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Why did some countries and regions have a more developed cult of kings and warriors, others had a cult of saints, while others had no saints of their own? What are the male and female cult roles? When do these cults emerge? How did they transform and evolve through history? What images and symbols represented various models of their veneration? The aim of this project is a comparative analysis of key symbolic figures of national and local identity in the Baltic Sea region. This will enable a deeper understanding of the patterns of national cultural development and explain the differences in contemporary political culture around the Baltic Sea.

Norbert Goetz very aptly called the Baltic Sea ‘a sea of identities’. The Baltic Sea is a ‘melting pot’ of identities, cultures, nations and politics. The historical paths of nations and states on its shores have taken different routes. Here small nation states existed, empires were born and died. This led to the creation of religious, ethno-cultural and national identities.

Like other European regions, the communities that formed around the Baltic Sea had ‘memory’ of people, heroes, and defenders from the past. Medieval saints and heroes were revived during the period of national romanticism and became the ‘points of positive identification’ (Identifikationsfiguren). Legends and hagiographic narratives about these figures made it clear why they were chosen as ‘heroes’. However, it is not easy to find a connection between the actions of medieval heroes and the traditions of their subsequent veneration and their place in contemporary culture.

What makes the saints and heroes of the Middle Ages relevant today? This problem requires a comparative-historical study. The Baltic Sea region with its various forms of nation-states, religions and cultures is a suitable setting for such research. That is the topic of this project.

The international project was supported by the Russian Science Foundation and the German Research Society (DFG) No. 21-48-04402.