The Dilemma of Dual Loyalty. Werner Hasselblatt and the Rise and Failure of Baltic German Minority Politics in the Inter-War Period
Keywords:Loyalty, Estonia, Cultural Autonomy, Baltic Germans, National minorities
German minority politics in the Baltic states during the inter-war period has regained significant scholarly attention since the 1990s, when the Estonian concept of cultural autonomy from 1925 was rediscovered as a strategy for solving post-1989 minority conflicts as well as addressing issues of multiculturality. The case of the Baltic German politician Werner Hasselblatt, who is in the focus of this text, however, reveals a Janus-faced political approach: On the one hand, he had a significant share in the implementation of the law on cultural autonomy in Estonia, and he was also a major actor within the Congress of European Nationalities. On the other hand, from 1933 onwards Hasselblatt turned into an expert of Nazi resettlement and population politics, contrary to his earlier positions. Here, a critical analysis of his approach towards loyalty is undertaken, in order to discuss the tilting point in his political activities. My argument is that his attitude towards loyalty was based on the assumption of an irreconcilable conflict of dual loyalty to the ‘host’ state and the ‘kin’ nation. Whereas Hasselblatt regarded loyalty to German Volkstum not as a matter of individual choice for Baltic Germans and thus as not negotiable, he saw loyalty towards the Estonian state as connected to the fulfilment of the German minority’s political claims. Such an instrumental approach towards loyalty together with Hasselblatt’s primordial understanding of nationality in contrast to citizenship may be identified as crucial issues that led his concept of constructive minority politics tilt towards the destructive notion of ‘dissimilation’.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Jörg Hackmann
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