Course Content

Total learning: 15 lessons Time: 1 semester

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Week 1. Introduction. Contested Borderlands in Eastern Europe before and during World War I: “Complex Frontier Regions”, Inter-Imperial Competition, and the “Shatterzone of Empires”

This introductory class will focus on the clarification of the course’s overall structure and on the explanation of the main concepts to be discussed. Specifically, it will explore and present three fundamental models of interpreting and analyzing the ‚borderland experience’ in Eastern Europe before and during World War I and the contested nature of these spaces. First, we will examine Alfred Rieber’s ‘geopolitical model’ (the ‘complex frontier regions’ and the ‘struggle over the borderlands’), privileging the macro scale of Eurasia and what might be called ‘inter-imperial entanglements’. Second, we will discuss Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz’s model of the ‘shatterzone of empires,` emphasizing the multi-layered and dynamic character of borderland phenomena in Eastern Europe and the interaction of imperial, national, and local players in a shifting space characterized by complex links between co-existence, violence, and the various forms of the political imaginary which made the borderlands essentially ‘protean’. Third, we will analyze Alexei Miller’s Russian-centered model focusing on the ‘situational approach’ and on the ‘scope’ and possible alternative scales (jeux d’échelle) of conceptualizing and writing a Russian imperial history in the 21st century. Particular emphasis will be placed on the notion of the ‘macrosystem’ of the Eurasian continental empires and on inter-imperial competition as the driving force for the outbreak of World War I.


  • Rieber, The Struggle for the Eurasian Borderlands, chapter 6 (“Imperial legacies”), 532-614.
  • Bartov and Weitz, Shatterzone of Empires, Introduction (“Coexistence and Violence”), 1-20.
  • Miller, „Between Local and Inter-Imperial”, Kritika, Vol. 5, nr. 1 (Winter 2004), 7-26.