Central Europe Review find out about advertising in CER
front page 
sponsor us 
jobs at CER 
CER Direct 
e-mail us 
year 2000 
year 1999 
by subject 
by author 
music shop 
video store 

Transitions Online
Britské listy (in Czech)
Domino fórum (in Slovak)
Blue Ear: global writing worth reading

In Your Pocket City Guides

CER is created with the excellent text editor Note Tab Pro
CER uses Search and Replace from Funduc Software
CER is hosted by Internet servis in Prague


Return to
main page

The CER Bookshop
The Baltic States
Selection and Commentary by Mel Huang

Politics, Sociology & History

  • Hiden, John and Salmon, Patrick;
    The Baltic Nations and Europe: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
    in the Twentieth Century
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Sounds high and mighty, with Professor Hiden being the head of the Baltic Research Unit at Bradford University, but a major, major miss. It's basically an overview of recent Baltic history, adding little and overlooking much. Most of the book was written before the restoration of independence, and the new version contains a new addendum—though the rest of the book has changed little. It boasts very impressive sources but they are underused. Completely outdated—reference only.
  • Lieven, Anatol;
    The Baltic Revolution (1994)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    One of the most-read books on the Baltics and the period of transition, but also a bit out-of-date in perspective. Lieven takes a unique look at the Baltics from his own roots in a Russified Baltic German gentry family. His opinions in the book have infuriated many Balts, who label him as a Russophile. Recommended, but not as a first read.
  • Misiunas, Romuald and Taagepera, Rein;
    The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940-1990 (1993)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    An excellent book, picking up pretty much where the von Rauch book (see below) left off as the period of independence ends. Probably the best history of the Soviet occupation period around; written by two famous émigré academics. Highly recommended.
  • Von Rauch, Georg;
    The Baltic States: Years of Independence, 1917-1940 (1996)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Indispensable to historians, this book was a breakthrough in the study of the independent period during the Interwar period. Excellent introduction to the Baltics of the Interwar era. A must read.
  • Crowe, David;
    The Baltic States and the Great Powers: Foreign Relations,

    (from Amazon.com)
    This book covers the pivotal years when foreign relations in the Baltic area essentially triggered a world war. This is a fascinating use of archive material from many countries, giving a clear view of what was really going on in the tense meeting rooms across Europe at the time. Excellent book, recommended.
  • Taagepera, Rein;
    Estonia: Return to Independence (1993)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    A quick run-through of Estonian history. A good look at the protest and revolution years, but the final section has too many personal embellishments—probably linked to the author's presidential campaign. Recommended as a second or third read.
  • Raun, Toivo;
    Estonia and the Estonians (1991)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Probably the best Estonian history in English out there, though there's not much to compare it with right now. Recommended.
  • Plakans, Andrejs;
    Historical Dictionary of Latvia (1997)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Not one of the best of the series, with many significant omissions and selective editing of entries, leaving out items of major importance. The author's point of view got the best of him on this. Also, too much from contemporary times, and the author fails in the difficult game of predicting Latvian politics. Useful for quick references only.
  • Plakans, Andrejs;
    The Latvians: A Short History (1995)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    One of the few books on Latvian history that can be found in English, but sadly it misses the mark in many places. Essential parts of the nation's history are either abridged or cut out inexplicably, perhaps due to the author's bias. Some argue it cuts the negative parts out—a whitewash of sorts. Recommended, but take with a grain of salt.
  • Vardys, V Stanley and Sedaitis, Judith;
    Lithuania: The Rebel Nation (1996)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    A fairly useful book, which deals primarily with the last 30 years of Lithuanian history. Though at times it is a bit too opinionated, especially on very recent events, it's still a good book. A good second or third read.
  • Eidintas, Alfonsas; Zalys, Vytautas and Senn, Alfred Erich;
    Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic,
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    One of the most detailed books out there on the history of the Interwar period in Lithuania, but also rather opinionated. This project came out of the research of Eidintas, who was the former Lithuanian ambassador to the US. He takes a very confrontational attitude towards the Interwar-era authoritarian president Antanas Smetona, and this damages the book's objectivity. But still a very valuable source and it is about time a book on this era was published in English.
  • Kasekamp, Andres;
    The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia (2000)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    The definitive history in English of the Interwar period. An engrossing look at the politics of the period, and one which will become a staple in all courses dealing with right-wing politics. Yours truly did the indexing, by the way. A must read.
  • Lauristin, Marju and Vihalemm, Peeter (eds), with Rosengren, Karl Erik and Weibull, Lennart;
    Return to the Western World: Cultural and Political Perspectives
    on the Estonian Post-Communist Transition

    (from Amazon.com)
    Interesting sociological compilation, including several fascinating comparative studies with regional and far-away transitional countries. Recommended for those interested in the transition process from a sociological point-of-view.
  • Krickus, Richard;
    Showdown: The Lithuanian Rebellion and the Breakup
    of the Soviet Empire
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Excellent history of the events surrounding the Lithuanian campaign to restore its independence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with detailed and fascinating insight from events in Moscow and Washington. The behind-the-scenes look at the lobbying campaign in Washington is especially fascinating. Recommended.
  • Taagepera, Rein;
    Softening without Liberalization: The Case of Juri Kukk (1984)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    A very good book looking at one case study—the story of the prominent scientist Juri Kukk. The book chronicles the events and situation which led to the death of the Estonian scientist death in a Soviet camp during the Brezhnev years. Excellent.
  • Trapans, Jan Arveds (ed);
    Towards Independence: The Baltic Popular Movements
    (from Amazon.com)
    An interesting collection of articles, mostly by Radio Free Liberty analysts (including the former head of the Estonian service, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who is today Estonia's foreign minister). As the book was compiled before the restoration of independence, it is especially fascinating. Recommended.
  • Laar, Mart;
    War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944-1956 (1992)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    One of the most fascinating books written about post-World War II history, the Estonian Prime Minister chronicles the under-heralded history of the "Forest Brothers"—the partisans who took to the woods to fight Soviet rule. For more, read the CER book review. A must read.

Return to top of page



  • Cedrins, Inara (ed);
    Contemporary Latvian Poetry
    (from Amazon.com)
    This is one of the few collections of Latvian poetry to be found in English, and it is an excellent collection. It features many of the most famous contemporary Latvian poets, both among the former exile community and those under Soviet rule, such as Imants Ziedonis and Vizma Belsevica.
  • Straumanis, Alfreds (ed);
    Fire and Night: Five Baltic Plays
    (from Amazon.com)
    A collection of five excellent plays from the Baltics—two each from Lithuania and Latvia, and one from Estonia. The collection features the most famous Latvian play, "Fire and Night" by Janis Rainis, among others.
  • Kreutzwald, Friedrich;
    The Hero of Esthonia
    This book is out of print, but it can probably be found in a larger university library. It is the best-known translation of the Estonian national epic, Kalevipoeg. A must-read, as the translation is done quite well and keeps the prose rhythm smooth for English readers. Gripping story and a fascinating look into Estonian folklore.
  • Kraav, Fred;
    The Partisans
    A fascinating novel about the "Forest Brothers" in Estonia, the partisans who held out against Soviet forces in the forests for a decade after the end of WWII. Look in libraries, because it is long out of print.

Travel & Tourism

  • Noble, John;
    Baltic States and Kaliningrad
    (from Amazon.com)
    A bit outdated, but this is inevitable with these types of guides. But the roads and places are still the same, and no towns have left the map. All the basics are still there, and for smaller towns it's very useful. Very good to have before the trip—and after you arrive, you can get more detailed stuff like something in the In Your Pocket series.

Return to top of page



  • Oinas, Felix;
    Basic Course in Estonian (1993)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    This is one of the biggest and most thorough Estonian language textbooks out there, but be warned: some of the terms used are completely outdated and are considered to be "émigré" talk, since the book was compiled in the 1960s. But useful for some declensions, especially the nightmarish, nearly unpredictable Estonian cases such as the partitive plural.
  • Moseley, Christopher;
    Colloquial Latvian (1996)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    As with others in the Colloquial series, it is good for getting started, but after a few chapters the book becomes more of a quick reference (for example, the declension tables). However, even in this respect this version is poorly set-up, as only the verbs are declined in the index. You need to search for the others in the text.
  • Ramoniene, Meilute;
    Colloquial Lithuanian (1996)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    This is one of the better books in the Colloquial series in terms of declension tables and glossaries, but is useless without a tape. In the texts there are no labels on stress, and as Lithuanian is a stress-nightmare language, without the cassette it is useless to those who want to be understood for more than the basic words.
  • Saagpakk, Paul;
    Eesti-Inglise Sonaraamat/Estonian-English Dictionary
    (from Amazon.com)
    To most people who occasionally have to translate from Estonian to English, this is nothing short of a bible. It is a tome for daily use, and it has ensured the livelihood of hundreds of people—including me! I cannot say enough about it. If you are learning Estonian, or are looking for a good dictionary, get this! Unfortunately it is out of print yet again, and auctions in the US have put the value on this gem at nearly 200 dollars! Worth its weight in gold, and bigger than most encyclopaedia volumes!
  • Kyiv, Ksana and Benyuch, Oleg;
    Estonian-English English-Estonian Dictionary (1992)
    (from Amazon.com)
    The first curious question is why is an Estonian dictionary compiled by two people with Slavonic names? The entire Hippocrene series has been criticised by many linguists, but this small dictionary is useful for very quick reference.
  • Dambriunas, Leonardas; Klimas, Antanas and Schmalstieg, William;
    Introduction to Modern Lithuanian
    (from Amazon.com)
    If you want to learn Lithuanian from a grammatical perspective, this is the one to get. Though it is hard to find these days, it has exhaustive declension tables in the back—perfect for students. One of the best Lithuanian textbooks, and the one I used.
  • Sosare, M and Birzvalka, I;
    Latvian-English English-Latvian Dictionary (1993)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    A relatively good dictionary from the Hippocrene series, probably one of the better ones. Useful for quick translations. Good for its size.

Return to top of page


Selection and commentary by Mel Huang

See also:

Have a suggestion for our list? Contact us.