2012 Vilis Vitols Prize Winners for Best JBS Articles

Jul 2, 2012


Alan V. Murray is recognized for his article “The Saracens of the Baltic: Pagan and Christian Lithuanians in the Perception of English and French Crusaders to Late Medieval Prussia,” which appeared in the December 2010 issue of the JBS.

Dr. Murray presents a variety of evidence from narrative and documentary sources to demonstrate that the Western European term “Saracen” – originally applied to Arab invaders of the Byzantine Empire and by the fourteenth century a generic term for pagans – became a convenient tool which Western crusaders used to raise the prestige of their campaigns in the Baltic by comparing them to campaigns in the Holy Land, and also a label for denigrating their Lithuanian opponents even after the Lithuanians had abandoned paganism.

Liina Lukas is honored for her article “Estonian Folklore as a Source of Baltic-German Poetry,” which appeared in the December 2011 issue of the JBS.

There has been an assumption that in the centuries during which Estonians and Latvians shared the southern Baltic littoral with Baltic Germans, cultural transfer went in one direction only: from the Baltic Germans to the Undeutsche (non-Germans). Dr. Lukas, however, argues that in the nineteenth century Estonians and Latvians through their oral traditions were themselves Kulturtr√§ger to Baltic Germans. In her article she shows how motifs and themes from Estonian folktales were used in Baltic-German ballads. She writes: “The knowledge about Estonian and Latvian heritage was a part of Heimatsinn, or a sense of home. . . Cultural communication in Baltic countries did not flow in only one direction (from Germans to Estonians [and to Latvians] but both ways.”