Tema 2

Tema 2

Aadu Must , lle Must

Tartu University, Estonia

Historical Science of Post-Communist Baltic States

  • The Baltic States, the area we are speaking about, has historically belonged to various cultural spaces (up till the 13th c. it was part of the s.-c. Baltoscandia; beginning with the 13th c. the area was the crusaders' object of invasion and after that German Baltic Sea provinces; later under the rule of Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Russia) and thus they have exerted an influence of the history of the invading countries.

  • For investigating the developments in the historical science we have used a scientometric analysis - national scientometric data bases. lle Must has compiled a data base of all citations found in the 1991-1999 Estonian historical literature. The analysis of the data base allows of interpreting contacts of the schools of our historical science, research contacts, the popularity and inveteracy of various treatments in the scientific turnover, bases of sources etc. For giving an outline we observed the shifts of schools and paradigms, branches and ancillary sciences of of the historical science, the chronological division of research works during various historical periods, quantitative factors associated to the organisational aspect of science - changes in the number of studies and their reasons.

  • During the years of Soviet occupation the historical science of the Baltic states was divided into two: the recent history (beginning with the 1917) was very strongly ideologized; the research into the respective period was characterized by the weakness of the source basis ( secrecy, the possibility of using sources only selectively) and the compulsion of the use of communist dogmas. In investigating the history of the earlier period the control was cosmetic rather ( the compulsory citation of Marxist-Leninist classics) and the researchers observed (although with a certain delay) the developments taking place somewhere else in the world (incl. interdisciplinary research projects, the application of quantitative methods etc.).

  • In conventional interpretations a breakthrough in the historical treatments of the Baltic states took place in 1991 when the Soviet empire collapsed. The actual breakthrough, however could be dated to 1988 (the singing revolution), when history became one of the weapons in national movement for restoration of independence ( emphasizing legal contunuity). In the years 1988-1991 the proportion of research into the recent history grew explosively.

  • The years 1991-1999 in our historical science denote the period of quest. The discussions involve the problems of "Is there a national historical science? Does the world need it? Is the Baltic historical science a closed or an open system? The analysis of citations indicates that the activity of the schools which so far based their orientation mainly on the earlier history is declining (partly re-orientating, e.g. concerning historical demography, or re-specialized - instead of the 18th c. historical demography the focus has shifted on the population losses in Soviet prisons and hard labour camps etc.). The number of researchers who re-write the recent history has forcibly increased.

  • In the historical science the main information carrier is a monograph (in natural and exact sciences - a scientific article). However, articles are dominating among the cited publications by our historians of the 1990s. We can interpret it as a search for new paradigms (the earlier literature is not in the focus any more, the new one has not formed into monographs).

  • Monograph-based research reveals a marked influence by the nearest neighbours - Finland and Sweden. Concerning the shift of paradigms substantial differences can be observed: e.g. in Sweden the re-newal of a historical picture was not based on new sources but on new conclusions. In Estonia, on the other hand, the research done in archives (i.e. archival citations) as a characteristic feature of historical literature bears a major weight (ca 66% of papers are based on archival sources)). Besides proposing new sources in the scientific turnover, unfortunately, it displays the backwardness of the reference literature - often the information available for us only in archival materials has been included in the reference books abroad.

  • A major attention is being paid to new research methods and interdisciplinary research projects. An essential position belongs to the s.-c. computerized history. On the one hand, it is associated to earlier well-known trends of research in Scandinavia (the school of Suolahti created statistical sequences from sources which helped a quite new, unwritten history to emerge; see also our historical demography, prevailing in the 1970s). On the other hand, the the work fostered by our enthusiasts on history and computing is well synchronized with the research carried out elsewhere ( in Spain, Norwegia etc.).


Miranda, Francisco A. (1998). El historiador y las bases de datos. XIIIth International Conference of the Association for History & Computing "History in a new frontier". Abstracts. Toledo:Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. [CD-ROM]

Must, . (1998). Die estnische Geschichts-wissenschft in den 90er Jahren. Eine bibliometrische Analyse. Steinbrcke. Estnische Historische Zeitschrift, 1: 241-252.

Must, A. (1998) Komputeriseeritud ajaloouurimine Eestis maailmakonverentsi foonil. Ajalooline ajakiri, 4: 15 - 24. (Computerised research into history in Estonia against the background of the world conference).