Website: Baltic Educational Histories
Interdisciplinary Conference, 19th – 22nd September, 2016, Tartu
Through factors such as trade, Christianisation, the wars waged by the chivalric orders, and the importation of laws, the autochthonous peoples of the Baltic region were exposed to cultural, linguistic, and political influences of varying degrees. In this way, they were subjected to formative processes which are frequently compared with colonial practices.
The cultures (German, Danish, Polish, Swedish, and Russian) which played a dominating role in the region established a wide array of economic, legal, religious, and cultural institutions; an army of specialists (officials, lawyers, clergymen, writers, teachers) was enlisted in order to firmly entrench their power—not least in the consciousness of the dominated peoples. To this end, and due to the post-Reformation requirement to use the native language, many of these specialists had to engage with the local cultures and languages. In the domains of journalism, literature, and academia, this led to greater reflection on the various Baltic languages and ethnic groups, and on the asymmetrical structural tensions between the dominant and subordinate cultures. The aim of the official legislation and cultural activity was to ensure the cultural and social survival of the ruling minorities. This state of affairs led to an extraordinary concentration of educational initiatives in the Baltic region, the effects of which were sometimes visible across Europe (we might think for example of the many Hofmeister (private tutors), who facilitated intellectual exchange far beyond the borders of the Baltic states in the 18th century). In the cultural centres of power, scholars who had been integrated into the social order—often after having risen from a farming background—began to elaborate, from within the midst of and with the means of, but ultimately against, the dominant educational paradigms, conceptions of the distinctive cultural character of the various Baltic linguistic communities. From the time of the first “national awakening,” this was accompanied by the internal formation of the Baltic peoples, who often manifested symptoms of an “internal colonisation” (as the planned construction of society was termed in Prussia). Like all nations, the Baltic nations have constituted themselves—sometimes in accordance with Soviet requirements—by means of educational practices, schools, literature, culture, media, linguistic policies, and so on. Today they must also deal with minorities (particularly those of Russian origin), and with a wide range of linguistic and cultural contexts of exchange.
In almost all of their dimensions, then, the history, economy, administration, languages, law, culture, and literature of the Baltic states almost unavoidably bear on the question of “education.” Across linguistic and cultural borders, the histories of the Baltic peoples and cultures can (also) be told as educational histories. Moreover, the Baltic region is an area of exemplary significance where the theme of education is concerned: for education always has something of a colonial character, insofar as individuals defined as superior promise or feel entitled to “cultivate” supposedly inferior individuals in accordance with a model which will allow them to become truly “cultured.” The fact that teachers and learners were divided among different ethnic groups in the Baltics for such a long time serves to make this tension inherent to all education even more apparent. The theme of “Baltic educational histories” can thus be approached in a variety of ways from all areas of historical and contemporary research on the Baltics. We welcome contributions from a wide range of perspectives, which may include analyses of relevant fields of discourse, religious and cultural institutions and trends, and academic disciplines as a whole, or studies which focus on exemplary or exceptional stories of individuals, groups, or entire peoples.
1. Session: Educational media (chairs: Ulrike Plath and Maris Saagpakk)
2. Session: Languages of education – language education (chairs: Eglė Kontutytė and Reet Bender)
3. Session: Education, school and integration (chairs: Jürgen Joachimsthaler and Monika Reif-Hülser)
4. Session: Symbolic orders (chairs: Karsten Brüggemann and Jaan Undusk)
5. Session: Educational institutions (chairs: Silke Pasewalck and Liina Lukas)
6. Session: Key players in education (chairs: Jost Eickmeyer and Anu Schaper)
7. Session: Nation building – educating nations (chairs: Thomas Taterka and Antje Johanning-Radžienė)
8. Session: Power structures in language, literature, and culture (chairs: Rūta Eidukevičienė and Andreas Kelletat)
Organizers: Jürgen Joachimsthaler (Marburg), Silke Pasewalck (Tartu) in cooperation with the Baltic-German Network for German Studies
Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media upon a Decision of the German Bundestag