The Glass Wall: Lives on the Baltic Frontier

Farrar. Feb. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780374163457. $30. HIST
Traveling through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, historian Egremont (Some Desperate Glory; Siegfried Sassoon: A Life) examines each country and its complicated history. Centuries of invasion have had far-reaching effects on the Baltic countries. The Northern Crusades brought conquerors from the West; the Russian Empire brought overlords from the East. Regardless of the subjugator, the native population remained oppressed. During a brief period of independence between the First and Second World Wars, there was a resurgence of native languages and identity. In 1939, the countries were once again occupied by Germans and Russians, followed by being on the front lines between Germany and Russia as they turned from allies to enemies. Having to choose between two evil forces, many joined the Nazi Party. That choice continues to reverberate, as does absorption into the Soviet Union after the 1945 Yalta conference. Egremont balances a historical perspective with observations by current citizens of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, once again independent after the Soviet Union disintegrated in the 1990s.
VERDICT Offering no easy answers but plenty to think about, this book will be of interest to readers interested in Eastern European history and current events.
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