Politics of a Refugee Community
This book analyzes the political experience of a small and unique American ethnic group—American Latvians. This community was constituted by post-World War II political refugees, who fled Communism and arrived in the United States seeking safety and protection. For decades, they insisted on preserving their ethnic identity and therefore did not call themselves Latvian Americans. Instead, they formed a distinctive double identity, that is, they blended into the American society economically and socially, but refused to become assimilated culturally and politically. The book offers a detailed look into the life of this community of political refugees, which also provides a novel perspective on the Cold War as experienced by certain ethnic groups.
From a theoretical point of view, the book makes two major contributions. First, it reasserts the need to understand the generalized category of "white Americans" or "white ethnics" with more nuance and attention to differences, and, second, it strengthens the so-called realist claim that refugees are not like other immigrants. In order to achieve these goals, the book provides compelling descriptions and interpretations of the most politically relevant moments in the experience of American Latvians in the period between the 1950s and the 1990s. Concretely, the book deals with topics as the American Latvians’ anti-communist activism, the impact of the hunt for Nazis on Latvian émigrés, the Soviet Union’s anti-émigré propaganda campaigns and the exiled Latvians’ involvement in the politics of national liberation in Latvia.
The author strives to reveal the complexity of the refugee experience in the United States during the Cold War and its aftermath. Since such aspects of the life of ethnic groups in the United States have not been sufficiently studied, this book makes a substantial contribution to a fuller understanding of American immigration history and sociology of ethnic groups. It is well written, expertly organized, and will be of interest to a large readership at many levels of academia.
"Studies of immigrants and ethnic groups in the US have proliferated in recent decades, but Latvian immigrants have received little scholarly attention. This study of American Latvians, mainly the refugees from post-WW II Europe who fled Latvia in 1944, is a significant contribution to immigrant studies….Zake delves extensively into the political issues that divided the immigrants as well as those that lent them cohesion and sustained their cultural and political identities. An excellent study of an atypical and little-known immigrant group in the US. Highly recommended."
—R. P. Peters, Choice
“A bold attempt to synthesize the Latvian émigré experience in America.”
—Modris Eksteins, University of Toronto
"This book discusses the political experiences of Latvian refugees who fled their homeland in the aftermath of World War II and sought refuge in the United States. Ieva Zake emphasizes the fact that this group defines itself as "American Latvians," as opposed to "Latvian Americans," witha strong emphasis on their ethnic identity... American Latvians will prove useful to students and academic scholars interested in refugee studies, immigration studies, ethnic groups, ex-Soviet communities and especially politicial activism of refugee or immigrant groups in their host societies."
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Table of Contents
1 Into Exile
2 American Latvians as Ethnic Anticommunists
3 Ghosts from the Past
4 Surviving the Soviet Pressure
5 The End of Exile