a view of a shore

Baltic border authorities construct identity from the image of enmity

The geopolitical situation in the Baltic region has changed from a phase of relative peace after the fall of the Soviet Union, to growing concern over Russia. Goran Basic, associate professor of sociology and senior lecturer in pedagogy at Linnaeus University has studied how border authorities in the Baltic states (Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) construct an image of ‘criminal Russians’.

The study shows that border control work in the Baltic region has been characterised by the image that crime fighters defend society and the prevailing norms, while criminals are described as actors that attack the norms of society. One interpretation is that the fear of Russians has been constructed from the social identity – that Russians are not part of the Baltic community. This leads to Russians being accused by police and border control officers in the Baltic states. In his study, Goran Basic argues that the border control officers create their own abstract world where they can feel safe by creating identity symbols that are important for the survival of the group. By establishing ideas of a common 'enemy', they create and recreate moral panic and professional occupational identities.

"This creation and recreation presupposes the existence of a visible or invisible 'folk devil' or scapegoat – a social/ethnic group and/or a phenomenon that can be interpreted as a personification of evil. In a depiction of that kind, all positive associations are toned down and negative ones are instead highlighted", says Basic.

The article is part of the research results from the project "Definitions of successful intelligence and operational police work". The aim of the project is, based on empirical material (field observations, photos, interviews, and documents), to analyse how police, border control officers, and coastguards define successful intelligence work and operative police work.

Goran Basic, 0470–70 89 59, goran.basic@lnu.se

More information
Basic, G. (2018). Konstruktion av normupplösning och moralisk panik. Etnografisk analys av underrättelse-, operativt polis- och gränsbevakningsarbete (Construction of norm resolution and moral panics. Ethnographic analysis concerning intelligence and operational police and border guards' work) in Nordic Journal of Studies in Policing, Vol. 4, no 1, p. 50–69

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