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February 2: Find out what happened to the Balts who went back

IUPUI sociologist Ain Haas ponders the complexities of recently liberated Latvia and Estonia's returning diaspora

When: Friday February 2 4:30 PM
Where: IUPUI, Cavanaugh Hall 508

In this iteration of the IU School of Liberal Arts Sabbatical Speaker Series, “Return Migration to Post-Soviet Estonia and Latvia” IUPUI Professor of Sociology Ain Haas examines the experiences of first-, second-, and third-generation exiles/emigrants of Estonian and Latvian heritage (primarily political refugees and their descendants), who returned to their ancestral lands when the Soviet regime collapsed. The talk is based on personal interviews with some 130 returnees covered their reasons for moving, adjustment to life in the Baltic countries, and comparisons with their old life in the West. It is a topic close to Ain's heart since he himself is of Estonian descent.

It's topic I find fascinating ever since working in the three Baltic countries in the early 1990s. The 2nd and 3rd generation Latvians and Estonians resembled Jews emigrating to Israel in the 1940s more than émigrés returning to the other newly democratic East European countries. They had been born in the US or Canada or Sweden, had attended language classes every weekend, and Latvian camp in Michigan the summer (I don't know if the Estonians had a similar summar camp), and the annual song festivals around the world. They had been inculcated form the time they could talk with a mission: the Soviets are wiping out our people at home, you are the sole hope of preserving our language and culture. So when Latvia and Estonia became independent, it was almost instinctual for a lot of these kids to take their freshly minted BAs from Indiana University to Riga or Tallinn, and to offer generously to run the countries. The Latvians and Estoians who had remained in the homeland during the Soviet occupation received these kids -- filled with naive idealism I think more than opportunism -- with mixed feelings. (And the Russians who'd moved to the Baltic republics during the half century of incorporation in the USSR wanted nothing to do with these often nationalistic outsiders.) Fascinating to watch, very different from the situation at the same time in Lithuania.

Ain Haas is also a member of my favorite local band, "The Hedgehogs," which plays heartrendingly beautiful music from the Baltic countries.

More information can be obtained from: Annette Hill, 317-278-1839

If this event sounds interesting, you should check out others examining crossing of borders. Compare the experiences of returning Balts to the situation of global migration patterns on February 14 and February 27.

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