The Baltic – from European Sea of Troubles to Global Interface
By Nils Blomkvis
Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Vol.2007 (2007)
Introduction: The idea of studying a vast sea as an entity has a formidable pioneer in Fernand Braudel, who analysed the role of the Mediterranean for the peoples surrounding it. His La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à lèpoque de Philippe II from 1949 demonstrates the extreme permanence of Mediterranean cultures, longue durée as he called it, upon which the cyclic movements of conjunctures, and the daily flow of events made little impact. In his later work he endeavoured to generalise these observations on a more or less global scale.
But when we turn to our Baltic – even if longue durée behaviour stems from the land itself and the general conditions it offers for life – we cannot claim the almost eternal permanence which Braudel tended to see in the Mediterranean case. The structures of the Baltic Rim are certainly old, but not so old that we cannot date their origin and follow their emergence. Again and again waves of change generated outside of her system, have reached her shores. The present paper will discuss the impact of two such radical mutations in our history; both generated elsewhere, both making us – the dwellers of the Baltic Rim – into something which we weren’t before, namely Europeanization and Globalization.
These complexes of change came upon us suddenly, with some centuries in between, but remained with us and developed according to their own preferences until now. Hence it seems improper to call them conjunctures, but they may not be ‘eternal’ enough to be labelled longue durée. This suggests that the ‘rhythms of history’, as Braudel saw them, fail to work properly in the Baltic context. Europeanization and Globalization represent qualities that are missing in his vision, which perhaps (seeking a Braudelian formulation) we may name changes qualitatives. But first there is need for some background.