Australasian Chapter’s 19th Conference: 100th Anniversary of Baltic Independence
AABS Australasia Committee: Dr. D. Skerrett (Brisbane), Dr. U. Ozloiņš (Melbourne), Dr. E. Reilly (Geelong)
Fifteen delegates and another six attendees – including four delegates from Estonia and India – gathered at the Waterfront Campus of Deakin University, Geelong, on a clear and warm weekend Saturday 13 October – Sunday 14 October 2018. Renowned historian, Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick of Sydney University, gave the plenary address on the story of Latvian displaced persons in Europe. She is the author of Mischka’s War, On Stalin’s Team, The Russian Revolution, and other books on the 20th-century Russia.
A diaspora studies panel featured Eve Wicks-Puodžiūnaitė’s presentation on her memorial project, In Sunshine and Shadow, a publication resulting from her doctoral research. Independent scholars, Marija Perejma and Ilse Matthews, focused on Latvian post-war experience in Adelaide.
A panel on contemporary politics included Dr. Uldis Ozoliņš, University of Western Sydney, who spoke to the timely topic, “Is Latvia the weak link?”, analyzing the results and reporting of the previous weekend’s elections in Latvia. Dr. Skerrett, Honorary Consul for Estonia, spoke on Estonian language policy in the context of evolving arguments and demographics in Estonia, especially in the Narva district. Prof. Mart Susi, who heads law studies at Tallinn University and is engaged as a legal expert by the EU Commission, spoke on “Protecting freedom of expression in new media,” pointing to several new rulings that may have profound legal implications for all users of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
University of Washington Ph.D. candidate Francesca Jūratė Sasnaitis led the literature panel by discussing her current research, with readings from her memoir Summerlands. Dr. Gražina Pranauskas spoke on her recent publication, Lietuvybė Down Under, highlighting aspects of her story of emigration and arrival in a new land. Dr. E. Reilly spoke about the genesis and publication of the literary journal Azuria, and launched the 8th edition, created especially for the centennial celebrations.
Dr. Roman Zaroff, formerly of the University of Queensland, continued his exploration of the debates concerning the emergence of the Balts, a topic still hotly contested between archaeologists, geneticists, and historians. Jura Reilly, author of A Wolf at Our Door and Circle of Amber, spoke on the role of book smugglers (knygnešai) in Lithuania’s struggle for independence, and how she used her the experiences of her great-grandfather, Tomas Žičkis, as the basis for her new novel, Sylvia’s Book Smuggler.
The final talks addressed issues in contemporary Estonia. Assist. Prof. Mahima Thakur compared factors in assessing business leadership in Estonia and India, while her doctoral student Arpita Manchanda spoke about her investigations into the treatment of chronic illness. To close the conference, Mari-Ann Susi, co-founder of the Estonian Institute of Humanities (Humanitaarinstitut), examined problems surrounding the recognition of animals as holders of fundamental rights within European judicial practice and the media.