Historical institutions → Culture → Socioeconomic development

May 1, 2017


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, one of the largest Baltic Studies centres in the United States. I presented and discussed my research with the scholars and students of the Russian and Eastern European Institute, the Institute for European Studies and the Department of Central Eurasian Studies. This grant helped me to deepen my knowledge of Eastern Europe and the Baltic region in particular by participating in lectures, seminars and conferences, as well as by using the library of the Indiana University with a large collection of materials for the Baltic Studies.

In the practical sense this grant helped me to expand my research about the Baltic German influence on the values and norms in the Baltics, as I had the opportunity to discuss my research with prominent researchers of the Estonian and Latvian history and culture, as well as to participate in lectures about the Baltic German influence in the region. During my research stay I improved my literature review and performed a quantitative analysis of the “Baltic German effect”. While doing my research in Bloomington, I also had a chance to talk to Latvians and Estonians living in the United States, thus giving me additional food for thoughts regarding the culture and institutions in the Baltics.

I want to thank AABS for supporting my research and giving me a chance to establish new contacts and learn from colleagues in the United States. I hope this will be a first step for a deeper cooperation with the Indiana University in the Baltic Studies.