Volume LIII – Number 1
This work considers the role of language in the Lithuanian nationalist movement from the mid-nineteenth century until the creation of the Republic of Lithuania in 1919. It first considers the nature of nationalism as a concept, the construction of national identity, the symbolic role of language in identity construction, and how national identity is operationalized in determining foreign policy choice. It then applies the outlined theories of nationalism to the words and actions of Dr. Jonas Basanavičius, the man widely considered the most influential figure of the Lithuanian national movement. This is done through textual analysis of excerpts from his most influential publication, the Lithuanian-language nationalist periodical Aušra, and his numerous comments on his writings and the Lithuanian national movement. This study proposes that Basanavičius’s proposal of language as the defining characteristic of the Lithuanian nation permitted Lithuanian nationalists to succeed in establishing an independent state because language was a uniquely malleable variable that allowed Lithuanians to compete against numerically superior, better historically positioned opposition in the fight for an autonomous national homeland.
Keywords: Nationalism, Ethnolinguistic Nationalism, Lithuanian Nationalism
About the Author: Finn Hasson graduated from Towson University in May 2019. This article is adapted from his honor thesis. Finn is also a former staff member of The Towson Journal of International Affairs.