The fact itself tells something about the regional identity of the Baltic countries, on how they look at themselves geographically.
In order to understand more about their geographical self-perception, it is necessary to reflect about how they regard their contemporary history. In June of 2014, The Guardian created a new column dedicated to the former Soviet countries, called “New East”, which also covered the Baltic States. This decision provoked the irritated reactions of some Baltic officials because, according to them, these countries were no newer than other nations such as Finland or Czechoslovakia and they remarked that the three states lost their independence in the Second World War due to the Soviet occupation. More recently, on 6 January 2017, following an article of the German website Die Zeit Online where the three Baltic States were called “ex-Soviet republics”, the ambassadors of the three Baltic countries wrote a letter to the website demanding no future reference to these three states as part of the former Soviet Union, since they were occupied forcefully by the URSS from 1945 to 1991.
It is true that the Baltic States are not new: they obtained statehood after the Great War, as did other European states. The Second World War represented a difficult moment since the Baltic region was one of the battlefields of the Eastern Front. The losses suffered by the three states were enormous. When the Red Army reconquered the Baltic States in 1945, they became republics of the URSS, under the control of Moscow. They experienced a severe sovietisation, especially in the immediate post-war years. As a result of the URSS’s collapse, the Baltic countries became independent again and quickly sought to attain membership in the EU and NATO, as did other former communist countries. They succeeded after considerable efforts. The Baltic States wanted to move on, desiring to forget their Soviet past given that it was a painful period of their history. They underlined they were in continuity with the Baltic states of the interwar period. To an inexpert observer, belonging geographically to Eastern Europe can immediately remind the Cold War, the idea of a zone depicted as economically less productive or backward, compared to Western Europe. Agata Pyzik explained it well on The Guardian in her article of June 2014, “this rush to the west is a fallout from the ancient divisions of the continent, which have led to the association of everything “west” with civilization and culture, and everything “east” with barbarism.”
However, could this rush really eliminate the communist years, which are a part of the Baltic history and move the Baltic States westward?