"Nature and National Identity after Communism deserves a wide readership. This highly original work focuses on the environmental politics and seemingly local issues in a small post-Soviet country—but Katrina Schwartz presents her story in a broad theoretical framework and raises important general questions about the responses of nations whose identities had been formed in an earlier, preindustrial era to the challenges of globalization. The book has something new to teach scholars in a variety of disciplines, regardless of their particular geographical focus."
In this groundbreaking book, Katrina Schwartz examines the intersection of environmental politics, globalization, and national identity in a small East European country: modern-day Latvia. Based on extensive ethnographic research and lively discourse analysis, it explores that country’s post-Soviet responses to European assistance and political pressure in nature management, biodiversity conservation, and rural development. These responses were shaped by hotly contested notions of national identity articulated as contrasting visions of the “ideal” rural landscape. The players in this story include Latvian farmers and other traditional rural dwellers, environmental advocates, and professionals with divided attitudes toward new European approaches to sustainable development. An entrenched set of forestry and land management practices, with roots in the Soviet and pre-Soviet eras, confront growing international pressures on a small country to conform to current (Western) notions of environmental responsibility—notions often perceived by Latvians to be at odds with local interests. While the case is that of Latvia, the dynamics Schwartz explores have wide applicability and speak powerfully to broader theoretical discussions about sustainable development, social constructions of nature, the sources of nationalism, and the impacts of globalization and regional integration on the traditional nation-state.
Struggles over land use, as Katrina Schwartz brilliantly shows, are always struggles over power and values. The Latvian 'environment' has become a bitterly contested battleground between two social and cultural visions of that country's future. Schwartz has given us the keys to understand what is at stake. Her book is a major conceptual contribution for environmental history.
An important contribution to the ongoing debate over the effects of modernization and globalization on national identity. . . . Highly recommended.
Really deserves a broad audience among all those interested in detailed historical and political analyses of ethnic and environmental issues in concrete local-global settings.
Schwartz has done a wonderful job of underscoring the difficult and yet exciting opportunity facing this nation.
One of the best studies of Baltic nationalism published since the breakup of the Soviet Union. . . . Breaks new ground by exploring the relationship between the nation and nature. The prologue—her great aunt's story about growing up on a scenic farmstead in inter-war Latvia—is a literary gem.