Lech Wałęsa i Leszek Balcerowicz_PAP_Adam Warawa

Lech Wałęsa i Leszek Balcerowicz_PAP_Adam Warawa

Conference reports Talking about the past and future of the Baltic states

The theme of this year’s conference, the 13th Conference on Baltic Studies in Europe (CBSE) was “Baltic Solidarity” — and most appropriate, no one less than Lech Wałęsa was there to open the event.

Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds BW 2019:4, p 62
Published on balticworlds.com on February 25, 2020

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The 13th Conference on Baltic Studies in Europe (CBSE) took place in Gdańsk, on June 26–29, 2019. Jointly hosted by the European Solidarity Centre (ECS) and the University of Gdańsk.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Baltic Solidarity” — and most appropriate, no one less than Lech Wałęsa was there to open the event. The former leader of Solidarność, Nobel Peace Price winner in 1983 and the Polish President from 1990 to 1995 was informally dressed in a T-shirt, more resembling a typical tourist than a living revolutionary legend. This was a smart move, since the opening day of the conference turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year in Gdańsk.

Pointing out the need for a more just world order and global solidarity, Wałęsa obviously felt at home, and for good reasons. Established in 2007, the European Solidarity Centre — a public venue for education, exhibitions and conferences — is situated on the site of the former Lenin Shipyard of Gdansk, where it all started. It was here the Solidarity movement began in 1980, as a demand for civil liberties and better working and living conditions. Workplaces across Poland then joined the strike, which signified the beginning of the fall of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. In his opening speech, Wałęsa emphasized the importance of political participation and civic engagement in contemporary society, not the least in order to meet the challenge of populism and semi-authoritarian tendencies. Andres Kasekamp, Professor of Estonian Studies (University of Toronto) and President of the CBSE was present at well, to welcome the conference participants. Professor Kasekamp is the author of the seminal A History of the Baltic States (second edition, Palgrave 2018).

The first two days of the conference included presentations on e.g. Baltic security issues, history, languages, and national song and dance traditions, as well as book presentations and screening of films. Also, the organizers had set up an early career writing workshop for young researchers, and a roundtable discussion on “Writing Baltic History”.

Södertörn University was represented at the conference: Anu Mai Kõll, Professor Emerita in Baltic History and former Director of CBEES participated in the roundtable, and the present Director of CBEES was there as well, to present a new research monography on Baltic public opinion, co-authored by Kjetil Duvold, Sten Berglund and Joakim Ekman (Political Culture in the Baltic States, Palgrave 2019). Moreover, the organizers of the conference included among others professor Jörg Hackmann (University of Szczecin), former and forthcoming guest researcher at Södertörn University; Kazimierz Musiał (Institute of Scandinavian Studies, University of Gdańsk), former research leader at CBEES; and Grzegorz Piotrowski (European Solidarity Centre), a former research fellow at CBEES and a frequent visitor at the CBEES annual conferences.

On the evening of the second day, the conference left the ESC and moved on to the University of Gdańsk campus, for an evening culture program, including the film “Solidarity According to Women”. Two more intensive conference days followed, covering presentations on Baltic theatre and art, media and disinformation, state-building, and Nazi Rule in the Baltic region. Again, a special event for young scholars was included in the program; a workshop on “Publishing in Academic Journals: Tips for Success”; as well as a keynote lecture delivered by Pertti Joenniemi, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu. In short, the 2019 CBSE was a very interesting and well-organized conference! ≈

Note: The CBSE is organized in cooperation with the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) and takes place every second year, alternating with the AABS conferences in Northern America. The next American conference will take place on 28–30 May 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Queens University. The conference theme will be “New Directions in Baltic Studies”.