Browse topics by week:
- 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”
- Week 2. Entangled Histories in Eastern Europe: Transfers, Emulation, and Conflict in the Early 20th Century
- Week 3. Population Politics, Total Mobilization, and the “Dark Side of Modernity” at the Imperial Center and in the Borderlands: Social and Political Consequences of the War
- Week 4. Nationalizing Empires, Mobilization of Ethnicity, and “Enemy Aliens” during World War I: Variations and Trajectories of Imperial Collapse
- Week 5. Bessarabia between Russia and Romania: Competing Visions and Policies during War and Revolution
- Week 6. From Austrian Province to Russian National Territory (and Back?): Ethnicity, Loyalty, and Occupation(s) in Wartime Galicia
- Week 7. Bukovina in the Russian-Romanian-Austrian “Triangle:” A Borderland Divided, or the Uncertain Politics of Ethnicity during War and Occupation
- Week 8. Russia’s North-Western Borderlands: From “War Land” to Ethnic Mobilization under German Occupation
- Week 9. Russian Ukraine Between National Self-Determination, German Occupation, and Bolshevik Triumph: The Failed Experiment
- Week 10. After the Fall: Nation-Building, Challenges of Modernity, and Ethnic Strife on the Ruins of Empires
- Weeks 11-12. The Soviet “Affirmative Action Empire” vs. the “Empire of Nations:” Ethnicity without Nationalism in a (Post)Imperial Setting
- Week 13. Romanian Bessarabia and Soviet Transnistria: Two Competing Models of Nation-Building and ‘Alternative’ Modernity
- Week 14. ‘Conservative Revolution’ and Reactionary Modernism in Interwar Germany: Transfers, Entanglements and Radical Politics in Eastern Europe. Conclusions: Centers and Peripheries of European Modernity after the Great War
Week 8. Russia’s North-Western Borderlands: From “War Land” to Ethnic Mobilization under German Occupation
This class will examine the other side of the story, i.e., the fascinating experiment of the German military administration of Russia’s North-Western borderlands, known as the Ober Ost. Managing the vast territory comprising most of today’s Lithuania (plus parts of current Belarus and Latvia) in a ‘rational’ and efficient manner was as much a matter of economic exploitation as of an ambitious project of German ‘civilizing mission’ known as ‘the Kultur program.’ The class will discuss the partial success and ultimate failure of this bold attempt at reshaping the borderlands into the German image, which also entailed a complex, uneasy and profoundly unequal partnership with the local population. The scenarios for the future of this territory were a part of the politics of ethnicity applied by the German authorities, which overturned the former linguistic and cultural policies of the Russian Empire while trying to ‘play the national card.’ The discussion will also focus on the agency of the national activists ‘from below,’ mostly emphasizing the role of the refugee and émigré organizations in mobilizing ethnicity and ‘nationalizing’ the masses. Last but not least, the class will deal with the limits and ultimate collapse of this project of empire-building by the German military, as well as with its unintended consequences for the ‘politicization’ of the local population.
- Liulevicius, War Land on the Eastern Front, Introduction (1-11) and chapter 4 (“The Kultur Program”), 113-150.
- Balkelis, War, Revolution, and Nation-Making in Lithuania, 1914-1923, chapter 1 (“State Failure, Social Disaster, and Refugee Politics During the Great War”), 14-34, and chapter 2 (“Breaking from Isolation: War and Nation-Building”), 35-56.