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Posted on May 1, 2017

Historical institutions → Culture → Socioeconomic development

  Alise Vitola is a post-doctoral researcher, graduated from the Riga Technical University, Latvia. She received a 2016 Mudīte I. Zīlīte Saltups Award for a research visit to Indiana University for her project “Institutions & Regional Development in the Baltic States”. In my research I focus on the regional institutional differences in the Baltic region. I explore the lasting effects of the historical institutions on the contemporary economic development and societal values by exploring a following sequence: Historical institutions → Culture → Socioeconomic development. Currently I study the long run effects of the historical German presence in the Baltic region. Are localities with a higher share of German historical population more inclined to be wealthy today? Did the German colonizers bring individualist values such as high levels of work ethic, self­initiative and trust? Furthermore, I explore the overlapping German, Swedish, Polish and Russian legacies as an additional basis for divergent development paths in the Baltic regions. With the AABS research grant I was able to visit the Indiana University,...

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Posted on Apr 12, 2017

Developing new techniques for teaching English language vocabulary

Baiba Kačanova received the 2016 Aina Birnitis Dissertation-Completion Fellowship in the Humanities for Latvia. In March, Baiba received her PhD from the University of Liepaja. I am an English teacher and I have been teaching English as a second language for about 14 years in Latvia. I really enjoy the process of teaching by looking for the most suitable methods, materials and approaches for each group because each group is different and a method which works well in one group might not be suitable for the other group. The most interesting thing is to find the right method and words to motivate students to study hard J  It is also very pleasant when I meet my students about 5 years later – they have already finished school and they appreciate the knowledge they got in my lessons. Then most probably I am doing it right. My point of view is that the teacher can’t just stop and say “now I know everything I need.” There always should be a process...

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Posted on Feb 20, 2017

Baltic Germans Diplomats in Imperial Russia

Feliks Gornischeff, recipient of a 2016 AABS Dissertation grant, tells us about his research in Moscow archives for his dissertation on Baltic German diplomats in the service of Imperial Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. My research concentrates on the role of Baltic German diplomats in the service and diplomacy of the Russian empire during the reign of Alexander I. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Baltic Germans played an important role in Imperial Russia. After the incorporation of the Baltic provinces into the Russian empire, many Baltic Germans noblemen were appointed to positions in the Russian military and civil service. While many aspects of Baltic German service have already been researched, but their role in diplomacy has been left at the background. In my research, I am exploring the work of two diplomats – count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg (1766-1850) and count Christoph Heinrich von Lieven (1774-1839), who served in Prussia in 1806-1809/1810 and 1810-1812 respectively. As the wider focus of my dissertation deals with the Napoleonic Wars, my...

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Posted on Dec 5, 2016

Towards a Deeper Understanding of Online News Commenting

Asta Zelenkauskaite is an assistant professor of Communications at Drexel University.  She received a 2016 AABS Emerging Scholar award for research travel to Lithuania for her project “Commenting Practices in Baltic Online News Portals.” Online news portals increasingly represent spaces where anyone can comment on traditional news stories. Thus online commenting is not only a new public sphere, but it is also a new terrain for ideological battles to shape opinions regarding specific issues (especially controversial ones) through government-sponsored mechanisms or by providing monetary rewards to users for commenting. First and foremost, the Emerging Scholar grant allowed me to visit Lithuania and engage with readers of news portals to understand the interpretation of online commenting on news portals. This grant has helped me to validate initial observations regarding data collection through informal interviews with Lithuanians who are actually engaging in online discussions or reading them. While travelling in Lithuania, I had a chance to talk to the people who use online comments – as a source of additional reflection...

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Posted on Nov 5, 2016

Song and Dance and Integration in Latvia

Indra Ekmanis 2016 AABS Dissertation Grant recipient “Latvian culture” is inescapably tied to “Latvian identity,” both colloquially and in policy language. Acceptance of and respect for Latvian culture is also a cornerstone of Latvian integration legislation, which is particularly geared toward individuals speaking Russian as their first language. With the support of the AABS Dissertation Grant, my research focuses on minority participation in Latvian cultural life, particularly through the National and Youth Song and Dance Celebrations. These UNESCO-recognized festivals are a keystone of “Latvian identity,” but participation is not limited to those with “latvietis” stamped in their passport. Particularly in the school youth format, the Celebrations provides a mechanism for minority students to access a form of Latvian cultural identity that can affect their relationship to the Latvian state and “nation.” This extends beyond the days of the festival into the years prior through preparation in school choirs and folk dance collectives. The AABS Dissertation Grant has helped to fund the continuation of my fieldwork in Rīga and rural...

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Posted on Sep 6, 2016

Baumanis recipient investigates history of Lutsi-speakers in Latvia

Uldis Balodis received the first AABS Baumanis grant to document the current state of villages historically inhabited by Lutsi Estonian speakers, as well as to conduct archival research in Tartu, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland on the work of Oskar Kallas, the original researcher of the Lutsi Estonians (Lutsis). The Lutsis are a little-known ethnic minority group in rural parishes surrounding the city of Ludza in eastern Latvia (Latgale), the members of which still spoke their own dialect of South Estonian until very recently. Balodis’ book, entitled In Kallas’ footsteps in Lutsimaa, will retrace the journey of Oskar Kallas through this region through extensive photography of village communities and interviews with village residents. The historical language of the Lutsis is most similar to that of the present-day Seto minority of southeastern Estonia and their ancestors most likely came to Latgale from Estonia approximately three to four centuries ago. The project will introduce this little-known minority group in Latvia to a wider audience – Estonians, Latvians, and English speakers interested in linguistics,...

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