National heroes and national identities : a comparative framework for smaller nations
This thesis is an attempt to grasp the phenomenon of the national hero behind the facade of national identity. Three smaller nations from the northern quarters of Europe - Scotland, Norway and Lithuania - are examined separately and within a comparative framework. Thus, the study is built on three different layers representing differences rather than common features among the three case studies. The key question underlying the thesis is this: what is the relation if any between the heroic traditions and national identity? Since the latter has been widely seen by scholars as an entity caught up in a perpetual cycle of human evolution, whether monitoring or constructing the world we live in, it was deemed appropriate to investigate the most permanent feature of national identity, that is heroic traditions - the prevailing popular trends in situating the national hero in history. The thesis argues that heroic traditions came about in connection with the emergence of the nation state in early modern history. The common ground for selecting the three otherwise different countries for this study was found in the fact that all had been exposed to unionism for a greater part of their national history, hence national heroes were formulated in the language of separatism and longing for statehood. Yet, as the thesis attempts to demonstrate, both the heroic and the modern state had been conceived with a Neostoic mindset which envisioned a close relationship between the ethical values and political interests of the citizen. The confluence of political theory and Realpolitik gave birth to three types of national identity, namely civitas popularis (democracy), regnum (kingship), and optimatium (aristocracy) as found in Scotland, Norway and Lithuania respectively. The study has shown the persistence of these key models of state-formation in the development of national identity from patriotism to territorial and ethnic nationalism. The abundance of the heroic in the Scottish case is explained as a vestige of the legacy of civic humanism, the traditional emphasis on the king-lines in the Norwegian case is a result of absolutism, while the lack of both in Lithuania is interpreted within an aristocratic model of national identity.