When the idea of doing regional themes came up in Central Europe Review, I immediately thought about the possibility of compiling a special issue devoted to the Baltic countries. Strolling around the Internet, I noticed that the Baltics do receive quite less coverage than their Central European neighbours, especially when it comes to issues of culture and society.
It seemed that nearly all of the English-language articles available for interested readers out on the vast Web focused on the same topics year after year: quick economic development, nuclear energy (for Lithuania), integration policies (for Latvia and Estonia), and the ever-present NATO and EU integration. There was obviously a gap, a large gap, to be filled.
What we have several months later is this issue of Central Europe Review: the first (hopefully, not last) Baltics special issue. It has changed many times since the original blueprint, amended by surprises and disappointments.
I felt a great need to escape from the usual political and economic focus, which has plagued the coverage of this area. I wanted to give special attention to culture, ranging from the Livonian/Estonian folk group Tulli Lum to popular Lithuanian author Jurga Ivanauskaitė, as it is the most revealing aspect of the Estonia, Latvian and Lithuanian peoples.
However, this is not to say politics and economics are not important. Alas, Central Europe Review (or even my regular column, The Amber Coast) would not be its award-winning self without the biting political commentary. Therefore, we collected some of the best talents from around the Baltics to join our own staff in providing sharp political opinions, social commentary and even one of the most comprehensive predictions for the upcoming October general elections in Lithuania.
Of course, not to be missed are three focal point interviews, which continue in the CER tradition of country/regional themes. We have been privileged to bring you fascinating and news-making interviews with three of the region's most important figures, politically and intellectually: Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar and Lithuanian Armed Forces commander Brigadier General Jonas Kronkaitis.
Balancing an entity comprised of three countries and a region proved to me more difficult as the project developed. In a way, the off-balance nature of the stories, the fact we don't have three-issues-in-one with balanced coverage of each country, shows the flexibility of potential coverage in the region. We could have simply printed articles about the jazz scene in each country or interviewed all three prime ministers, but hopefully the mosaic in this issue will prove more interesting to our readers.
For me, personally, Reflections on a Revolution by Teri Schultz is a favourite, as it conveys a side of the events that so changed this region which we rarely have the chance to see: the personal, human side of news.
I must say, looking at the final result, it is not perfect, but hopefully it will be a major step in bringing the Baltics fully into the mainstream media's coverage, just like all other European countries. That was the goal coming into this project, and if even the smallest of steps were taken to that effect, this special issue will be a success.
Mel Huang, Baltic Editor, 10 July 2000
- Archive of Mel Huang's articles in CER
- Buy English-language books on the Baltic states through CER
- Return to CER front page