The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) held its biennial conference this year at Stanford University from June 1st to June 3rd. The conference celebrated both the centennial of the Baltic nations’ independence and the 50th anniversary of AABS and highlighted achievements in Baltic studies over the last 100 years. The agenda covered three days filled with keynote speakers, panel discussions, workshops and cultural events. The program was attended by 470 presenting participants, including almost 100 Estonians. Several Estonian-Americans presenting were also active in the early days of AABS conferences, including Olavi Arens from Georgia Southern University in Savannah, Toivo Raun from Indiana University, and Marju Rink-Abel from Kensington, Maryland.
The Estonian American National Council (EANC) was represented by its president, Marju Rink-Abel, and Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey, who took part in a panel discussion titled U.S. and Canadian Baltic Diaspora Role in Securing Baltic Freedom and Security. Ms. Rink-Abel moderated the discussion while Ms. Shuey gave an overview of the history of EANC and Estonian activism in the U.S. They were joined by American Latvian Association (ALA) President Peter Blumbergs, Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) Managing Director Karl Altau and Estonian Canadian activist Marcus Kolga. Together, the group addressed milestones in Baltic activism in both countries, most notably the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and NATO membership for the Baltic nations in 2004; cooperation with diaspora communities from other central and east European nations; and priorities for current and future advocacy, including continued NATO support in the region, countering the Kremlin’s disinformation and other hybrid aggression in the Baltics and throughout Europe, and supporting the restoration of sovereignty in Ukraine.
EANC was a sponsor of the conference, which featured a total of 124 panels, roundtable discussions and workshops on subjects such as political science and regional security, history and memory, literature and language studies, emerging technology in the region, and ten other broad topic areas. Keynote speakers included Dr. Nils Muižnieks on the Baltic States and human rights in Europe and Dr. Lauri Mälksoo on the nations’ claims to legal continuity through the Soviet period from the perspectives of international law and relations with Russia. Cultural events included choral and folkdance performances, a screening of the Lithuanian film, Ashes in the Snow, and Masters of Our Own Homes, an Estonian exhibit by the Estonian Museum of Occupation and Freedom introducing Estonia’s history, culture, innovation and people to the wider world.
AABS is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued relevance of Baltic studies programs at academic institutions throughout the world. According to its website, “AABS promotes research and education in Baltic Studies by sponsoring meetings and conferences, supporting publications, sustaining a program of scholarships, grants, and prizes, and disseminating news of current interest in Baltic Studies.” More information on AABS and its conferences is available at aabs-balticstudies.org.