- The Baltic States, in the context of post-Soviet Russia, traditionally refers to the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (though less often, the term is used to describe all countries washed by the Baltic Sea, including Finland, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Russia itself). The post-Soviet Baltic States, including Kaliningrad Oblast, were annexed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) during World War II. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had all been part of the Romanov Empire, but—along with Finland—these states gained their independence with the collapse of the ancien régime. The United States and most of its Cold War allies refused to recognize these states’ admission to the USSR as union republics in the 1940s, allowing the Baltic States’ pre–World War II leadership to maintain diplomatic missions in exile in many Western countries. During perestroika, national revival movements exploded in the three republics, often coordinating with one another on linguistic, cultural, and economic policy. Led by Lithuania, the region’s struggle for independence and the Kremlin’s sometimes-violent suppression of the nationalist movement hurt Mikhail Gorbachev’s international standing in the late Soviet period. In 1991, the three republics voted to cut ties to Moscow, initiating the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In the post-Soviet period, these states have had a particularly complicated relationship with the Russian Federation, evidenced by their resolute refusal to join the Commonwealth of Independent States or any other Russia-dominated political or economic bloc. Additional problems stemmed from the three countries’ move to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), economic disputes related to oil and natural gas pipelines, and the discrimination of ethnic Russians in the newly independent republics. The Baltic States, along with Poland, have sought to use their membership in the European Union and NATO to constrain Russian actions, which they view as neo-imperial violations of their national sovereignty.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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