(2006) JLP 53-54: 209-237


Whose Heritage?

Legal Pluralism and the PolitIcs of the Past.

A Case Study from the Curonian Spit (Lithuania)


Anja Peleikis




The article analyses legally plural situations in post-socialist Lithuania. Taking the case study of the village of Nida on the northern part of the Curonian Spit this paper reveals how legal traces of the past become relevant in the struggle of competing social actors over the place’s cultural heritage. It describes how the former German inhabitants, the present Lithuanian population and local as well as national political representatives struggle over the symbolic and legal ownership of monuments like the local church and cemetery. It is argued that their different claims to this cultural property are based on legal orders from different periods. Thus legal systems, which for longer or shorter periods of time have been formally abolished in the region, are now being mobilised to serve as an interpretative scheme for social actors. They call upon different laws and norms strategically and selectively as an important resource in pursuing their specific political, economic and social goals. Further, by referring to different interpretations of local heritage under German, Soviet and Lithuanian sovereignty, the author seeks to show how the meaning of heritage is remade over the course of time depending on the contexts of specific political and legal regimes.