ reluctance to understand the situation and help against Russia with the economic power that Russia uses as a political instrument against Lithuania on the international arena, as well as in domestic politics. This results in the feelings of „lost and forgotten” between Europe and Russia. Nevertheless, Europe continues to earn a positive meaning in national collective identity of Lithuanians, but all these trends in public discourse show that the state and society have only just started to realize its interests and learn how to handle the major challenges through the cooperation within the European Union, i.e. to build integrational European identity.
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