G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires

Colonial policy in imperial and post-imperial Eurasia (1886-1960)

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 11:00 – 13:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires
Convenor
  • Margot Lyautey (École des hautes études en sciences sociales)
  • Marc Elie (French National Centre for Scientific Research)
Chair
  • Alessandro Stanziani (École des hautes études en sciences sociales)
Commentator
  • Alessandro Stanziani (École des hautes études en sciences sociales)
Panelists
  • Jawad Daheur (French National Centre for Scientific Research)
  • Marc Elie (French National Centre for Scientific Research)
  • Margot Lyautey (École des hautes études en sciences sociales)
  • Thomas Rettig (Technische Universität Dresden)

Papers

  • Jawad Daheur
    A Green Colonizer? The Prussian State Forests’ activities on the land market and their impact on the ethnic balance in West Prussia and the Province of Posen (1886-1914)

    A Green Colonizer? The Prussian State Forests’ activities on the land market and their impact on the ethnic balance in West Prussia and the Province of Posen (1886-1914)

    Aiming at filling a gap in the existing studies on the governmental colonization program in the Prussian eastern provinces between 1886 and 1914, this paper will explore the role played by the State Forests, a stakeholder that has until now received very little attention in compare to the so-called "Settlement Commission". Using different kinds of sources, including archival records, published materials and historical maps, the article reconstructs the land acquisition policy carried out by the State Forests and discusses their impact on the ethnic balance. Initially, the main trigger of the massive land purchase was the will to combat environmental degradation. It was not until 1900 that the State Forests became really involved in the struggle against the Polish national movement. While they managed to buy almost 180,000 hectares of land in the Province of Posen and West Prussia, their contribution to the Germanization effort was very limited in the end.
  • Marc Elie
    Ethnic deportation and agricultural development in the Eurasian steppes under Soviet Rule

    Ethnic deportation and agricultural development in the Eurasian steppes under Soviet Rule

    The Soviet leadership under Stalin and after him used ethnic minorities to settle territories far away from European Russia. They thus continued a pattern of Russian empire building. This paper handles one major exile region, the steppes at the border of Russia and Kazakhstan, where 1.3 million Germans, Poles, Chechens and others were deported to plow up new lands and extract minerals. Remarkably, when the Gulag was dismantled after 1953, these minorities were kept in the steppe region for several more years. They played a key role in the post-Stalin “Virgin Land Campaign” to cultivate 42 million hectares in the Russian-Kazakh steppe. Formerly used for animal grazing by Kazakh nomads, these lands were seen as fertile and promised to a great future of rain-fed wheat monoculture. After the liberation of the exiles in 1956, the most numerous group among them, the Germans, were not permitted to leave the steppes; they remained working in state farms until the end of the Soviet Union. Some of them played a leading role in criticizing and changing environmentally destructive farming practices.
  • Margot Lyautey
    The Ostland company: Nazi agrarian colonization in occupied Poland and France

    The Ostland company: Nazi agrarian colonization in occupied Poland and France

    When Nazis occupied parts of Europe in 1940 they soon created a system to manage farm land and develop agriculture on the margins of the Reich. The Ostdeutsche Landbewirtschaftungsgesellschaft, known as Ostland, prepared farms that were previously owned by Polish citizens. The latter had been disowned, displaced by the Nazi administration and were to be replaced by German settlers. The Ostland company was also active in North-Eastern France, and there put in charge of any farm that was either abandoned, “poorly managed” or managed not according to “German methods”. At its peak, the Ostland company managed more than 5.5 million hectares of agricultural land in Europe, mostly in occupied Poland. German agronomists regarded Polish and French agriculture as “backward”. Ostland managed farms applying “the new socialist methods, which have been so successfully implemented in Germany in recent years” (Backe, 1941): regrouping of small farms in bigger units, introduction of high-quality seeds, and increased use of fertilizers and appliances. This presentation proposes to analyze the Ostland inside the bigger frame of the third Reich’s agrarian colonization projects, see how it was used as a tool for developing marginal territories both on the East and the West front and look at its role in the displacement of minorities across Europe.
  • Thomas Rettig
    “A kind of Roman military colony”? German military’s strategies for soldier settlements in occupied Courland in 1919

    “A kind of Roman military colony”? German military’s strategies for soldier settlements in occupied Courland in 1919

    Throughout the summer of 1919 the German army still acted as an occupying power in the former Baltic province Courland. This situation gave reason to high-ranking military staff to try to secure war aims in the region by developing strategies to provide their soldiers with local farmland. The paper aims to discuss the discourse among the military personnel and to identify the interests of different stakeholders, such as the Baltic German nobility. Besides, these strategies played a striking role in the recruitment of volunteers for the campaign in the Baltic and eventually lead to devastating outcomes for land and people.

Abstract

The panel presents four case studies of efforts to conquer perceived marginal and backward agricultural lands from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries: Prussian forest acquisitions in Polish lands; German soldier settlement in Courland after World War One; the management of farms taken from their owners in occupied Poland and France during World War Two; and deportation of ethnic minorities to plow up the steppe at the Russian-Kazakh border in the Soviet Union. Inspired by research on “green imperialism” as well as on research focused on varied forms of labor constraints in imperial contexts, the panel insists on the environmental representations and impacts of agricultural development in the late and post-imperial context of resource extraction. The panel handles three problematic clusters: 1) imperial rule and settlement: How did the imperial state managed minority groups who settled on its territorial margins; what was the agency of these groups in the imperial settlement policy? What combination of coercion and incentives did different imperial agents and private stakeholders such as firms and landowners use to orient the settlers’ migration and economic activity (labor policy, definition of statuses, rights and obligations)? 2) Ecological representation and environmental management: What conceptions of useful/detrimental nature and progressive/backward techniques did undergird each project of territorial development? Which were the ecological effects and unexpected consequences of these projects and how did they strike back at the settlers and the imperial administration? Did the minorities develop forms of “settler environmentalism” (Grove)? 3) Patterns of minority settlement: What did these three imperial contexts – the imperial German, the Nazi and the Soviet – have in common, if anything at all? Are historical (dis)continuities, transnational transfers of experience or converging patterns of socio-ecological behavior at work among these three cases? The panel handles three problematic clusters: 1) imperial rule and settlement: How did the imperial state managed minority groups who settled on its territorial margins; what was the agency of these groups in the imperial settlement policy? What combination of coercion and incentives did different imperial agents and private stakeholders such as firms and landowners use to orient the settlers’ migration and economic activity (labor policy, definition of statuses, rights and obligations)? 2) Ecological representation and environmental management: What conceptions of useful/detrimental nature and progressive/backward techniques did undergird each project of territorial development? Which were the ecological effects and unexpected consequences of these projects and how did they strike back at the settlers and the imperial administration? Did the minorities develop forms of “settler environmentalism” (Grove)? 3) Patterns of minority settlement: What did these three imperial contexts – the Russian, the Nazi and the Soviet – have in common, if anything at all? Are historical (dis)continuities, transnational transfers of experience or converging patterns of socio-ecological behavior at work among these three cases?