Baltic countries turning Nordic

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania increasingly think of themselves as Nordic rather than Eastern European

Baltic countries

Image: Normal Einstein / Wikimedia
Map of the Baltic Sea.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

In the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, to the east across the Baltic Sea from Scandinavia, the citizens dislike being classed as Eastern Europeans and increasingly wish to be considered Nordic. That sentiment has become so evident that the July 29 edition of Aftenposten devoted its page one feature to it (Further reading).

The three countries share a tumultuous history of long being occupied by others, declaring independence in the aftermath of World War I, being occupied by the Soviet Union in World War II, and regaining independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The sense of being Nordic may be strongest in Estonia. At the outbreak of World War II, Estonia had the largest Nordic population of the Baltic countries, with 10,000 Swedes, most of whom fled over the sea to Sweden. Today, the Estonian citizenry has strong bonds to their neighbors across the sea. One upshot has been a proposal for redesigning the tricolor Estonian flag in the form of a Nordic flag cross.

In January 2017, when former Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Artis Pabriks found that the United Nations had officially reclassified the Baltic countries from Eastern to Northern Europe (, he proudly tweeted that “This is where we belong.”

On today’s world stage there are many Baltic natives, including Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the fourth President of Estonia who was born in Stockholm and raised and educated in the United States, and is a recognized world leader on cyber security; Arvo Pärt, Estonian composer of classical and religious music who is since 2010 the world’s most performed living composer; and Mariss Jansons, the Latvian conductor who was music director of the Oslo Philharmonic and Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra.

Further reading: “De var en del av Sovjet­union, har grense mot Russland, men hater å bli kalt østeuropeere; Er det på tide å ta dem med i Norden?” (They were a part of the Soviet Union, have borders with Russia, but hate being called Eastern Europeans; Is it time to consider them Nordic countries?), Aftenposten, July 29, 2018: (in Norwegian).

This article originally appeared in the September 21, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.