Between Self-awareness and Descent: Constructing Lithuanian Identity in Re-established Lithuania, 1988–1993
Keywords: Lithuania, citizenship, diaspora, nationalism
AbstractThe early years of the independence of the Lithuanian state in the last decade of the twentieth century witnessed the construction of the nationhood through the evolving definition of “we” and “the other” in the nation. The Lithuanian diaspora took an active part in the discussions of defining one’s belonging to a nation. The core element in the discussion was the Law on Citizenship of the Republic Lithuania of 1991, which could be seen as a tool for classification of the population in defining an individual’s belonging to the nation. In this law, gradual clarification of the notion of the Lithuanian descent could be seen as inclusion of the diaspora in the category of ‘we’ in the general framework of the nationhood. The analysis of media articles of that period gives a vivid picture of the process of the construction of national belonging and reveals quite innovative interpretations of belonging proposed by the diaspora. Lithuanian émigrés questioned the established assumption in nationalist thinking that regarded the territory as the main precondition for belonging to a nation; instead, they suggested definitions of belonging based on common self-awareness, language, and the like, but their main criterion was the Lithuanian descent.