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The Second World War and the Baltic States

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Edited By James S. Corum, Olaf Mertelsmann and Kaarel Piirimäe

This volume places the history of the Second World War and the Baltic states into a multidisciplinary and international perspective. It includes contributions from the fields of diplomacy, strategy, military operations, intelligence and propaganda. It presents not only a multi-layered interpretation of a region affected by total war, but also reveals a great deal about the nature of that conflict. It discusses the attitudes of the great powers towards small states, the nature of military operations around the advent of mechanization and close air support, and techniques of population control and of steering opinion in the era of ideological regimes. Contributions on these topics add to our understanding of the Second World War as a pivotal event in the history of Europe in the 20 th century.
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Introduction

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James S. Corum, Olaf Mertelsmann and Kaarel Piirimäe

In most Western histories of the Second World War the Baltic states are a virtual terra incognito. The affairs of the Baltics are usually presented as a marginal sideshow to the greater developments in other areas of Europe. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are discussed as objects of bargaining in the diplomacy of the Great Powers, so they appear in the context of the Three–Power negotiations in 1939, the Nazi–Soviet Pact of August 1939, the Anglo–Soviet negotiations in May 1942 and the Big Three conference in Teheran in November–December 1943.1 There is usually a brief note about the destruction of these states by the USSR in 1940, just about the same time as Nazi Germany’s forces entered Paris.2 Even interpretations on the role of the smaller states in the war generally exclude Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.3 In military histories the Baltic theatre of operations has been almost universally excluded, although the area was a critical staging ground for Nazi campaigns in the North-West of the Soviet Union and an important link to Finland.4 In most textbooks, there is almost nothing about the history of the Baltic states after 1943. For example, in Tony Judt’s extremely rich and detailed monograph about post-war Europe Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania appear, as dei ex machina, only in the late 1980s.5

This book is the result of the recognition that such an oversight is untenable, and for...

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