Return of the Hanseatic League or How the Baltic Sea Trade Washed Away the Iron Curtain, 1945-1991
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CitationBlusiewicz, Tomasz. 2017. Return of the Hanseatic League or How the Baltic Sea Trade Washed Away the Iron Curtain, 1945-1991. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation develops a comparative perspective on the Baltic region, from Hamburg in the West to Leningrad in the East. Its transnational approach highlights the role played by medieval Hanseatic port cities such as Rostock (East Germany), Szczecin and Gdańsk (Poland), Kaliningrad, Klaipeda, Riga, and Tallinn (Soviet Union), as ‘windows to the world’ that helped the communist-controlled Europe to remain in touch with the West after 1945. The main innovation rests on linking particular developments in the Polish People’s Republic, the GDR, and the Soviet Union to global processes such as the post-Bretton Woods capital flows liberalization or the economic repercussions of the 1973 Oil Shock. The project’s comparative framework highlights how the three states diverged in their responses to the changing global environment, introducing even more disunity behind the Soviet Bloc’s monolithic façade. This approach emphasizes the significance and uniqueness of Baltic port cities, where global trends arrived earlier and played themselves out in a more pronounced way. This characteristic helped them to serve as inlets channeling what historians have identified as “the shock of the global 1970s” into the region. In the West, particular attention is paid to Hamburg as a foreign trade hub that projected its commercial dynamism eastwards, and as a Cold War intelligence headquarters. New insight is provided on the ways in which ‘really existing socialisms’ diverged from the original Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist blueprint and how they eventually metamorphosed into the laissez-faire free-market experiment after 1989. This work relies on recently declassified papers produced by the communist secret police and intelligence agencies, including thousands of hitherto unseen pages of KGB records from the Lithuanian Special Archives in Vilnius, Stasi files from the German BStU, as well as reports written by the chiefs of the Soviet Pribaltika customs administration, archived at the RGAE in Moscow. It offers a radically new interpretation of the origins of the Solidarity movement in Poland and transcends the still often nationally entrenched narratives of 1989. Ultimately, it sheds new light on the dynamics behind the eventual collapse of the Comecon trade system, the Soviet Bloc, and the Soviet Union itself.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41141532
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