My first visit to Latvia was in the summer of 1985. On a Russian-language program in Leningrad during college, our group took a field trip to the country my mother had fled as a nine-year-old refugee, after the independent nation was occupied by the Soviet Army during World War II.
When I graduated in 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalizing reforms were loosening the Communist Party's iron grip on society, permitting some freedom of expression and assembly. Environmentalists in Latvia seized the opportunity to mobilize against a destructive dam project, and their daring activism helped spark a broader anti-Soviet liberation movement.
What the critics say...
“Struggles over land use, as Katrina Schwartz brilliantly shows, are always struggles over power and values.... Her book is a major conceptual contribution for environmental history.”
- Douglas R. Weiner, University of Arizona
“Nature and National Identity after Communism deserves a wide readership. This highly original work focuses on the environmental politics and seemingly local issues in a small post-Soviet country, but ... has something new to teach scholars in a variety of disciplines, regardless of their particular geographical focus.” - Roman Szporluk, Harvard University
"...beautifully and evocatively written, with unusually accessible theoretical discussions mingling fluidly with detailed depictions of the many facets of Latvian agrarian life." - Jane I. Dawson, Global Environmental Politics
"...an exceptional and important book for many reasons. Katrina Schwartz has ... effortlessly bridged the divides between political science, geography, social theory, history, environmental studies, and contemporary policy." - Aldis Purs, Journal of Peasant Studies
"... an excellent choice for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses and readers interested in issues of sustainability, rural development, planning, and the human-nature reladonship." - Terrie Clark, Rural Sociology
The non-violent "Singing Revolution" achieved independence for Latvia and its Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Lithuania, in 1991. During those dangerous but exciting years, I helped advance the Latvian cause in Washington and collaborated with environmentalists in Latvia.
I went back to school in 1992, earning a Ph.D. in political science in a field now known as post-Soviet studies. During nearly two years of fieldwork in Latvia, I studied how reintegration into Europe was influencing Latvian approaches to natural-resource management.
This research culminated in my 2006 book, Nature and National Identity after Communism, which explores how competing discourses of Latvianness informed debates over biodiversity conservation, sustainable forestry, national parks, and rural development. My case study of a coastal wetland ecosystem restoration project involving reintroduction of wild horses was one of the first academic studies of "rewilding."